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.
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.
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.