Financial
abuse is any abuse involving money and can be perpetrated by an individual or
an organization.  Financial abuse is the
forcible controlling of a person’s finances in one way or another.

Financial
abuse is a form of abuse that often goes hand in hand with other abuses.  Financial abuse is often part of domestic
abuse, keeping the victim unemployed is a way of controlling the victim and
preventing her from being able to escape the abusive relationship.  It is also a common form of elder abuse.  Anyone who is frail, sick, institutionalized
or unable to handle their own finances is vulnerable to financial abuse.  Financial abuse is often part of emotional
and psychological abuse.  It is even a
form of bullying and is often the result of drug or alcohol addictions.

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Facts
tell us that domestic violence affects one in four women in her lifetime – that
is more women than breast cancer, ovarian cancer and lung cancer combined.  Financial abuse happens in 99% of all
domestic violence cases and is the number one reason domestic violence
survivors stay or return to an abusive relationship.  Leaving is not easy.  It involves many internal and external
factors involving a complicated mixture of psychological, cultural, religious,
familial and financial factors.  Physical
abuse leaves bruises and scars while financial abuse is invisible and traps
victims.  So where do we turn to stop the
spread of this “cancer” that is affecting so many of our citizens? 

Among
the conversations on how the public perceives domestic violence, a survey
commissioned by the Allstate Foundation, called Silent Weapon: Domestic
Violence and Financial Abuse explored how financial abuse in relationship to
domestic violence ranks as a national problem.  The survey found that three in
five Americans know someone who has been the victim of abuse and more than one
in four have been abused themselves.

The
survey discovered that there seems to be limited public understanding of the
issues.  Financial abuse is seen as the
least common form of abuse and the least likely to cause lasting negative
effects for the survivor.  Most
acknowledged that they would not recognize the signs if a friend is being
abused or what to do to help the friend.

Considering
these perceptions and given the data collected from the survey that shows 8 in
10 (78%) of Americans have not heard about financial abuse as it relates to
domestic violence, it is obvious that there is a lack of education, a cause
that while time consuming and expensive, is reversible.

Because
abuse often happens behind closed doors, we must understand the statistics that
show us just how many people are affected. 
While domestic violence can be devastating to families, the effect on
communities runs much deeper. 

According
to the U.S. Department of Justice, “domestic violence affects us all and costs
the U.S. economy more than 8.3 billion dollars each year, is the leading cause
of family homelessness, and is the single largest category of calls received by
local police.”

“Domestic violence kills an average of three women a day and is the
leading cause of injury for women ages 18-44.” 
While survivor requests for help go up, staffing and budgets for
services go down with more than 12,000 pleas for assistance going unmet in 2015
alone.  Domestic violence is
considered a significant problem for the country.”

Then
there is the train wreak at the end of the line that involves a mere 3 million
children witnessing domestic violence each year which delays academic success,
causes behavioral issues, delinquencies and substance abuse, and increases the
likelihood that a boy will grow up to be an abuser and a girl will become a
victim of violence.

If we were to intervene and begin educating people starting with the
youngest and most vulnerable, while at the same time, educating women on how to
be financially self-sufficient, and educate the general public that “Yes
Virginia, Domestic violence is real!” 
Then perhaps all will eventually meet in the middle and we can have a
society where any abuse toward any person will not be tolerated. 

We cannot fix what we don’t know so education is key. We can make
changes and we must start now.  Just like
ad campaigns that flood the market with “just say no” slogans, a movement to
educate the masses on the causes and effects of domestic violence would create
a movement where solutions begin to surface and the education movement begins.  

The Allstate Foundation Purple Purse is aimed at creating a
long-term safety and security for survivors of financial abuse through
empowerment.  It is making the invisible
visible and since 2005 has been bringing financial abuse out of the shadows so
victims get the healing and support they so deserve by igniting fundraising for
hundreds of national, state and local domestic violence organizations.  These funds support financial empowerment
services to help survivors build safer lives for themselves and their
families. 

The Allstate Foundation has set more that 1 million victims
on the path of safety and security, investing more than $55 million, empowering
women to break free from abuse through a series of curriculums titled “Moving
Ahead Through Financial Management.”

v Financial Empowerment Curriculum: “The Allstate Foundation’s Moving Ahead Through Financial Management curriculum is a
comprehensive package of tools and information designed to empower victims to
be self-sufficient with their finances. The curriculum includes the following
components:

ü Strategies
for addressing the complex financial and safety challenges of ending a
relationship with an abusive partner.

ü Information
on how to protect personal and financial safety in an abusive relationship and
after leaving an abusive relationship.

ü Methods
for dealing with the misuse of financial records.

ü Tools to
help people of all incomes and earning power work toward long-term financial
empowerment, including budgeting tools, step-by-step planners and more.

v
We can
start by downloading a copy of the Moving
Ahead Through Financial Management curriculum to an eReader or tablet,
iBooks, or PDF.  The downloadable
curriculum materials are available free of cost.”

 

v As
Advocates we can take the Online
Financial Curriculum: “The Allstate Foundation has adapted its hard copy Moving Ahead Through Financial
Management curriculum materials into a web-based version that can be watched,
listened to and learned from. 

Survivors
can watch the Moving Ahead curriculum sections that meet their specific needs
or take the time to view the whole series. Building survivors personal
financial management skills helps build their independence.

Module 1: Surviving
Financial Abuse
Module 2: Learning
Financial Basics
Module 3: Budgeting
Your Money
Module 4: Saving and
Investing
Module 5:
Understanding Your Credit
Module 6: Repairing
Your Credit
Module 7: Renting an
Apartment
Module 8: Applying
For Loans
Module 9: Buying a
Home
Module 10: Buying a
Car
Module 11:
Understanding Insurance
Module 12: Building
a Future”

 

v As
advocates we should become familiar with the Career Empowerment Curriculum: “The Career Empowerment Curriculum
was designed by Women Employed and The Allstate Foundation particularly for
survivors of domestic violence. The curriculum helps survivors feel safe and
confident throughout the process of getting a job, to help survivors elevate
their thinking from “just getting a job” to “starting a career” and to do so in
a way that fully acknowledges the particular challenges that survivors often
face. The curriculum refers to many different career types, such as blue collar
and white collar, and is relevant for survivors with any skill set.”

The
curriculum covers five key topics:

1.     Being Safe During the Job Search
and at Work

2.     Choosing and Planning for the
Career You Want

3.     Getting Started in Your Career

4.     Preparing for Your Job Search

5.     Sharing Information and
Communicating throughout the Job Search and at Work”

On one hand, financial abuse is easy to understand,
in that it removes money from a rightful owner by unfair means.  On the other hand, as with all abuses, there
are emotional and other issues that help cloud the situation making it
difficult for victims to see what is happening to them.  If the victim is already browbeaten and
confused, she may be unable to recognize the abuse.

Women who are financially abused are often unable
to see that what is happening to them is actually abuse.  No one wants to believe that the person they
love is capable of financially abusing them or perhaps they are too frightened
to stand up to the abuser.

The trick is to get survivors to see the need for
this empowerment instead of relying on public assistance.  The system that was created to assist people
in need has become a way of life and generational.  However, public assistance is not the evil
here… lack is the enemy.  Lack of
self-esteem, self-worth, education, finances…The list is long and particular to
each individual survivor. 

As part
of an empowerment program it would be an advantage for survivors to have the ability
to take these classes online and receive certification of completion.  Nothing is more empowering than taking on a
challenge and seeing it to completion.

Outreach
programs for children and teens are a good way to help get the word out.  Schools, churches and community organizations
are also a resource to educate and support survivors.  We as advocates need to find ways to educate
these resources and incorporate them into a larger education program. 

Grants
and other funding can assist in covering the costs of educating the
masses.  Talking to legislators, working
with national organizations, talking with friends and family.  Reaching out to anyone that will listen and
those with a passion to solve these issues. 

Ignorance
is not bliss!  The cure
for ignorance is Education, Education, and more Education.

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