Every nine seconds, a woman in the U.S. is beaten or assaulted by a current or former partner. But not all abuse leaves a mark. In 99 per cent of domestic abuse situations, financial abuse — the act of one person controlling the money in a relationship — is also present.
Financial abusers may try to limit a partner’s daily spending, prevent access to joint and personal financial accounts, sabotage employment opportunities, or max out credit cards. And with no way to support themselves, domestic violence victims often delay leaving their abusers.
This October, in honour of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the Allstate Foundation has partnered with tennis great Serena Williams to raise awareness of financial abuse.
“To end the cycle of abuse, we must have meaningful conversations to shine a light on how financial abuse traps victims,” said Ellen Lisak, Allstate Foundation senior program officer. Williams, who has been involved with the Allstate Foundation’s Purple Purse initiative for three years, knows that knowledge is key when it comes to recognizing the signs of financial abuse.
“Not being able to use your credit cards, having to show receipts for every little dime that you spend, having freedom of choice taken away from you. Those are all signs,” Williams tells Woman’s Day. “It’s important to use my voice to shine a spotlight on the barriers women can face when they’re trying to leave.”
Williams plans to educate her daughter, Olympia, early and often about domestic violence and financial abuse. “I hope she’ll have an awareness of the issue as she starts to go through things in her own life,” says Williams. “When you recognize the signs, you can change the pattern of abuse.”
The Allstate Foundation’s Moving Ahead Curriculum offers victims of financial abuse guidelines for establishing financial independence, including a list of important documents, tips for saving money, advice on getting orders of protection, and more.
“It’s not easy to get up and leave. I’ve grown to understand that,” says Williams. If a loved one is experiencing any kind of abuse, “It’s important to support them until they are ready to get out of that situation,” she says.