Financial abuse: Getting out and resources available to victims of domestic abuse

So let me begin by saying, if you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, and financial abuse is part of that equation, it is extremely hard to find your way out. I stayed far too long in my marriage for this reason. If you have a friend or loved one that is in a toxic marriage, and you often find yourself wondering why she/he is still there, I ask you to remind yourself that you can’t possibly know what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes unless you’ve walked in them yourself. Financial abuse is one of the most powerful methods of a survivor trapped in an abusive relationship and makes it extremely difficult for she/he to financially survive after leaving an abusive relationship.

surviving domestic abuse

Signs of financial abuse

These are some of the tell-tale signs of financial abuse: Putting you on an allowance, not having your name on the bank accounts, getting angry at you for spending money on yourself, hiding money, spending tons of your marital money without consulting you, giving you only just enough money to buy what you needed (example grocery money for the week). If you feel like monetarily your spouse or significant other is treating you like a child you are most likely being abused. I tried for years, even brought it up in therapy, to get my names on our bank accounts, but he always had an excuse. He was self-employed. He didn’t want my name attached to the business in case something happened. He didn’t think I could handle the monthly cash flow. I never knew how much money we had in the bank, or where our money was being spent. We were living a very comfortable life, with lots of privileges so many don’t have, and then we had nothing. It was always so unsettling to me. It comes down to control. He/they, they want control.

Leaving

When I was forced to leave my home with my boys almost 6 months ago, I had nothing. My name wasn’t on the bank accounts, and even if they were, my ex had depleted most our funds during his downward spiral the last couple years. Furthermore, my ex tanked my credit the last time I tried to leave by telling his office manager to stop paying all bills in my name. Thankfully I had amazing friends who helped me sell personal belongings and furniture and gracious friends donated cash on hand for me and my boys to temporarily live on. It saddens me that it took a night with the police involved to finally find my way out. But my home, my neighbors, my friends, a life I built for 15 years, it’s so hard to leave all that behind. I won’t lie, it was extremely sad selling all my things. If you are forced to do this, I recommend asking a friend to help you. Have them just do it for you, it helps it sting a little less.

Resources for domestic violence victims

When I moved to MA, I was very fortunate to have my mom’s house to move into. Although not my first choice I know so many aren’t as fortunate as I to have a family member to turn to. If you have nowhere else to go, I recommend calling your local Hubbard house. If you are not sure where, who to talk to, call your local DV line. I did meet with the local Hubbard house, but after discussing my situation as a whole they agreed that relocating to another state since I had family to stay with was the best option for me and my boys. If you are in a situation where you have nowhere to go, call your local domestic violence hotline. They can tell you what your options are. Furthermore, if you are in a relationship where there is a history of violence, you can get an injunction against domestic violence and be granted full use of the home. You can have them legally kicked out. I have an injunction in place. This was the first thing I did after the incident. You can either file it online or go to your local courthouse and ask for the DV room. However, our home had been destroyed during his violent rages and it was no longer secure and safe for me and my boys, so staying there really wasn’t an option. You have options to stay if that is what you want. Document, document, document. Keep a log, nothing to little is not worthy of writing down. And lastly, and this is one that was incredibly hard for me to do at first, until it wasn’t, do not hesitate to call the police. You need to put your abuse on record. I know it’s hard; To call the police on someone you once loved, maybe still do, it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

Since being in MA, we have received zero support or access to assets, accounts in almost 6 months. I have a lawyer, and she is diligently working on this, but it is absolutely mind blowing that it takes this long legally for a woman and mom in my shoes to be granted rights to assets and funds. It’s been extremely frustrating, and I’ve been forced to take advantage of aid I never imagined having to use in my life. I still feel like there should be more resources for woman in my shoes. I want so badly to start over, to earn a living, to build a stable life for my children, but it’s so hard to even know where to begin without a car and money saved for childcare.

In MA they have what’s called DTA, Department of Transitional Assistance. And this is the place to qualify for food stamps, cash assistance, and daycare vouchers. I’m not sure what it’s referred to in each state, but if you call your local domestic violence hotline, they can give you the numbers to call for all of this. At first, I felt so ashamed, I was embarrassed to have to ask for help. But without a car (he stopped paying my bills so had to turn that in) and having been a stay-at-home mom for 7 years and have a little one not in school yet, and no money yet saved for childcare, finding a job has felt near impossible. Friends and family have reminded me that these resources are there for a reason, they are there for people that truly need help, to help people get out of a bad situation. So, if you are trying to find your way out, let me tell you, it’s not a time for pride, accept all the help you can. If a friend wants to give you money, take it. If a family member wants to take you in, go. If a family member wants to get you a lawyer, do not hesitate. People that love you want to help you. And if you aren’t as fortunate as I am, reach out to your local resources. If you are here in MA, feel free to send me an email and I can point you in the right direction. If you aren’t in MA, I can still help you know where to look. It’s not easy, it’s so hard, but there are resources available, don’t hesitate to use them.

Lastly, I’m going to be 100% honest. I was petrified to leave. I kept trying to create a plan. I kept telling myself I need to find a way to save money first, I need to leave when there is more money, I needed him to keep paying my bills to restore my credit. None of that happened. I told myself that I could just live my life with our friends and neighbors and ignore him. It was no way to live. I was living a lie and I was living a life walking on eggshells in my own home. My boys did not have a happy mom at home. I was petrified to leave, but I was even more petrified to stay. If you want out, just get out. You will figure it out, people will help you in your time of need. You deserve so much more. And when you leave, you will feel FREE.

Gaslighting from afar

Have you ever been hurt by someone physically or emotionally and then awake the next day to them pretending or denying it ever happened? Have you found yourself questioning your own reality? It makes you feel crazy when someone can blatantly deny they’ve hurt you. Welcome to the horrible world of gaslighting. And if any of this sounds familiar, I’m so sorry you are dealing with this too. 

Gaslighting is a form of manipulation in which someone makes you question your own reality. It happens when an abuser tries to control a victim by twisting their sense of reality, aka, doing something horrible to you and then telling you that was not the way it happened.

Gaslighting red flags

Being a victim of gaslighting has been my entire world the past 5 years. And if I was to look back at the entire course of my 17-year relationship, I could probably find signs of it along, which was then exacerbated by substance abuse and mental illness. I constantly felt like I was walking on eggshells. And when we had a fight, which became more often than not, he would completely disregard my feelings, and find a way to make me feel guilty, as though I was somehow to blame. He was always playing the victim in all aspects of his life. 

When I finally worked up the courage to leave 5 months ago with my boys for good, I thought I was finally breaking free from the hurt, from the constant manipulation. I thought I was finally breaking the cycle. Unfortunately, I was wrong, and he is still finding ways indirectly to hurt us.

Even without contact, he is still finding ways to try and manipulate me. From harassing those that have helped me and my boys in our times of need, to slandering my name to family and friends, the distance between us somehow hasn’t ended the hurt. It amazes me, that even though his family has seen firsthand his violence, his sickness, that they are still not only enabling him but believing his lies. Lies that are not only hurting me, but substantially affecting the financial future of their grandchildren. 

It has been a hard month and so many of the bad choices he’s made are directly impacting the life of me and my boys. It’s disturbing how even though you are the victim you still can be left feeling like you are the one being punished. It wasn’t until I was chatting with a dear friend of mine who has also been a victim of abuse that I realized that his family is gaslighting me too. My friend made a significant point, that he was probably brought up with parents that used this manipulation and that is probably where he learned it. 

That right there was another reminder of how important it is that I got my boys away from him, the reason why I’m fighting with all my power to not let him near us until he gets the help he needs. Another friend keeps reminding me, I’m in the HARD part right now. Leaving is only the first step. Now is when the real healing begins. I’m trying to allow myself to be angry, but I’m also trying really hard to let go of those things I can’t control. One of my best friends gave me a necessary kick in the butt and said to me,

“Just keep looking forward Ashleigh. There are a lot of what if’s, just focus your energy on moving forward. He has not ruined you.” 

And that is exactly what I’m going to continue to try and do. They can continue to try and beat me down, I will overcome. I know the truth. 

  

Domestic Violence and My Story

This is a huge topic, with so many different layers. Experiencing abuse, whether it be verbal, emotional, sexual, financial, or physical, is something that no one ever imagines will be part of their story. At least I didn’t. Never in a million years did I think I’d be sitting here telling you all that I am a victim of domestic abuse. But I am, and I wish I had known five years ago that I was not alone. 

This is a hard part of my story to talk about, but I feel like it’s worth sharing.  I’m still very much in the beginning stages of my healing. I’m not a doctor, or a therapist, but I have experiences that I’ve been through, lessons that I’ve learned, and feel I may be able to help someone else out there that’s been living in my shoes. 

I’ll be talking about many different facets of abuse:

  • Narcissistic abuse
  • Gaslighting
  • Living with alcoholism and mental illness
  • Why I stayed so long, and what I wish I had done differently. 
  • Resources that are available to those of you in need. 
  • Protecting your kids from abuse

It is possible to get out of a horrible situation. It’s not easy, and I’m still in the hard part, but if you are feeling scared, or alone, I’m here for you. You are worth fighting for. 

Stay tuned, I have a lot to process, and a lot to share. 

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