Financial Abuse and Leaving
"You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it." ~Maya Angelou
By Robin Mullins Senger
Financial abuse is hard to overcome.
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of preparing financially as much as possible. Even if you choose not to leave, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Being aware of what is going on financially is a responsible thing to do even in a healthy relationship. Preparing for an unexpected temporary loss of income just makes sense - whether it involves your partner losing his job or you needing to leave for safety reasons.
My strong traditional religious background made it preferable to stay home and raise the children, so I left my career to marry Brian and be a full-time homemaker and mother. I was very content and saw no problem being financially dependent on him.
Because my father had never taken advantage of my mother’s financial dependence, I saw nothing to be concerned about. I really didn't recognize financial abuse until after I started wanting to assert some independence.
I would like to share with you a little bit of what happened to me just before and after I left. I share this hoping that you will see God’s hand in the unexpected difficult obstacles I faced. I pray that it will give you hope and reassurance that God will be with you no matter what the financial abuse you are suffering now and the challenges you may face!
Financial pressure is the number one reason women return to their abusers.
Five years after marrying Brian, I felt forced to leave for the protection of the children and myself. It was hard for me to make the choice to leave because I had no money set aside due to the financial abuse. I knew that Brian would not help me or the children at all, and I had no wealthy family or friends to count on. I also knew that if I ever did go back to Brian, I would definitely be in a far worse and unthinkable position.
I planned on utilizing my family’s generosity and government assistance for awhile. But I told myself I would be self-sufficient within six months and everything would be just fine - if I could just hold out that long.
I was naive.
Probably in God’s mercy, I couldn’t know that it would actually be much worse than anything I gloomily predicted. But don’t lose heart – I have a testimony that will inspire you!
First though, here are some obstacles I personally encountered after I left Brian:
I attempted to reenter the workforce only to discover that my skills in office work/administration were now surprisingly outdated and I couldn’t compete. And because I hadn’t worked for several years, I couldn’t get the most mundane job like cleaning because I was competing against others who had been working and therefore seemed more desirable.
Think government handouts will be an easy option? Think again – the requirements depending on your state may be so stiff it’s not worth it. I had never had to use government assistance in the past, so this was new territory for me.
Brian continued the financial abuse and withdrew all resources immediately after he figured out I was not planning on returning to him. I had no choice but to apply for government assistance to help us survive until I could get on my feet. That’s what it is meant for, but so much abuse of the system now makes it very difficult to get it and continue it. If you haven’t been down that road before – let me warn you, it won’t be fun. The paperwork is insane.
Sometimes transitional housing is an option. Where I went to, the waiting list was months/years. In the meantime you may have the option of staying at a shelter, if there is room, with several other women and children. Transitional housing is often in undesirable neighborhoods, and you may not be comfortable with your roommates at a shelter. There are usually limits also to how long you can be there, often three months. These are things you will want to take into consideration and be mentally prepared for. Flexibility is very important at this stage.
I had counted on being able to stay with my parents. But my mother’s unexpected health issues made that impossible after a short stay. I came home from the store one day to discover mom and dad had packed up all of our things and piled them by the back door. She couldn’t handle the stress caused by my three small children anymore, and assumed I had other options (at that point I didn’t, but God did come through with a solution). Family will probably mean well, and want to help you, but keep in mind that they may have problems of their own to deal with.
Looking back, now from a place of peace and restoration, I can say this:
God helped us survive! We would never have made it through without Him. Never! In reality, He never left the children and myself. It sometimes FELT like He had. Sometimes it FELT like I had to figure it all out and do everything by myself. But that wasn’t true.
God says in Deuteronomy 31:6 "Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, He it is that doth go with thee; He will not fail thee, nor forsake thee."
He kept that promise to me. He allowed me to feel the way I did, knowing that it was maturing me. God knew I would understand Him in a deeper way down the road than if He let me feel close to Him at that time. He wasn’t going to let it go too far, or give me more than I could bear. And now I am grateful for His wisdom and love.
As powerful as our feelings are, God is greater than our feelings. When He said He would not leave us or forsake us, He gave His Word! Our feelings do not negate His promise. We can absolutely trust His promises no matter what it feels or looks like.
When I look back, I see that the strength I had to get through every day, to think of solutions to problems, to protect my children and myself, and to see the truth about Brian was all from God. God helped us and protected us every step of the way, thwarted Brian’s plans at times to hurt me, and gave me the strength, wisdom, and courage to get us out before it turned into a tragedy.
Something tragic should have happened but strangely didn’t.
I can think now of situation after situation where something tragic should have happened but strangely didn’t. That’s God!
God watched over the children and me when we fled and then tried to survive on our own. There is no way it could have turned out the way it did without Him. Did I always do the right thing? NO. Did I always make good choices? NOPE. But God is more than able to accommodate our mistakes. God helped me even in my confusion and more bad choices after we got away. They are not too big for Him to factor them into His plan.
One thing I did do right, and you can too…
One thing I did do right through it all was cling to His promise that He would NEVER leave us nor forsake us. God had never before let me down. I put every ounce of hope I had into that verse, trusting that someday I would see His hand in our lives. And now I indeed do!
During the dark times, I got to the point where I couldn’t even articulate prayer to Him anymore. I hurt so badly inside I could no longer pray to Him with audible words. But inside I clung to Him. God helped me and honored that little bit of hope and trust – it was all I had.
It takes courage to question things.
It takes courage to question the truth of what is happening in a toxic relationship – even if only to yourself. It also takes courage to actually leave that destructive relationship. God will honor your hope and trust in Him. Even if you haven’t previously shown that faith, you can start over right now, and place your trust in Him. Cling to Him and His promises. He WILL deliver you.