Economic abuse is a form of abuse when one intimate partner has control over the other partner’s access to economic resources, which diminishes the victim’s capacity to support him/herself and forces him/her to depend on the perpetrator financially. …Financial abuse applies to both elder abuse and domestic violence.
– Economic abuse – Wikipedia
I’ve spoken out about financial abuse in the past, but it’s hard to imagine for a lot of people. We know it’s out there, but what does it look like? How does it affect people? What’s the fallout?
I spoke to one survivor who is brave enough to speak out, and I want to share her story.
I met Tanya when I wanted to know more about media and publicity and enrolled in one of her courses to learn how to write a Media Release correctly and we stayed in touch via social media after the event.
I recently interviewed Tanya on learning she’d be a victim of financial abuse and she was kind enough to reveal her story to me.
Tanya had been an investigative journalist back in the day and has also gone on to run businesses. When she met and fell in love with the man who would become her husband, she was quite well off. She had a successful business, property and cash in the bank.
At the end of the relationship, there was nothing left in her own name. All had been transferred into a company and trust of which he was the director and signatory of. She remained just a shareholder, so all decisions could be made without consultation.
The belittling had by then been going on for years. She was told she was bad with money, and obviously, she thought, it was true. Everything she had was no more. All her decisions were wrong. He was right. The emotional abuse was there too, alive and well.
Friends and family hardly recognized the frail shell that eventually did leave the relationship, the one she’d been told that she’d never be brave enough to do. The relationship by then was twelve years old and Tanya had wanted out for the last six.
Her health was broken. She had a stroke and a series of seizures brought on by the stress and she was financially at ground zero and emotionally bankrupt. But she had a good reason to soldier on, her daughter.
Now, I’ve never been in a situation anything remotely like Tanya’s and we often hear now about ‘victim blaming’ statements. Onlookers may make comments like ‘she should have gotten out earlier.’ ‘Why would you stay with a guy like that?’ ‘What was keeping her there?’ ‘Why did it take so long?’ And I guess unless we’re there ourselves, we’ll never really, truly know.
So, to ask the question everybody seems to want the answer to… why did you stay?
“It was the frog in the pot scenario. If you throw a frog into boiling water it jumps out, but if you put it in warm water and slowly turn up the heat it will be boiled alive before it even knows it.
“I was isolated by the time I realised I needed to get out, cut off from my family and my friends, I felt there was no out. But then one day, I realised I couldn’t risk being a bad role model for my daughter any longer. I wanted her to know that she could get out, should the cycle repeat, and that she could have an amazing life in doing so.
“One day my husband gave me an ultimatum…. stop ‘playing around with the media’ and get a job in a supermarket. When my daughter heard this, she burst into tears and said ‘that’s not you mummy’.
“In that moment I realized I’d failed her and we had to go.”
And how did you finally manage to get out?
“I started putting $20 per week onto a grocery card so that we’d have funds to last us for food once we’d gone. I managed to have three months saved when we left and had squirrelled things away with a close friend. The timing had to be right too. It’s not an easy thing. If I had advice for anyone looking to move on from an emotionally and financially abusive relationship is that if possible, put aside whatever you can to tide you over for when you’re out. That may not work for everyone, but it sure made a huge difference to me.”
It took a lot of time and the rebuilding is ongoing, of Tanya’s health and finances. She’s used all of her experience in media and small business to build a success business today and her personal and business growth continues.
I’d like to thank her for being brave enough to speak out and let others see the real face behind financial abuse and it’s very frightening reality. And also, to know that there’s hope. No matter how broken, we can rebuild.
Disclaimer: Please note that these are Tanya’s recollections and story and as such cannot be verified for accuracy.