Finances & Abuse: From Shame to Hope

Posted by on Oct 20, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

economic-abuse-2-268x300Going through a divorce, Maya never expected to uncover the financial mess her abusive husband had left her family in. Being married for over 20 years, Maya had predicted their savings account to have grown substantially since her husband had set it up. After going through the couple’s finances with her lawyer, Maya was faced with the reality of what her husband had done. She knew her husband had an impulsive behavior when it came to money, but she had never imagined him delving into their savings account for his own recreational purposes. Maya was in distress as to how she would now support her three children alone, as well as pay off her astounding legal fees.

A month earlier, Maya had graduated from the Women’s Program at the Domestic Abuse Project (DAP). Recently, Lucy, the Women’s Program Supervisor had contacted Maya and informed her of an educational group the organization was soon holding called “Finances & Abuse.” The optional group was only for women who had graduated the program at DAP and she figured at this point it would only help instead of harm her.

Financial abuse can take many different forms, but Maya’s story is a familiar one. Her husband had aggressively controlled the family finances and Maya agreed rather than upset her husband. She thought agreeing with her partner would protect her and her children from further abuse in their household. Unfortunately, the abuse did not stop. Maya began to feel like once again she had made the wrong decision in her relationship. Every time her husband abused her psychologically Maya would doubt herself. How was she a good role model for her children when she could not earn her husband’s respect? She asked herself this question countless times before she began to realize that maybe it wasn’t her, but her partner that was damaging her and their relationship.

economic abuse 2The “Finances & Abuse” group was led by Lucy, the Women’s Program Supervisor, and Sean, the Intern Program Supervsior, at DAP and was scheduled to meet once a week for a total of eight weeks. Previous to his counseling career, Sean was a financial counselor and devised a curriculum for the group that would best help them understand the psychological stress and power finances can have in a relationship. Sean shared, “those that have experienced direct economic abuse and/or are recovering from the effects of an abusive relationship know that those dynamics create financial problems unique to them that would not be advised in a typical financial counseling arena.”  When understanding domestic violence, many people assume the abuse is solely emotional or physical, but domestic abuse can span a wide range of psychological arrays, and finances are just one major part of that collection.

Before beginning the Women’s Program at DAP, women are asked what type of abuse they are experiencing or have experienced by the partner. 90% of women respond that they are being financially abused by their partner. Financial abuse entails various stress that the abuser can put on their partner such as forbidding them to work or spending the partner’s income as their own. Ultimately, all these financial experiences leave the victim feeling ashamed. Shame is the key feeling the “Finances & Abuse” group works to change.

Week after week of attending the “Finances & Abuse” group, Maya began to feel like she could finally start to take control of her own finances and devise a plan to help her climb out of debt. Each of the sessions she attended varied depending on topic. The group started with Understanding the Psychology of Finances and grew to end with creating a Cash Flow Analysis. Along with an Understanding Credit, Goal Setting, and a Debt Reduction Strategy class Maya began to process how she could apply these lessons to her own life. Alongside other members of the group, Maya designed her own cash flow analysis to help her keep track of the money going in and out of her finances. The cash flow analysis helped her set financial goals as well as changed her expectations on how she could spend her money. With a concrete financial plan in mind, Maya left with hope and possibility that she could create a steady financial future for her family.

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