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Study Shines a Light on Economic Abuse

July 13, 2009

Concord, N.H. - The economic crisis has put financial strains on many families and, for some, that also means an increase in domestic violence as bills pile up and tensions increase.

While 76 percent of Americans believe the sagging economy is making things more difficult for victims of domestic abuse, a new national poll shows almost the same number of people fail to see "economic abuse" as a form of domestic violence. Economic abuse is a tactic used by abusers to control a partner's finances, often to prevent them from leaving a dangerous relationship.

Mary Grace Mattern, executive director of the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, says there are numerous ways abusers can exert control - by not giving their partner access to the family's bank accounts, not letting them work to earn money, and/or not allowing them to have any knowledge of household financial matters.

"Insisting that all the money be controlled by the abuser, even if the victim is earning some money of her own, the abuser will take control of the paycheck, take control of all the bank accounts."

Mattern says an abuser will often undermine a partner's attempts to gain financial freedom by isolating them and not allowing them to work. If the partner already has a job, the abuser will try to sabotage it, by calling them frequently at work and causing them stress.

"Because if the victim has no viable means of support separate from the abuser, it really limits the victim's options for getting out of the violent relationship."

The Allstate Foundation conducted the study and has developed an online program (at www.clicktoempower.org) to help domestic violence victims achieve financial independence.

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - NH