As this shelter at home order continues, I can’t help but think about those stuck in abusive relationships. How scared they must be. I’ve seen statistics showing that domestic violence calls are on the rise since this started.
If you are already stuck because finances don’t allow you to leave, I can only imagine how frightened you must be on so many levels.
The Ex never physically assaulted me. But I was often frightened of him, and I was verbally and emotionally abused. The financial abuse I endured was, in a way, secondary to the other stuff. But, I know it was a big piece of why it was so hard to leave.
Not knowing how one could possibly survive if they leave is a huge reason for staying.
There is also a lot of fear of retaliation and other threats that abusers use to control their victims. It makes me want to cry thinking about it.
Unfortunately, I don’t have the answers on how to change this. My focus lies in overcoming financial abuse, so I don’t feel qualified to address the other types of abuse or how to leave.
Let’s open the conversation about the financial side of the current shelter at home order and the economic fallout accompanying it. We may all be affected by this change in more than a few ways.
When a man is without self-esteem, he may become abusive. Most men depend on their jobs to give them their self-esteem and their purpose. Bringing home, the bacon so to speak, makes them feel worthy and important. But sometimes, they use it as power and a way to assert control over their spouses. This is literally the definition of financial abuse.
A man forced to leave his job, like in our current situation, probably feels even poorer about himself than normal. This means he is even more likely to abuse.
Anyone using their ability to earn money as a tool to manipulate and control the household is being financially abusive. Perhaps he dictates how and when money is spent. Or he doles it out like a king controlling his kingdom, not providing enough for the serfs to survive. It’s not the only way to perpetrate financial abuse, but it may be the one coming into play right now.
If someone you know is not allowed to contribute to the financial decisions and their partner is now out of work, they are likely living in a powder keg.
An abusive man without work and stuck at home is a recipe for disaster. Most abusers escalate their behavior when they are unhappy. When they are fearful of unemployment or not being able to control the situation, things could get ugly fast.
Again, I wish I had answers, but I don’t. What I can offer is some suggestions. Only the victim will know if it is safe to try any of them.
Since abuse is about manipulation and control, helping the abuser to feel in control may be helpful. I don’t mean in a way that hurts others. I mean in a way that settles him. For example, if you can reassure him that he will likely have a job to return to soon. Tell him how valuable he is to the company and remind him how important he is to their success.
Make him feel important and valued so that his fear subsides.
Focus on how well things are being handled whenever possible. Let him know that there is enough money for necessities and that no one will go hungry. But perhaps that is not the case. Don’t lie to him but see if you can find another way to solve the problem. I get that he’s probably too proud to accept handouts, but there are programs that provide food to struggling families. Can you figure out a way to get some food home without raising red flags? Can you pick up meals for the kids at their schools?
Handling the bills and getting out in front of any possible debt will also help your situation. Most of the utility companies are deferring payments until later if you cannot make them now due to hardship.
Reach out and find out what you can do to reduce the financial strain on the household right now. Don’t wait until the money is gone.
Some states are mandating that landlords cannot evict anyone who, up until this crisis, was on time with their rent. If making that rent payment is just too much, contact your landlord. Find out what the options are for delaying payment.
Figuring out what works in any given case is tricky. Hopefully something can be done to help make ends meet. If you are sitting at home with an angry person who is out of work and frightened, unfortunately you’re the only one who knows what might help. I encourage you to try and safely figure out what you can do.
There are so many variations of financial abuse it is hard to say what is best in each individual case. Try to step back and remove yourself from the victim mentality as much as possible. Try to figure out how to change your situation. Rarely is it an overnight fix and you will likely have to endure the situation for a bit longer. My hope is that you can start to turn things around and strategically plan to leave this destructive relationship. Get your feet underneath you and begin a new chapter in your life that does not involve enduring abuse of any kind.
If you fear for your safety, please reach out for professional help to any of the following:
https://www.thehotline.org/ – Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or text LOVEIS to 22522
Sherry Lutz Herrington is the owner of Sherrington Financial Fitness, a business consulting and accounting firm specializing in strategic business planning and solid financial accounting for businesses. She is also the author of Strong Women Thriving (https://strongwomenthriving.com/), a blog which focuses on empowering women to be financially savvy, particularly after experiencing financial abuse. Sherry is currently writing a new book that both shares her personal story and addresses financial abuse. She can be reached at email@example.com. Join our FB group https://www.facebook.com/groups/womensurivingfinancialabuse