And then there’s that more hidden, secret, insidious kind of domestic violence – the economic kind.
In her new book, author Ludy Green argues that economic abuse is the core reason why women don’t leave abusive partners. “Depriving the victim of control over her own economic well-being is a despotic and confining element of domestic violence,” she writes in Ending Domestic Violence Captivity: A Guide to Economic Freedom. “Why does she stay? Despite appearances to the contrary, the decision to stay is not a decision at all. She stays because she lacks the power to leave.”
If you have zero money of your own, you can’t start over.
Green has worked with domestic violence survivors for more than 20 years. In 2001, she started Second Chance Employment Services, the first employment agency in the U.S. for domestic violence survivors. “Second Chance was started solely to provide financial independence for women who were victims of economic abuse,” Green said. In Ending Domestic Violence Captivity, she examines the economic conditions that abusers manipulate to systematically disempower women. As she explains, economic abuse is highly effective at creating physical and psychological barriers to leaving.
And it’s not obvious the way a broken nose is, and most of it is not illegal.
One way to do it? Sabotage her ability to have a job.
There are a number of ways an abuser can prevent a victim from holding a job. He may cause physical injuries to her face or body, so that she’s embarrassed to go to work. He may keep her from getting enough sleep, or show up at the workplace and harass the victim, disrupting her duties. He may refuse to provide child care, forcing the woman to stay home with the kids, or he might not allow the victim to have a car, depriving her of reliable transportation.
Another way is controlling all the finances. Another is destroying her credit.
Another tactic that is becoming more common is identity fraud. The abuser may take out a credit card account in the victim’s name and pile up debt, destroying her credit rating.
“It’s very frightening,” said Green. “Women get to the point where they have nothing and no way to get control of the money again.”
Ruined credit can be a devastating burden once a woman attempts to leave. She may have trouble renting an apartment or may need a co-signer for any financial commitment.
Dominance. Such a deep need for dominance. So destructive.