Dynamics of Power and Control – Economic Abuse
Using economic abuse is the dynamic that makes it nearly impossible to get out of an abusive relationship, even when the victim wants to go. One way the abuser gains control is to prevent the victim from getting or keeping a job. It is not unusual for the abuser to demand that the victim gets a job, only to create so much disruption that the victim loses the job in a way that creates an unflattering reference. Enough of these instances and the victim has a ‘spotty’ work history and will have a hard time finding a job that provides enough income to make getting out of the relationship an option. Abusers have been known to show up at the victim’s workplace and create a scene there. Sometimes the abuser will accuse the victim of cheating with a co-worker and create a scene with the co-worker. In the end, they get the victim fired. If the victim gets angry about the behavior of the abuser, they may become physically violent or resort to threats of suicide. Another form of economic abuse is to make the victim ask for money or give them an allowance and demand an accounting of how it is spent. One twist on this is to give the victim an allowance for household items and groceries that is too small to be realistic and then shame the victim for not being creative enough with the money to be able to get all of the things that the abuser wanted. In cases like this, they will often use name-calling and humiliation with friends or family. They may say something like, “Mom, you have always been so good with money. Can you show Lisa how to manage her money better? She just isn’t getting the hang of it.” This will not only be said in front of the person the abuser is addressing but will be said in front of other friends and family too. This way, the abuser has humiliated the victim in front of as many people as possible. If the victim is allowed to keep a job for any length of time, the abuser will usually keep the money that comes in from it. They will know how much to expect and often will demand to see the paystubs to be sure the victim isn’t getting money without the abuser knowing it. The victim will almost never know anything about the family’s finances either. This gives the abuser complete economic control of the victim and ensures that if they do leave, the abuser has the ability to take control of the money right away. This also affects the victim’s ability to get an attorney for any family court action. Some places have domestic violence advocates to help the victim navigate through the court system for an order for protection but there is often no legal help available for the victim when it comes to the divorce or other legal actions that the abuser subjects the victim to. We will discuss this more during the using children dynamic.