This blog post was written by Kim Crowley, 4th year English Major & Marketing Minor at the University of Maine and Community Response & Prevention Team Intern at Partners for Peace.
What is Economic Abuse?
Economic abuse tactics are utilized by abusers in order to gain power and control over their victims’ financial well-being and stability. The abuser’s behaviors affect their victim’s ability to gain, use, and/or maintain their economic and financial resources, oftentimes threatening or completely destroying their economic security and self-sufficiency.
Economic abuse is experienced by a shockingly high percentage of abuse victims. Several studies show that between 95% and 99% of all abuse victims experience economic abuse during their lifetime.
Despite the notable incidence rate among victims and survivors, economic abuse remains one of the most under-researched forms of domestic abuse.
How Can We Learn More About Economic Abuse?
In order to grow the knowledge base surrounding economic abuse, the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence (MCEDV) is conducting a survey on domestic abuse survivors and their experiences related to economic abuse. The survey can be found here: https://bit.ly/2EIUf2e
MCEDV’s research will create a better understanding of economic abuse as it currently exists within the state of Maine. Furthermore, it will help advocates better prepare for and provide services to victims and survivors who deal with economic abuse at the hands of their abusers. The data gathered will also be used to inform a report on economic abuse for the Maine State Legislature.
What Does Economic Abuse Look Like?
What abusive behaviors fall under the umbrella of economic abuse? Such behaviors may be split into three basic forms: economic control, economic exploitation, and employment sabotage.
When an abuser seeks to economically control their victim, they exert their power and dominance over their victim. They want to limit their victim’s ability to access money or have any form of financial independence.
They may make important financial decisions without informing their victim; demand to know how money was spent; keep financial information from their victim; make their victim ask them for money; demand that their victim gives them receipts and/or change; or interfere with their victim’s ability to further their education.
When an abuser economically exploits their victim, they misuse or harm any economic assets and resources their victim may already have. They might spend the money the victim needed for rent or other bills; pay bills late or not pay bills whatsoever; build up debt under the victim’s name; steal money, checkbooks, credit or debit cards; and even destroy possessions and cause damage to living spaces.
These behaviors can be especially impactful when the living space and/or bills are solely under the victim’s name—the actions of their abuser may affect the victim’s ability to remain in their home, even though they are not the ones who damaged their living space or chose not to pay their bills.
Lastly, an abuser may try and sabotage their victim’s employment. They might do things to keep their victim from going to their job; demand that they quit their job; threaten them to make them leave work; or come to their workplace to harass them or otherwise make a scene. The abuser may cause the victim to lose hours at work, miss days, or even lose their job.
How Does Economic Abuse Affect Abuse Victims?
All economic abuse tactics are used by abusers in order to cause their victims to become economically dependent, so they may remain under their control. Economic abuse creates an uncertain future for victims of abuse. Their financial situation and credit may be destroyed, making future financial moves like renting a home or leasing a vehicle difficult or nearly impossible. This difficulty and uncertainty may make victims more likely to stay with their abuser. Economic concerns are among the top reasons survivors cite as to why leaving their abuser is so difficult.
Furthermore, economic abuse may be continued remotely even after a victim physically leaves their abuser. Whether ongoing or “in the past,” the effects of economic abuse are long-lasting—they reverberate indefinitely within the lives of abuse victims and survivors.
How Can We Help?
If you or someone you know is going through experiences that sound like these, our 24-hour confidential helpline is available at 1-800-863-9909 for support and resources. Our advocates are well-versed and knowledgeable about all tactics used by abusers, including economic abuse. They will listen to what is going on, provide support and validation, and connect callers with resources best suited for their circumstances.
We also encourage survivors who have experienced economic abuse to fill out MCEDV’s survey on economic abuse: https://bit.ly/2EIUf2e. All responses can be made anonymously and will help inform the work of legislators and domestic abuse advocates across the state of Maine, and help us better understand economic abuse as a whole.