The spark plugs were taken from one woman’s car every day. Another woman’s children, all grown up, looked the other way when she asked for help for fear of losing their trust fund. Yet another woman was killed watching a football game with her friends.
People in abusive relationships are trapped in many ways. One trap that is extremely effective, yet not as well known, is financial abuse. According to Allstate’s Purple Purse Foundation website (www.purplepurse.com), the No.1 reason domestic violence survivors stay or return to an abusive relationship is that they don’t have the financial resources to break free.
One woman’s stash of quarters would not have been enough to save her, without the help of Genesis Women’s Shelter & Support.
“She had this place where she buried the extra money [from the laundromat]” said Jan Langbein, CEO of Genesis Women’s Shelter. She used the quarters as gas money to get her and her four children to Dallas. The woman told Langbein if she had more money she would have gone to Oklahoma, but her gas tank was on empty. Genesis was her only hope. The woman told Langbein, "If you hadn’t taken me in, I don’t know what I would have done."
“If you think of a bicycle wheel, the axle is the power and control that one person has over another one,” Langbein said. In abusive relationships, the victim is trapped by the abuser, similar to how spokes keep an axle from moving. The spokes “are merely a choice of weapon.”
Financial abuse, or compensatory power as Langbein put it, is one of those weapons. Langbein explained it is not required by the abuser. Just as there are other spokes in the wheel, there are other weapons in the abuser’s arsenal. But 98 percent of domestic violence cases have signs of financial abuse, according to the National Network to End Domestic Violence website (https://nnedv.org/).
Financial abuse comes in many forms. The abuser may lock the victim out of bank accounts or make the victim quit his or her job. The abuser may have “isolated her from finishing school or access to her money at her job.” Langbein said, “He will actually show up at work or harass her at work or make it so she can’t go to work.”
And, if a victim decides to get back his or her life, “Her coming after some of his money, whether that is in divorce and custody or child support, can be the most dangerous time for her because his money is his.”
Since many domestic violence cases involve financial abuse, Langbein said “none of our services have any cost,” adding “We even have school and daycare and preschool on site.”
Still, it’s a tough process for abuse victims to get back on their feet because “When you walk away, no matter how much you have, you are walking away from everything,” Langbein said. Even if the victim gets out of the abusive household or out from under the abuser’s control, the victim never really breaks free. “She is still looking over her shoulder.”
Langbein has hope. One woman consigned her clothes to get money to escape.
“I’m so inspired and encouraged by women who can think of things like that.” It doesn’t have to be this way though. “I want your generation to stop this,” said Langbein. She wants students to stand up and say, “We are not going to die from this anymore.”
Genesis Women’s Shelter & Support has around 100 employees who serve some 1,300 women with direct client services and has received calls from 2,000 women through the shelter’s hotline in 2016.
The facility has an emergency shelter. Counseling services, short-term housing and transitional housing are also available. The shelter also provides legal services with an onsite staff attorney who can offer legal counsel and representation. The shelter’s hotline is available 24/7 at 214-946-HELP (4357). More information is available online at www.genesisshelter.org/.