Economic Abuse is Domestic Violence

January 22, 2024
Louis Sternberg

Economic Abuse in New York

Economic abuse, a form of domestic violence, is an often hidden aspect of abusive relationships that has far-reaching and long-lasting effects on victims. Unfortunately, economic abuse in New York is pervasive and far too common. The New York State Office of Prevention of Domestic Violence has published a flyer found here regarding economic abuse and how to get help.

While it may not leave physical scars, economic abuse can be just as damaging as physical abuse, impacting a victim’s financial security, self-esteem, and ability to escape an abusive situation. In this essay, we will explore what economic abuse entails, its various forms, its consequences, and the steps that can be taken to address and prevent it.

Common Forms of Economic Abuse in New York

Economic abuse is a pattern of controlling behaviors aimed at maintaining power and control over a partner through financial means. It can manifest in various ways, making it challenging to recognize for both victims and outsiders. Some common forms of economic abuse in NY include:

  1.  An abusive partner may take control of all financial resources, leaving the victim with no access to money or information about household finances. This can include confiscating paychecks, controlling bank accounts, and demanding an account of every expenditure.
  2. Sabotaging Employment: Perpetrators often seek to undermine their victim’s economic independence by sabotaging their employment opportunities. This can involve preventing them from working, stalking them at work, or causing them to lose their job through harassment or coercion.
  3. Forbidding Education: Abusers may forbid their victims from pursuing education or job training, effectively limiting their ability to gain new skills or secure better employment.
  4.  Coerced Debt: Economic abusers may force their partners into taking on debt or signing financial agreements without their consent, leaving them responsible for financial burdens they cannot bear.
  5. Withholding Basic Necessities: This form of abuse includes denying access to necessities like food, clothing, and shelter as a means of control. Victims may be forced to beg for money or resources.
  6. Using Children as Pawns: Abusers may manipulate child support payments or use child custody as a way to exert control over their partner.

How Economic Abuse Impacts Victims

The consequences of economic abuse are profound and can be devastating. Victims of economic abuse often find themselves trapped in abusive relationships because they lack the financial means to escape. Here are some of the ways economic abuse impacts victims:

  1. Financial Dependence: Economic abusers make victims financially dependent on them, which can be a significant barrier to leaving the relationship. Without money or assets of their own, victims may feel trapped and unable to support themselves or their children.
  2. Isolation: Victims of economic abuse are often socially isolated, as their abuser may control their interactions and prevent them from seeking help. This isolation exacerbates the feeling of helplessness and makes it challenging to reach out for assistance.
  3. Low Self-Esteem: Constant control and manipulation can lead to low self-esteem and a belief that the victim is incapable of managing their own finances or making independent decisions.
  4. Long-Term Economic Consequences: Even after leaving an abusive relationship, victims often face long-term economic consequences, such as damaged credit, debt, and limited employment prospects due to gaps in their work history or education.
  5. Impact on Children: Children growing up in households where economic abuse is present may witness the stress and instability caused by financial control, which can have lasting effects on their emotional well-being and financial literacy.

How to Address and Prevent Economic Abuse

Addressing economic abuse requires a multi-faceted approach involving individuals, communities, and institutions. Here are some steps that can be taken to address and prevent economic abuse:

  1. Raise Awareness: Education and awareness campaigns are crucial to help individuals recognize the signs of economic abuse and understand its impact. This includes training for professionals who may come into contact with victims, such as healthcare providers, educators, and financial institutions.
  2. Legal Protections: Implement and strengthen legal protections for victims of economic abuse. This may include laws that make economic abuse a distinct offense, allowing for legal remedies and Orders of Protection.
  3. Financial Literacy Programs: Offer financial literacy programs and resources to empower individuals with the knowledge and skills to manage their finances independently. These programs can be particularly helpful for survivors of economic abuse who may need to rebuild their financial lives.
  4. Supportive Services: Establish support services that provide a safe space for victims to seek help, including shelters, counseling, and legal aid. Ensure that these services are accessible and tailored to the specific needs of survivors of economic abuse.
  5. Employment Opportunities: Create opportunities for survivors to gain employment or job training, helping them achieve economic independence. Partner with employers to provide job opportunities and support for survivors.
  6. Community Involvement: Encourage community involvement in preventing economic abuse by promoting healthy financial relationships and recognizing the signs of abuse in friends and neighbors.

Economic abuse is a pervasive and damaging form of domestic violence that often goes unnoticed, even in the context of a divorce action. It leaves victims financially dependent, isolated, and with long-term economic consequences. Recognizing the signs of economic abuse, raising awareness, and implementing comprehensive support systems are essential steps toward addressing and preventing this insidious form of violence. By working together as individuals, communities, and institutions, we can help survivors regain control of their financial lives and break free from the cycle of abuse.