COVID-19 Could Further Impact Intimate Partner Violence Survivors
By Loretta Worters, Vice President – Media Relations, Triple-I
Financial security and access to resources can make all the difference to domestic violence victims when deciding to leave an abusive relationship. And insurance is an important component of financial planning that can help survivors move forward.
Financial abuse is a common tactic used by abusers to gain power and control in a relationship. The forms of financial abuse may be subtle or explicit, but in in general, include tactics to conceal information, limit the victim’s access to assets, or reduce accessibility to the family finances. Financial abuse – along with emotional, physical, and sexual abuse – includes behaviors to intentionally manipulate, intimidate, and threaten the victim in order to entrap that person in the relationship. In some cases, financial abuse is present throughout the relationship and in other cases financial abuse becomes present when the survivor is attempting to leave or has left the relationship.
Repercussions from the pandemic – layoffs, loss of income, living with abusers due to stay-at-home orders, restricted travel and closures of key community resources – are likely to dramatically increase the incidence of domestic violence, which may further hamper a victim from leaving an abusive situation.
Survivors struggling to get back on their feet may also be forced to return to their abuser. That’s why it’s so important survivors understand how insurance works and what a critical role it can play in gaining financial freedom and economic self-sufficiency.
In support of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the I.I.I. offers financial strategies to protect victims before and after leaving an abusive relationship. They include securing financial records, knowing where the victim stands financially, building a financial safety net, making necessary changes to their insurance policies and maintaining good credit.
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) reports that 10 million people are physically abused by an intimate partner each year, and 20,000 calls are placed to domestic violence hotlines each day. In addition, 85 percent of women who leave an abusive relationship return because of their economic dependence on their abusers. Furthermore, the degree of women’s economic dependence on an abuser is associated with the severity of the abuse they suffer.
“Home is often times a dangerous place for survivors of domestic violence, and COVID-19 exacerbates the circumstances, due to the abusers’ ability to further control,” said Ruth Glenn, president and CEO of the NCADV. “Tactics abusers use include ruining the credit of their victim as well as financial and digital abuse, such as stimulus funds being co-opted by abusers to an increase in domestic online harassment,” she said.
Experts agree that domestic online harassment can come in many forms, from impersonating a victim by email in order to sabotage her work, to controlling the influx of information about the pandemic to make her more fearful and reliant on the abuser.
The Allstate Foundation’s domestic violence initiative has been committed to ending domestic violence through financial empowerment, providing survivors with the education and resources needed to achieve their potential again and equip young people with the information and confidence they need to help prevent unhealthy relationships before they start. This year the Foundation contributed $500,000 to help the National Network to End Domestic Violence support more than 100 local domestic violence organizations. The Foundation also provided funding for the National Domestic Violence Hotline to enable remote-working technology and has worked with these organizations who are urging Congress to pass a COVID-19 relief package that addresses the housing, economic, physical and mental health needs of survivors of domestic and sexual violence and the advocates on the frontlines that need additional resources to ensure the safety of survivors and their staff.
“One of the most powerful methods of keeping a survivor trapped in an abusive relationship is not being able to support themselves financially,” Glenn explained. “That’s why insurance and financial education are so important,” she said. “Education can save a life.”