By Loretta Worters, Vice President – Media Relations, Triple-I
Financial abuse occurs in 98 percent of abusive relationships and is the number one reason victims stay in or return to abusive relationships, according to the Center for Financial Security at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Financial security and access to resources can make all the difference to domestic violence victims when deciding to leave an abusive relationship — yet 78 percent of Americans don’t recognize financial abuse as domestic violence.
Insurance is an important part of financial planning that can help survivors move forward.
The forms of financial abuse may be subtle or explicit. They include concealing information, limiting the victim’s access to assets, or reducing accessibility to family finances. Financial abuse – along with emotional, physical, and sexual abuse – includes behaviors to intentionally manipulate, intimidate, and threaten the victim and entrap them in the relationship. In some cases, financial abuse is present throughout the relationship and in others it becomes present when the survivor is trying to leave or has left the relationship.
In support of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Triple-I offers financial strategies to protect victims before and after leaving an abusive relationship. They include securing financial records, knowing where the victim stands financially, building a financial safety net, making necessary changes to their insurance policies, and maintaining good credit.
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) reports that 10 million people are physically abused by an intimate partner each year, and 20,000 calls are placed to domestic violence hotlines each day. In addition, 85 percent of women who leave an abusive relationship return because of their economic dependence on their abusers. Furthermore, the degree of women’s economic dependence on an abuser is associated with the severity of the abuse they suffer.
Ruth Glenn, who currently serves as president of Public Affairs for NCADV and has advocated —professionally and personally — for many policies, including reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act and legislation involving the intersection of firearms and domestic violence. She noted that “the NCADV’s partnership with the insurance industry, and Triple-I in particular, is critical to developing tools and resources for victims and survivors of domestic violence.”
One example of insurers that are developing such tools is The Allstate Foundation, which has been committed to ending domestic violence since 2005 through financial empowerment by helping to provide survivors with the education and resources needed to achieve their potential and equip young people with the information and confidence they need to help prevent unhealthy relationships before they start. The foundation offers a Moving Ahead Curriculum, a five-module program that helps prepare survivors as they move from short-term safety to long-term security. Modules of the curriculum include:
- Understanding financial abuse;
- Learning financial fundamentals;
- Mastering credit basics;
- Building financial foundations; and
- Long-term planning.
“One of the most powerful methods of keeping a survivor trapped in an abusive relationship is not being able to support themselves financially,” said Glenn, who is author of the memoir, Everything I Never Dreamed, which chronicles her own domestic violence experiences.
“That’s why insurance and financial education are so important,” she said. “Education can save a life.”