Domestic violence remains a topic of national discussion as a White House presidential aide is fired, and as professional athletes and musicians face lawsuits for battery. The physical violence is shocking and unimaginable to many Americans, but there is another form of violence that goes under-reported: financial abuse.
The financial abuse shows up in a variety of ways. A spouse might insist on being the only one to handle the family finances and gets angry if asked questions about it, or the financial abuser might give an “allowance” to their spouse to spend and nothing else, even if the spouse brings home a paycheck. The abuser might also forge documents in their spouses name, or sabotage the spouse’s work, ultimately forcing complete dependence on the abuser.
It’s one of the many forms of domestic violence that workers at Shepherd’s Door Domestic Violence Resource Center in Pasadena address everyday with the women who seek solace there. Linda Offray the founder and her daughter Tunisia, the co-founder, say it’s important for people to know that financial abuse from a spouse can cause just as much damage as physical abuse, though in different ways.
“Domestic violence is less about the physical abuse, and more about one person in the household establishing dominance, power and control over other members of the household,” says Linda. “When one spouse or partner brings in all the money, and they have total control over the finances, that can sometimes cause serious psychological and emotional strain on the other partner in the household.”
Tunisia Offray works to provide empowerment for victims of domestic violence including financial abuse, through her WWW program: Women, Wealth, Warriors. The program trains women to become self-sustaining through entrepreneurship. “Financial control is another way abusers hold power over their victims,” says Tunisia, a domestic violence survivor herself. “Women often stay in abusive relationships because they just don’t know how they would take care of themselves or their children without the financial support of the men who abuse them.”
During Women’s History Month each March for nearly a decade, Tunisia holds a luncheon and invites prominent women and entrepreneurs to speak at the event and give words of wisdom to women from all walks of life including aspiring and current business owners. Proceeds from the event benefit Shepherd’s Door Domestic Violence Resource Center.
This year’s event takes place Saturday, March 24 at Lake Avenue Church in Pasadena. Tickets are available at www.womenwealthwarriors.org. ABC 7’s Coleen Sullivan, R&B Singer Teedra Moses and Comedian Sunda Croonquist are just a few of the headliners for the 9th Annual Women, Wealth, Warriors luncheon.
Tunisia, who has won many awards for her work in helping women, says her goal for creating the entrepreneurship event is to provide women with the support, resources, and encouragement they need to step out and create the life they envision for themselves through entrepreneurship. More than 150 women come annually from all over Los Angeles County to be encouraged and inspired by other successful women and business women.
While financial abuse might not capture the nation’s attention the way physical domestic violence does, Tunisia says it should because as the National Network to End Domestic Violence points out, “financial abuse is a phenomenon that rears its ugly head in 98 percent of domestic violence cases.”
Still, Offray says victims of financial abuse can survive and even thrive after getting help. “People can always turn these terrible situations into good,” says Tunisia. “Victims of financial abuse can learn to spot the signs of financial abuse, so they don’t get caught up in that situation again, and they can warn others so their friends and family don’t fall into the same traps.”