This may well be the quickest blog I’ve ever written because I’m annoyed!
Because I’ve realised that if I asked you “is financial abuse domestic violence”…you’d probably say either no, or , that you weren’t sure .
AND …because in the past week alone I have met so many women who , once I mentioned the words Domestic Violence, opened up and told me that they have been subject to domestic abuse of some sort .
BUT ….here’s the thing…..most didn’t actually realise that it was classified as Domestic Violence because they weren’t physically assaulted.
I am on a mission to debunk this myth! The myth that the term Domestic Violence only applies to physical abuse.
We all know that non physical bullying in the work place or in schools is not tolerated. A huge amount of resources are being thrown at organisations for training aimed at educating staff and students in schools , workplaces and sporting clubs with the aim of reducing the frequency of bullying and abusive behaviour.
Why then is financial, emotional , sexual , psychological “bullying” (ie. abuse) within a relationship not the subject of similar awareness campaigns?
Yes, we do see advertising aimed at stopping Domestic Violence however the images used are invariably of a woman being thrown to the floor with a subsequent image of her with a black eye and/or bruised arms.
Where are the portrayals of perpetrators gambling OR lying to their partners about finances OR threatening their partners OR giving their partner the “silent treatment” OR verbally abusing their partners? I have seen a few advertisements where the abuse starts verbally however it inevitably ends with scenes of physical violence. This is simply NOT TRUE. Emotional and psychological abuse destroys the human soul.
Yes, financial , emotional and psychological abuse as well as sexual and physical abuse are ALL forms of Domestic Violence which, in Australia is now referred to Domestic and Family Violence . The word “family” has been included because immediate family members often suffer vicarious trauma in the process. Knowing that one parent is being badly treated by the other parent is frightening for children not to mention the fact that they are completely powerless to do anything about it .
Yes , I can see how the word VIOLENCE conjures up images of an individual being flung up against the wall or cowering in a corner after having been struck . However , if that is the reason why the general public think that physical violence is the only form of Domestic Violence then we need to be doing something about changing the name as well as promoting DV as encompassing all types of abuse.
Psychological ,emotional, financial and sexual abuse is going on behind closed doors in many households and it’s one of the main causes mental illness including anxiety and depression. GP’s are often unaware because the patient doesn’t reveal what is going on and her/his symptoms of anxiety may be diagnosed as being due to everyday “stress”. As the pressure increases for families to meet unrealistic demands in order to “have it all” sadly the something has to give and intimate partner violence is often the result. We need to raise the profile of these other forms of abuse now.
In America the term is used Domestic Abuse, which is not perfect either but better in the sense that the word “abuse ” can be applied to actions other than physical ie. power used by one person over another.
So now let me tell you about my week and what, in particular, made me angry!
The start of my week had me attending an appointment at Centrelink to see a social worker as you do in Australia when you have been categorised as being a victim of DV .
Upon confirming attendance for my appointment at the reception desk the employee looked at me and said ” I know you’re here to see the social worker about domestic violence, thank you for covering up any bruises , it can be distressing for staff and other clients”.
To say I was shocked and outraged is an understatement ….I was so shocked I sat down and said nothing (unusual for me !)
While waiting for her, there was a continuous playing and replaying of messages over the loud speaker about how important it is to report DV and how Centrelink staff have been trained in this area so clients should not be embarrassed to come in and seek support . Really! These staff are the people who are often seeing DV clients at their most raw and vulnerable . The very time they need to be validated and treated with dignity and respect . Making the assumption that I had been beaten and assuming I was covered in bruises is exactly the opposite. It was confronting enough for me to even go to Centrelink…. the last thing I needed was to be reminded about why I was there!
Thankfully the social worker was appalled by my experience and revealed that all staff have had extensive training around DV . The staff member I spoke to must have been away that day!
She went on to say that financial abuse is the one type of abuse that she is seeing more and more of across all demographics. She said there is no one socio-ecomonic group that she sees more of but if anything its becoming more evident in the middle rather than the lower socio-economic groups.
She encouraged me to do anything I could to raise awareness of the fact that DV comes in shapes and sizes .
Two days later… I was walking with a group of women. I am now at the stage where I’m not hiding behind what happened to me and so my conversation with one woman had the ripple effect across the group…three of five women had been subject to Domestic Violence at some point in their lives...but none realised it was Domestic Violence that had been perpetrated on them at the time so they just packed up and left home, some with small children in tow , leaving everything except essentials behind.
Two days later again… I was talking to my neighbour who ,once I revealed what had been going on for me , came forth with her story which, as it happened, was much the same as mine . She said even though it was many years ago “its still there and always will be”. Once again, she only divulged the information to me once I had said something first. She said she told very few people at the time and was glad to be able to talk about it now.
This is crazy .Crazy that women were and still are too scared to admit that they are leaving because they have been abused by their partner. But then again I was one of those women who kept quiet for several years. There’s a feeling of shame and that its something that’s not to be talked about .
Victim blame is another reason that women don’t speak up . Somehow the notion that it was our fault and that we “should have left earlier” has become all too prevalent. That will be the subject of another post to come soon because it is such a big and complex issue.
That brings us to the last day of revelations.…. I was in the pharmacy and for the first time since receiving my concession card , I presented it in order to get a discount for my prescription. I felt embarrassed because the woman serving me knew me well . She realised that I had never had a concession card before and kindly asked if everything was ok. I briefly told her my story of financial abuse along with the accompanying emotional and psychological effects I’d been dealing with for the last few years. Immediately she started telling me that her Mum had had a similar experience and was left with nothing. But…..then she added “actually it wasn’t Domestic Violence though because she wasn’t hit , he just took all her money so she just left with nothing “ .
Here was my chance to educate another woman so then and there I informed her that, yes, what happened to her Mum was absolutely a case of Domestic Violence. If that’s what it takes then that’s what I’ll be doing ,one day at a time, for the rest of my life !
Looking back.…I too was confused as to whether or not I was in an abusive relationship. It wasn’t until I actually consulted a lawyer that I was left in no doubt that I was being financially abuse by my partner.
Previous to going to see my lawyer , when I suspected but wasn’t sure if I was in an abusive situation, I had to ask myself the following questions:
1.What…. if not abuse.… is your partner asking you to “invest” all you have in his business and then not allowing you to have any input into how it is managed .
2. What…. if not abuse.… is not being open and honest about what the money is being used for ?
3. What…. if not abuse…..is not allowing me to see financial statements?
4. What… if not abuse….. is being locked out of my former partners office ?
5. What ..if not abuse ….is being told to “back off and butt out”?
6.What ..if not abuse….is being made to feel as though I’m the crazy one when I started to ask questions?
7.What… if not abuse …is borrowing money from MY family members and telling them NOT to tell me because I might worry . (Gutless that’s what)
8.What ..if not abuse.…is making me lie to customers and suppliers of the business when there wasn’t enough money to pay bills ? (Under law its called coercive control)
9.What ..if not abuse…is threatening me with statements such as “if you’re caught talking to staff something may happen that we will all regret “.
10. What ...if not abuse …is the surveillance I was under when I entered or left the premises. (Under the law its called Covert Surveillance)
11.What …if not abuse…is running away from the sinking ship (business) and leaving me to fend off creditors, customers and bailiffs .
I could go on but I think I’ve made my point. I hope I have educated some of you and for anyone wondering whether they should speak up I hope I have reinforced that YES…..financial, emotional, psychological, verbal and sexual abuse are ALL consider forms of DV.
I would really like to know your thoughts on the above…and yes it was the fastest post I have ever written! I think there’s a message there!
This seemingly common misunderstanding about what constitutes DV is something that I will not let go until I have made a difference .Too many women, like those I met over the course of one week, do not report or admit to anyone what is happening to them because they themselves are not aware that they are victims of DV and /or because they are too ashamed . Neither is acceptable .
If you can help or if you have a comment or a story to tell PLEASE comment below!