Domestic Abuse Can Be Physical, Emotional And/Or Financial
Researchers estimate that one in every four American women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime, and that in the U.S., more than 5 million women are abused by an intimate partner each year.
Still, as staggering as those statistics are, they are likely underestimates, simply because many women remain uncertain about how domestic abuse is defined. Obviously, it’s impossible to tell if you are in an abusive relationship if you’re not quite sure what domestic abuse actually is!
Unfortunately, this confusion and/or uncertainty prevents many women from getting the help they need to break free from their abusers and begin independent lives.
Here’s how the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health defines domestic violence:
“Domestic violence is when one person in a relationship purposely hurts another person physically or emotionally. Domestic violence is also called intimate partner violence because it often is caused by a husband, ex-husband, boyfriend, or ex-boyfriend.”
As this definition makes clear, domestic violence isn’t only physical abuse. Domestic violence can be mental/emotional and/or financial, as well. Let me explain in more detail . . .
When most people think about domestic violence, they imagine a scenario where a woman is physically abused by her male partner. That’s understandable, of course, because physical abuse can be the most noticeable, and it’s certainly not uncommon –according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, some 1.3 million women in the US are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year.
Did you see that I was careful to write “physical abuse can be the most noticeable?” Often, women go out of their way to keep physical abuse a secret. They stay home until wounds heal. They hide their bruises beneath clothing. Sometimes, sadistic husbands intentionally plan their assaults so the abuse won’t be visible to the public.
It’s also worth mentioning here that forcing sex (or forcing drug use or forcing/coercing anything else, for that matter) is yet another form of physical abuse. You may not realize it, but spousal rape is a felony in most states. Use this list of criminal codes by state to learn about the domestic violence laws where you live.
Study after study has shown that women are most often victimized by someone they know, and in many cases, the abuser’s strategy is not to inflict bodily harm. Instead, mental/emotional abusers want to intimidate or damage the self-esteem of their victims. Repeated threats, accusations, insults and other bullying behaviors are all considered forms of domestic violence.
Why would an abusive husband go to such lengths? Often, it’s because he wants to exert his “power.” He will do whatever he deems necessary to control his wife’s time, her friends and her money. Unfortunately, technology can be an enabler of mental/emotional abuse. A controlling husband may constantly text his wife (“Where are you? What are you doing?”), or he might even install a GPS device on her car to see where she goes and/or spyware on her computer or cell phone so he can track which websites she visits, whom she talks to, etc.
Remember: The continual invasion of privacy is a form of domestic abuse.
By controlling his wife’s access to money, an abusive husband can make it nearly impossible for her to leave the marriage.
As Jeffrey A. Friedman, Executive Director of The Retreat, told me, “Financial abuse can mean: preventing you from getting or keeping a job, having you to account for every penny spent, denying access to check book/account/finances, threatening to force you out of the house and make you homeless and demanding your paychecks.
The Retreat, which is located in The Hamptons on Long Island, NY, is an organization that works to break the cycle of family violence while also providing safety, shelter and support for domestic abuse victims. Like me, Jeff has seen firsthand how financial abuse can lead to long-term debilitating consequences.
“Financial abuse can have serious and long term effects,” he said. “Victims can become trapped in a cycle of poverty, can experience unhealthy physical and psychological effects and feel hopeless and trapped in the abusive environment.”
Domestic violence is now recognized by many as a national epidemic. It affects women of all races, income, education levels and ages. If you think you may be a victim of physical, mental/emotional and/or financial abuse, please seek help. There are community-based organizations, private counselors and therapists and other professionals who can offer the immediate assistance you need. They can help you create a plan that will keep you and your children safe. Then, once you are safe, you can start to shore up your personal finances, so you can enter the divorce process with your sights firmly set on a secure financial future.
Jeffrey A. Landers is the founder of Bedrock Divorce Fund for Abused Women, Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit charity whose mission is to help abused women successfully and permanently leave their abusers. This mission is accomplished by supporting other 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations that provide short and intermediate-term housing and related services (counseling, childcare, job assistance, etc.) to female victims of domestic abuse and their children.
Jeff is also President and Founder of Bedrock Divorce Advisors, a divorce financial strategy firm which exclusively advises affluent women throughout the United States before, during and after divorce. By providing Lifestyle Analyses and other financial reports and projections, Jeff helps women and their divorce attorneys decide on the most advantageous way to divide marital assets, compute alimony and negotiate more favorable settlements.
In addition, Jeff is the author of the new book, Divorce: Think Financially, Not Emotionally – What Women Need To Know About Securing Their Financial Future Before, During, And After Divorce, which provides women going through the crisis of divorce with the tools they need to secure their financial future. He is donating 50% of all book profits to Bedrock Divorce Fund for Abused Women, Inc.
All articles/blog posts are for informational purposes only, and do not constitute legal advice. If you require legal advice, retain a lawyer licensed in your jurisdiction. The opinions expressed are solely those of the author, who is not an attorney.