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What Is the Link Between Money and Domestic Violence?

by Laura Adams

Money and domestic violence. You may not think they have much in common, but many times they go hand-in-hand. You probably know that domestic violence is a pattern of controlling behavior that’s directed at a spouse or domestic partner. It’s typically physical violence by men against women, but it can include abuse that’s emotional, sexual, or financial. I’ll give you 8 warning signs of financial abuse so you can easily spot them.

Domestic Violence Statistics

First, here are some shocking statistics about domestic violence from the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) Web site at nnedv.org:

  • One in four women will be the victim of domestic violence at some point during her life.
  • Women are up to 95% more likely to suffer domestic violence than men.
  • Victims come from all walks of life regardless of age, education, economic status, race, or religion.
  • A NNEDV 24-hour survey revealed that domestic violence programs in the U.S. served over 65,000 victims and took more than 23,0000 hotline calls in just one day.
  • On average, three women die from the abuse of a current or former domestic partner every day.

Why Do Victims of Domestic Violence Stay?

These horrible stats make me wonder why so many victims would choose to stay with their abusers. The answer to that question is certainly complex. Batterers are really good at manipulating victims to stay. An abuser makes their victim think the abuse is their fault and therefore the victim mistakenly believes they have the power to make it stop. Victims stay because they fear for their lives and in many cases they don’t have the financial resources to move out.

How Abusers Manipulate With Money

Financial abuse often accompanies other types of domestic abuse because withholding money is such a powerful way to control someone’s behavior. Many times the victim of domestic abuse is forbidden to work or earn their own money. If an abuser hides or restricts access to assets, bank accounts, and credit cards, the victim feels that leaving is almost impossible. Of the victims who get assistance from shelters, 93% request financial help.

How Does the Economy Affect Domestic Violence?

Since September 2008 three out of four abuse shelters report having an increased number of victims and they blame it on the poor economy. Unemployment, debt, and foreclosures cause a huge amount of domestic stress, which can lead to more violence. With more competition for jobs, victims are challenged to find work that will give them the income they need to stop relying on their abusers. Shelters are also squeezed due to declining charitable donations, funding, and staff that give victims the support and resources they need to escape.

8 Warning Signs of Financial Domestic Abuse

There are many red flags for domestic abuse like verbal put-downs and being extremely jealous of partners spending time with family and friends. Here are eight warning signs that are specific to financial abuse:

1.      The abuser controls all financial decisions
2.      The abuser withholds money
3.      The abuser withholds access to financial accounts
4.      The abuser issues a financial allowance only
5.      The abuser insists on being the only source of income
6.      The abuser steals the identity of the victim
7.      The abuser steals money or property from the victim
8.      The abuser justifies their controlling behavior as appropriate for their culture or religion

Tips for Victims of Domestic Violence

If you or someone you want to help is experiencing domestic abuse, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE. They’ll help you learn about the options and resources in your community. There are thousands of local shelters across the U.S. that offer counseling, legal help, shelter, and emergency funds for victims and their children.


Published or updated February 15, 2011.
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1 Mike Piper

Thanks for writing about this, Laura. My wife works in the DV field, and you’re absolutely right that finances are a big part of the problem. Many survivors of domestic violence just don’t have a way out of the relationship unless they get financial assistance from somebody else.

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