One in four women experience domestic violence during their lifetime, according to the Allstate Foundation—that's more than the amount of women affected by breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and lung cancer combined, yet we don’t often hear these stories. There are many reasons women don't speak out about their struggles—and many reasons women stay with their abusers. Today, actress Kerry Washington is speaking up about one of those reasons: financial abuse. Washington has filmed a public service announcement that is a call to action for Americans to get involved in fighting domestic abuse. She is also encouraging the public to participate in something called the Purple Purse Challenge by donating to local not-for-profit organizations that support financial empowerment services for domestic violence survivors.
Financial abuse is a common tactic used by abusers to gain control, and keep a victim from leaving the relationship, according to the National Network to End Domestic Abuse. With financial abuse, one partner takes control of all financial assets, not letting the other have any access or say. In some cases, financial abuse is present from the beginning of the relationship, but other times, it begins when a victim attempts to leave. The scary part: Financial abuse may even come across as love before it escalates. Abusers may make say things like, “I know you’re under a lot of stress right now, so just let me take care of the finances and I’ll give you money each week to take care of what you need.” When the victim finally realizes she wants to take back some control, she often can't. “That whole hashtag #WhyIStayed that happened last week, you saw how many of those responses were about feeling trapped financially,” Washington told Huffington Post.
If you know someone who has their spending tightly monitored or restricted, and worries excessively about how their partner will react to simple purchases, they may be a victim. How to help: The Allstate Foundation suggests saying things like, "No matter what you did, you don't deserve this,” or "You're not alone. I care about you and am here for you." And of course, if you're concerned about the safety of your friend or family member, or to learn about services in your area, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE. To get involved and learn about Kerry Washington’s initiative, visit PurplePurse.com.