She stays because she lacks the power to leave

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.

H/t AB



  1. freemage says

    I remember a few weeks (months?) ago, there was a billboard campaign in India, for a jewelry company that played off the still-strong tradition of arranged marriages. The slogan, translated, ran along the lines of, “You may not be able to pick your husband, but at least you can pick your jewelry.” Westerners, of course, picked up on it and mocked the seemingly obvious patriarchalism of the ads, but then a few feminists actually familiar with Indian culture and law spoke up–apparently, jewelry is the one thing a woman is allowed to keep in a divorce, and often serves as the nest egg she can use to move on if she either has to leave him, or is dumped for another woman. So within that context, the ad was remarkably subversive–encouraging women in arranged marriages to think about how best to get out of it.

    Maybe we need an investment management company like H&R Block to come up with a more Americanized version of the same pitch…..

  2. Katydid says

    The fundagelicals are doubling down on the no-education/no-job path for women, in large part to keep them dependent on whatever man their father picks for them.

  3. Broken Things says

    My father was a textbook schizophrenic, but he engaged in many of the behaviors that are described above. He tried to prevent my mother from going to work, although we (and he) would have been starving and homeless if she had not. His favorite was sleep deprivation, keeping the entire family up at night while he would sleep all day. He would show up at her work and interrupt her activities. If she spoke to anyone outside the immediate family he would get intensely upset, always hovering on the edge of violence but never quite getting there. Her working was too much of a repudiation of his role as a breadwinner to tolerate, even though he knew that he couldn’t support the family. It was just more important to him that he not lose face than that the family survive. Even if he had not been insane, he would have been a misogynistic ass.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *