Did you know that between 94-99% of domestic violence survivors have also experienced economic abuse? Victims of domestic violence may be unable to leave an abusive partner for economic reasons.
In Faye’s situation, systemic financial abuse led her to being homeless with her abuser after their fourth eviction. The financial abuse started out rather insignificantly; he had moved from out of state and was looking for work in a field where there wasn’t much opportunity. At first, Faye was comfortable leaving small amounts of money in case he needed something during the day while she was at work.
Over time, as did all the forms of abuse she endured, the financial abuse escalated. He started demanding money, questioning her spending, and asking her to pay a bill or two late. When she would refuse, he would force her to submit to his will. Other times, they would end up wrestling over her purse because she was trying to keep him from taking her credit cards from her wallet.
Faye resorted to hiding her bag, but he eventually found it. One night when she was asleep, he took her debit card and left. She was horrified to discover that he withdrew her paycheck and overdrew her account by $1,000. She was forced into a payment plan despite her objections; when it happened a second time, she was unable to pay it off. They closed her accounts and seized what was in her savings and she was unable to have an account.
He began running up Faye’s bills, forbade her to pay others, and started confiscating paychecks. By the middle of the year, her landlord evicted them from their apartment. They were evicted from three other apartments due to this abuse. In between apartments they lived in their car for months on end. During the days when she wasn’t at work, they would go to public parks and spend the entire day there until it was dark. A few of the parks were along a river and sometimes Faye sat there and imagined herself being enveloped by the murky water and escaping the nightmare that had become her life.
At night they would park at a truck stop and sleep. Faye felt liked a caged animal; trapped in steel and glass with her abuser. She never felt safe. Despite being approved for a fifth apartment, it continued to get worse. In total, they had four complete evictions and were on eviction five when she left. She lost everything she owned – all of her memories, clothes, and furniture.
When Faye finally left, she had only the clothes she was wearing and what was in her purse. She managed to sneak her debit card out of his wallet when he was on the phone, but he had already taken the money the night before. The financial damages of that relationship were crushing; he had stolen about $70,000, left massive debts, caused four evictions, defaulted student loans, and tax liens. She lost everything she owned. In total, she was left with about $200,000 in losses.
Despite the oppressive level of financial damage Faye sustained, she had someone who could take her in. This one thing that prevented her from being homeless a second time. This person also encouraged Faye to seek help at the Women’s Center.
Although financial abuse is finally becoming an integral part of the conversation on domestic violence, homelessness is still very much taboo. We need to continue to raise our voices and shed light on experiences that often remain hidden in the darkness. Survivors of domestic violence must continue to break their silence on issues such as homelessness and financial abuse to empower themselves and others to take steps toward independence and freedom.
The Women’s Center of Greater Lansing helps women achieve financial independence, no matter their situations. We provide career counseling, resume and cover letter preparation, financial counseling, a professional clothing closet, and a variety of resources. We are here to help.
If you think your partner is abusing you financially, seek assistance by calling the Women’s Center of Greater Lansing at (517) 372-9163 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)