Abuse comes in many forms, whether it is physical or emotional. The physical and mental effects are discussed more often. What about the tangible and intangible financial impact of abusive relationships though?
As I mentioned in my first post (here) part of my debt came from leaving an abusive relationship. As stated, I have estimated the cost as 5k because that is approximately what rebuilding a home cost me. However, I often wondered how much higher the impact really was.
How it began
He seemed like a fantastic guy at first. He constantly wanted to be around me, and from day one he did not like spending a night apart. I would get massive messages about how much he needed me in his life.
It was unlike any relationship I had ever had, and I was instantly smitten with how charismatic and accomplished he was. I knew he was jealous, but I took it as a sign of how much he must like me/ care. That’s what he told me anyways.
Then things started to change…
Eventually he did not want me alone with any men, including my medical doctor or chiropractor. He was mad about everything I did or did not do, and yelled a lot. When I would stand up for myself and how I felt, I was called crazy. I started to wonder if maybe I was?
Things only escalated from there. He started breaking up with me (or threatening to) almost daily, and would withhold saying “I love you” until I deserved it again. He spoke about me and my appearance like I was an object that he owned.
At moments when he was the most mad he would throw things at me, and they did not always miss. “I’m being abused” never crossed my mind, as crazy as that sounds.
Then one day at work I read the words on a coworkers bookmark, and it stated “10 signs you are in an abusive relationship”. I was actually confused when I could answer yes to each question.
I had a complete breakdown and just sobbed right there. Luckily I work in healthcare, so there was a counselor I got taken to in the same building. He convinced me to leave, and for that I will always be grateful.
Why am I telling you this personal story on a financial blog?
I often hear stigma’s about what kind of women (or men) would be “dumb enough” to stay in an abusive relationship. Most people do not know my story, so they say things around me without realizing I’m one of “those girls”.
The stigma is that only stupid or weak people would stay. I am proof that that is bullsh*t. I went to Africa by myself when I was 17 to volunteer; I’m brave. I was a straight A/ 4.0 student; I’m smart. I have tons of friends (although I got isolated and stopped seeing them while dating him); I’m social and outgoing.
It really can happen to anyone. Abusers are good at what they do. He chipped away at me more and more until I honestly did not believe my own thoughts. I was in a total (and dangerous) fog. That silly bookmark likely saved my life.
But do you know the first thing I said out loud in the counselors office after realizing I needed to leave him?
“How am I going to afford to leave?”
Money really does work its way into every aspect of life.
The cost of getting out:
At that point, I was in school 12 months a year due to internship and classes. That meant my student loans were eaten up by massive tuition and living costs, and I did not have much time available for paid work. I was terrified to go out on my own, especially with how much student debt I already had.
I remember how much shame I felt calling my dad asking if he could please lend me money for rent and to buy a bed. Very few people knew what my relationship had been like, but when I started talking about it I was surprised to find people were lovely. I got many free hand-me-downs, such as a tv from a coworker. Sometimes you need to put your pride aside and ask for help. People may surprise you.
Besides the direct costs of moving out at the time, there have been ongoing costs associated with the abuse as well. I knew I was going to require counseling to work on my self worth and thought patterns. Since I do not have coverage through my employer, I called the city help line to get a list of more affordable resources. However, I still had to phone 6 offices before I could find someone with availability that would charge less than $70 an hour. Affordable access to mental health programs is a major issue that needs to be addressed.
There have been less direct costs associated with the abuse as well, such as anxiety impacting my work performance or attendance. I was curious if I was alone in that. The staggering statistics I found motivated me to write this article.
Some shocking statistics:
- 20-33% of women will be physically assaulted by a partner during their lifetime (1)
- Domestic violence harms more individuals than car accidents, rape, and muggings COMBINED (2)
- 96% of abuse victims experience problems at work including: 54% reporting missing entire work days, and 56% reporting being late (3)
- Another study showed 85% of victims have missed work due to injuries, depression, fatigue, fear, or the abuser directly blocking the victim from going to work (4)
- 91% of victims had quit or lost a job in the past year due to abuse at home (4)
I read a paragraph that explained things way better than I ever could, so I am posting a direct quotation:
First, we must remind ourselves that, while victims of domestic violence want the abuse to end, they often do not want the relationship to end. They remember being courted, falling in love, and in general, happy memories with their partners. They also might not feel confident enough to survive without their abusers, their worth stunted after being placed under their abusers’ control over time. In addition, the abuser’s control may have extended to the victim’s inability to acquire the proper job skills, finances, and/or support systems necessary to take action.Heidi Hankwitz (5)
There are many direct and indirect financial impacts of abusive relationships. If you find yourself in one, it does not matter what it costs to walk away- just leave. Come up with a safety plan, and go. Tell your friends and family, find a couch to crash on if you need to, and start rebuilding a better life. I promise it is worth every penny.
If you are reading this and are not a victim of abuse (and have the ability to) please consider donating to an organization that supports abuse victims. I was lucky to have people I could call for help; not everyone is so fortunate.
For a list of all posts I’ve written, click here
(1) Collins, K., Schoen, C., Joseph, S., Duchon, L., Simantov, E., & Yellowitz, M. (May, 1999). Health concerns across a woman’s lifespan: The Commonwealth Fund 1998 survey of women’s health. Retrieved 6/8/2006 from cmwf.org/publications_show?doc_id=221554
(2) Alpert, E.J., Freund, K.M., Park, C.C., Patel, J.C., & Sovak, M.A. (1998). Partner violence: How to recognize and treat victims of abuse: A guide for Arizona health care providers. Phoenix: Arizona Medical Association.
(3) American Institute on Domestic Violence. (2001). Domestic violence in the workplace statistics. Retrieved 7/1/06 from aidv-usa.com/statistics.htm.
(4) Swanberg, J.E., Logan, T.K., & Macke, C. (2006). The consequences of partner violence on employment and the workplace. In Kelloway, E.K., Barling, J., & Hurrell, Jr., J.J. (Eds.) Handbook of Workplace Violence. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.
(5) Heidi Hankwitz (07-04-2011). Domestic Violence Statistics and Your Workplace. Retrieved 3/12/2019 from https://www.crisisprevention.com/en-CA/Blog/April-2011/Domestic-Violence-Statistics-and-Your-Workplace?lang=en-CA