Savvy Smarts: Domestic Violence and Financial Dependency: A Look at an Abuser’s Main Source of Power
It’s clear that many people don’t understand why women who have left abusive relationships often return. Many people place blame on the victim for returning by suggesting that the victim even likes or thrives on the abuse. The attitude is; if they didn’t like being abused they would leave and not return, right?
But the reasons why women return to abusive relationships are extremely complex and have less to do with the content of the woman’s character and more to do with the effects of abuse. It’s widely known that an abused woman may leave her abuser seven to eight times before she leaves permanently.
Eighty-five percent of women who leave an abusive relationship return. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence a significant proportion of women who return to the relationship attribute their inability to deal with their finances as a major contributing factor, which is often enhanced by the fact that the abuser often has all of the economic and social standing and complete control over the family finances.
These women’s options are further limited by the fact that many who leave often face one or more additional barriers including having at least one dependent child, not being employed outside of the home, possessing no property that is solely theirs, and lacking access to cash or bank and credit accounts. For these reasons it is very likely that many of these women would experience a decline in living standards and security of life for themselves and their children if they were to leave their partner.
As a result of all of these combined factors, many survivors of domestic violence who summon the courage to leave the abusive relationship eventually return for financial reasons.
In most cases women arrive at shelters with few more resources other than the clothes they are wearing. Some are burdened with debt—in many cases their partners. Still others tumble into debt after they have left the abusive relationship because they overspend on impulse or budget poorly. Very few of them are yet to have addressed the emotional and psychological issues that have dictated their poor financial choices. Rarely is a battered woman accustomed to managing her own money.
This is where The Business of Me plays such a vital role as it takes a disparate group of women of varying socio-economic backgrounds and different life experiences who come together at a domestic violence shelter with one thing in common; their need to get out and stay out of an abusive relationship. The Business of Me teaches survivor’s real-world, practical and easy to use personal financial management skills which they can use in their daily lives.
The program helps these women overcome their fear of managing their personal finances by teaching them specific real-world, money management techniques in an innovative way that promotes deep self-reflection and active management of financial futures. It also guides participants in creating and maintaining a budget to achieve success with their goals and addresses debt and how to handle it, insurance, documentation, savings, and charitable giving. Finally, the program teaches survivors how to talk to children about money. While teaching financial self sufficiency skills (which are as important in our daily lives as knowing how to use a knife and a fork) the program guides the women to focus on their futures and to be continually seeking new opportunities for themselves. The program provides a support mechanism to help them develop their goals and the means to accomplish them.
In short, “The Business of Me” is designed to reduce the number of women who return to domestic violence relationships and revictimization. The outlook isn’t good. The results of a national study done of high school students are appalling. According to Jumpstart.org the average score on a 31 question test yielded an average correct score of only 48.3%. Put simply, a majority of seniors will leave high school financially illiterate. We are experiencing difficult economic times. Corporations are reducing retirement savings contributions and fewer and fewer employers are offering any type of retirement savings plan at all. At the same time advances in medical science make it likely that we’ll live longer lives. In times like these financial literacy is essential if we are to live independent lives.
Being financially literate and knowing how to manage your finances gives you the confidence you need to make your own decisions about where you want your life to go. With knowledge comes confidence; with confidence comes an “I can do it” and an “I want to do it” attitude. With the power that this knowledge brings you want to control your own life and you want to make your own decisions. By accepting this responsibility you no longer have to live in fear, because you’ve planned and you’ll know exactly when and how you’ll meet your financial obligations, and you’ll see progress towards the future that you’ve chosen for yourself. This responsibility is not a burden; it’s a beautiful thing because you’ll never again allow yourself to be controlled by someone else. No one will be able to step on you financially ever again. Nancy Salamone is author of Victory Over Violence: Nancy’s Story and the Business of Me. For more information or to purchase the book, please visit www.nancysstory.com, www.amazon.com