If a lot has been written about emotional and physical violence in relationships, then economic (or, as it is also called, financial) often remains in the shadows. At the same time, this form of abuse makes the victim very vulnerable and makes life very difficult.
What is economic violence
This is a type of domestic violence in which one person in one form or another controls the finances of a partner, adult child, parent or other loved one against their will. The goals of such influence are to appropriate other people’s money, demonstrate power and make the victim more dependent.
How common economic abuse is, no one knows for sure. First, it is often inseparable from other forms of violence. And secondly, it can remain invisible to the victim for a long time.
Economic violence, if you think about it, occurs in one form or another in most families. There are several explanations for this:
a) the low level of income of the majority of the population for many generations;
b) the vital necessity arising from the previous paragraph to control expenses and, accordingly, to build certain behavior patterns that are assimilated in childhood and already in adulthood are transferred to one’s family.
Accordingly, economic abuse can occur as an independent phenomenon. However, most often it goes in conjunction with psychological and sometimes physical violence.
However, few statistics that reflect the scale of the problem can still be found. American Domestic Violence Advocacy Centers they saythat financial pressure and control are found in 98% of abusive relationships.
True, it is important to make a reservation that the study was conducted already in 2003 and affected only married couples. That is, now these data may not be entirely correct. Also, the results do not reflect, for example, financial abuse in relations between parents and adult children.
How economic violence manifests itself
In general, these are any forms of control and pressure associated with money. And they are quite varied.
The victim is not allowed to dispose of his own funds and property
For example, money and other valuables are taken away under various pretexts. Access to bank accounts can also be limited in any way: for example, a person’s cards, phone and other gadgets are taken away. The abuser spends the victim’s finances at his discretion, leaving little or nothing. And of course, he does not explain his own decisions and does not report on where the money went.
The victim is deprived of the opportunity to fully earn
There are mild options, and very radical prohibitions. The abuser can persuade him to quit his job or find another, calmer and less money – in order, say, to devote more time to his family. The victim is convinced that work is too stressful and it is better to stay at home. Unbearable conditions are created for the victim: they make scandals in the morning, bring them to a nervous breakdown, deliberately interfere with doing business and force them to be late. They can simply forbid going to work – with the help of threats, blackmail, manipulation and beatings.
Victim spending carefully controlled
The abuser makes you report in detail where the money went. If he discovers some incorrect, from his point of view, expenses, he scolds and criticizes.
A vulnerable victim is not given money
Illness, disability, dismissal, parental leave – all this greatly prevents a person from earning money or even completely deprives him of such an opportunity. People in such a situation usually rely on the material assistance of their spouse. This duty is even spelled out in legislation.
But in a relationship where there is economic violence, one side can exploit the other’s weakness for their own benefit. For example, to blackmail the victim, make her beg and humiliate herself, and transfer small amounts and only on very harsh conditions.
The victim is tricked or under pressure to lure out money
For example, they are forced to take loans and other debt obligations.
The victim is convinced of her inability to manage finances
Criticized for spending, insulted, constantly repeated that the victim does not know how to handle money. Thanks to such systematic emotional violence, a person sometimes gives money to the tyrant as if voluntarily, as he is either afraid of new insults, or begins to sincerely believe that he himself can do nothing.
Financial violence is always one of the ways to demonstrate your superiority to the victim. The goal is not just to show that “I earn more”, but also to humiliate. To reduce everything that the victim does to zero: all her successes and achievements do not matter to the manipulator.
Moreover, with his reproaches, hypercontrol, humiliating assessments, the manipulator does not contribute to the fact that the victim “changes his mind” and begins to earn money on his own. On the contrary, it is beneficial for him that the victim never leaves his status – the status of submission.
What can not be considered economic abuse
Money relations between loved ones is a complex and slippery topic. There are no universal rules and norms that would describe who owes whom and how much and how to properly manage finances in the family.
Therefore, the line between the norm and violence can be very thin.
For example, the spouses agreed to buy a new refrigerator from the next salary. But instead, without warning, the husband ordered a game console for himself, and now there is not enough money for the necessary thing. The wife, having learned about what had happened, was indignant and told her husband that he did not know how to handle money.
Is there financial violence here? And from which side? It seems that the husband spent his money: this is his right, he is not obliged to report on expenses. But the person violated the agreement and, therefore, let down the partner. In general, everything is difficult. This is one of the reasons why financial violence is in a gray area and invisible even to those directly affected.
Each case must be considered individually, but there are several situations that are definitely not abuse.
One adult and capable person refuses to support another
In addition, able-bodied adult children must support their disabled, needy parents.
There are several other types of maintenance obligations. For example, between grandmothers and grandchildren and between capable and incapacitated brothers and sisters.
But if no one is sick, has not lost his legal capacity or job, has not gone on maternity leave, then a person is not obliged to support his relative or partner. And this refusal will not be violence.
People agreed in advance
For example, the spouses decide that one of them works, and the other takes care of the house and children. It turns out that the one who is busy with the household takes the money earned by the partner and spends it, among other things, on himself. If the spouses voluntarily distributed duties in this way, the situation cannot be considered abuse.
Or in a couple both earn money, but the budget is managed by one person by mutual agreement, this is also not violence. At least until concealment, blackmail, threats and other manipulations begin.
What causes economic violence
First, it does victims are more vulnerable to other types of abuse – psychological and physical. Especially women who suffer from economic violence more than men. For example, in relatively prosperous Great Britain, they face with financial abuse three times more often.
When a person depends on the manipulator for money, the latter has more and more leverage to subjugate the victim even more and move on to outright tyranny.
Secondly, economic abuse causes great harm to human health.
The constant dominance of one partner over the other in relation to finances can contribute to the development of:
- feelings of guilt and shame;
- phobias, anxiety disorders;
- post-traumatic stress disorder;
- neurotic states;
- suicidal thoughts and intentions.
Also, do not forget that the continuous stress in which the victim is located also causes somatic manifestations:
Finally, the victim appears to be having or worsening financial problems. In severe cases, she loses money, property and the opportunity to earn money, and due to constant psychological pressure, a person has less and less strength to do something about it.
Why do people become economic abusers?
Psychologist Anastasia Markova says that the roots should be sought in childhood. If a person was brought up in an atmosphere of violence and economic control was practiced in his family, then, as an adult, the abuser simply does not know what could be otherwise.
But there are other reasons as well.
A person can be pleased when he manipulates others. Together with a low level of empathy, this leads to abusive behavior. At the same time, the transition from psychological and economic violence to physical is not obligatory.
In addition, sometimes the cause is low self-confidence, inability to reflect and evaluate one’s own behavior. The person may not realize that their actions are abusive.
Finally, violence may be the only way to draw attention to yourself, to gain control over the situation.
You need to understand that the abusers themselves are far from the happiest people. They have a lot of pain, anxiety, uncertainty inside. This in no way justifies them, but the abuser is not always the devil in the flesh. Most often this is a person who himself needs help.
What to do if you are a victim of economic violence
You have to think about yourself first.
1. End Relationships When There Is a Health Threat
The main thing to understand is whether there is a danger to your life and health at the moment? If a partner or relative has already turned to physical violence and threats of violence, or is about to do so, you need to get out of such a relationship as soon as possible. No matter how difficult this decision may seem.
Breaking off a relationship with an abuser can be difficult for many reasons. The victim may not have the resources to exist without the tyrant: nowhere to live, no money, no job. She may be afraid that if she runs away, it will be even worse: “If he finds me, he will definitely kill me”, “How will I go nowhere with my child?”.
But it is a necessary step that may save your life and make it much more fulfilling and happy later on.
Break those relationships. I understand that this will lead to a difficult financial situation for you. But you will retain your personal qualities, which in the future will help you achieve much more – financial independence. And there is a good chance that in the process of recovery you will meet a person who is able to appreciate you, respect you, and not assert himself due to his superiority over you in some way.
2. Try to negotiate if you are not ready to end the relationship right away.
It is important to understand that when there is physical and pronounced emotional abuse in a relationship, there can be no dialogue. Attempts to negotiate with the abuser in most cases are doomed to failure. But if you still want to give the relationship a chance, try the following.
If there is no threat to life and health, if there is a desire to try to save the relationship, you can talk with your partner or offer him joint therapy with a family psychologist. This specialist advises not only husband-wife couples, but also any family members, such as a parent and a child.
When starting a conversation with a partner, it is important not to slip into accusations and attempts to cause a feeling of shame. So you make it even worse. Use i-messages, go beyond criticism, and offer solutions to the problem. At the same time, evaluate not the personality of the partner, but only his actions:
- “It really upsets me when you…”
- “Please don’t do this again…”
- “Let’s think together how to budget!”.
Our tool is only dialogue. If peaceful conversations do not lead to a result, then it is better to leave such relations, because any kind of violence does not lead to anything good.
3. Take care of the economic side of the issue
If you don’t have your own money, the most important thing is to secure your financial independence. Do what you can at the moment:
- Get a job, at least part-time.
- Look for additional sources of income. For example, freelancing, tutoring, selling handicrafts, repair or cleaning services, and so on. Many of these things can be done without letting your partner know.
- Open a new bank account and slowly save money.
When you have a regular income and savings, it will be easier for you in every sense to fight back the abuser and break off relations with him. At least you won’t have to worry that you won’t be able to pay your rent and food.
4. Ask for help
To relatives or friends, to crisis centers for victims of domestic violence, to a psychotherapist or psychological support groups.
Dealing with abuse alone can be very difficult, and the help of others, including those who have gone through it themselves, will give you emotional resources and courage.
Inside relationships, it is generally difficult to adequately assess the situation and understand how bad everything is, where is reality, and where is distorted perception. A psychologist can help you understand your own feelings.
It is also worth asking for help from relatives and friends, going to a psychological support group for victims of violence (such groups can have a different format: online and face-to-face meetings, forums and channels, and so on), contact a crisis center. There are specialists who can help you cope with the anxieties and fears regarding the exit from a dependent relationship for free.
Contacting support groups and crisis centers will help to understand that a person is not alone in his problem. There are other people who have experienced abuse now or in the past. They, like no one else, understand and accept a person in such a situation. Their cases of getting out of such relationships can become an example, give additional confidence.
The most important thing here is to understand that asking for help is not weakness, spinelessness, or weakness. Every person has the right to help. Nobody should tolerate violence. Man and human life is the greatest value, and nothing can outweigh this scale.