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By Kayla Empey

Posted on December 3, 2021

Examples of socioeconomic abuse and the long-lasting effects

TW: This article discusses domestic violence, trauma and abuse.

Socioeconomic violence is a form of abuse when a domestic partner controls all social and economic resources, not allowing the victim to support themselves and therefore making them dependent on the abuser.

Socioeconomic violence can include taking away any money the person makes, not allowing them to make a separate income or spending their money without consent. This could also mean not allowing them to make money at all by restricting their ability to find a job or advance their career. Oftentimes, the person experiencing the violence will have to ask for money whenever they need it or will receive an allowance for what they are allowed to spend. It is also common for the money allotted to get less and less as the abuse continues and the abuser comes more hungry for power.

jar of money with a plant

A person experiencing socioeconomic violence may also be unable to access services or enjoy their given civil, social, cultural and political rights. They may be denied the opportunity to attend school or receive an education.

Socioeconomic abuse is often used as a way to exert power over a partner and control them in a pattern of other domestic violence, including emotional, physical or sexual abuse. By limiting their money and resources, they become economically dependent on their partner for basic necessities such as food, shelter or clothing. This makes it difficult to leave the abusive situation because they cannot support themselves. A person experiencing abuse may also be fearful that if their partner finds out they are trying to leave, they will withhold essentials like money and food. This is especially true when there are children involved, and often there might be a worry about affording child support.

While socioeconomic violence can happen to anyone, lower-class women are more vulnerable because they often already have limited incomes or limited access to jobs and education. They may rely more on the resources their partner can provide them with, no matter how limited, and would already lack the resources to leave abusive situations before they even enter them.

The effects of socioeconomic violence

This sort of violence can largely impact human functioning such as physical and mental health. It can cause stress and malnutrition, as well as produce feelings of being powerless or worthless. Many people who have experienced abuse suffer from anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. If they do manage to escape an abusive situation, this history of being abused can make it more difficult to conduct day-to-day tasks.

The effects of socioeconomic violence can also be long-lasting. It is likely that the victim will be starting off with little resources after leaving their partner, still making it difficult to obtain certain opportunities and privileges that rather go to those who are more well off within society.

Additionally, looking for a job is easier said than done. Research finds that experiencing abuse can negatively impact a person’s ability to find or sustain employment. After experiencing violence, low-income women who work 40-hour work weeks were found to be five times less likely to maintain that full-time job for more than six months than those who did not experience violence. Similarly, low-income women who experienced violence were three times less likely in maintaining a 30-hour workweek job. Attendance at school can also decrease after exposure to violence, for both adults hoping to get an education or a child who suffered in an abusive household.

What to do if you are being abused

If you are experiencing socioeconomic violence, it is important to develop a plan while also ensuring your own safety.

If you are in immediate danger, call 911.

Otherwise, make sure to keep your personal and financial documents in a safe location. Leave copies of your records with a trusted friend, family member or bank safety deposit box that your partner does not have access to. Also keep copies in an emergency evacuation box, in case you must leave suddenly.

Keep copies of your house or car keys if possible, as well as any extra money and emergency contact numbers. Avoid using credit or debit cards that are traceable by your abuser.

If you plan to leave your partner, begin to calculate what it would cost you to live on your own and support yourself or your family. Take note of any assets or liabilities in your name and set aside any money you can.

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