Thursday, 3 September 2015

Financial Violence In Abusive Relationships.... (non-party-political and clean version)

(Since not all women share the same politics or a love of swearing.... I thought a cleaner version of this might be worthwhile that it is more accessible. The original is in the post below)

A friend of mine has been divorced for over 10 years from a man who terrorised her from the day they married.

He still makes her life hell and they have very little contact.

This is what he has left to break her with....Money. He has it. She does not. He withholds what she should have. She suffers. He enjoys. He withholds money for his children. His children suffer. He enjoys. Every year she endures a life of austerity imposed by him ...he gets richer and he enjoys her poverty. He still owns a stake in her house... which he will eventually demand and effectively make her homeless because she cannot afford to buy him out. No doubt even then he will find a way to continue his abuse.

She didn't know what financial violence was. It is a key feature of many domestically violent and/or abusive relationships. These are some of the forms it can take. (Before a Twitter shitstorm blows in...I'm no expert. I have pieced this together from listening to women and from experience ... feel free to offer criticism and amend or write a response piece... as long as we discuss this and let women know it happens...?)

1. Controlling money within the relationship. Saying what can and can't be bought. Dominating accounts. Preventing the woman from having access to her own money or any joint funds. Criticising any purchases she does make. Making her feel guilty for any spending.

2. Preventing a woman from working and earning her own finances or taking those finances once they are earned.

3. Spending joint finances frivolously in order to keep the family ... in particular the woman... poor and unable to leave. Sometimes deliberately accruing debts.

4. Making the woman feel totally dependent - particularly if he works. If she is at home raising children he will make her feel economically worthless. If she works but earns less he will make her feel economically worthless. Making a woman feel economically worthless makes her terrified too... especially if she has children. It's effective.

5. If a woman tries to work in order to find funds to escape the abusive marriage he may sabotage this.. saying she does not need to work or physically preventing her. Damaging an abused woman's prospects is easy if you physically/mentally harm her so that work is nearly impossible in any kind of capable way.

6. Emotional abuse before and after and even during working hours is common. A phone call or well-placed text can reduce a competent working woman to her knees at an opportune moment. Over time.. this will impact on her career or end it. Many women struggle to work whilst in an abusive relationship for this reason. Physical abuse can obviously make a woman unfit to attend work.

7. Education.... preventing a woman from educating herself in order to gain employment or gain better that she can escape an abusive relationship. (Often linked with telling her she is too stupid to succeed of course)

8. Rape and coercive sex - rendering a woman unfit for work and the ability to work keep her from financial independence by sexually abusing and manipulating her.

9. When a woman considers leaving she must consider the following.... she may need to leave in a hurry and with nothing other than her children, important documents and a few belongings she can carry. She is leaving into a very frightening unknown often and it is usually when she feels least strong and she is most under threat.

She should never be judged for staying. Never. She should never be judged if she goes back. Ever.

When a woman considers this terrifying end prospect at the possible exit of an abusive relationship she has had to look at the very dark future. She has had to look round at what material comforts she and her children have and know that they will be gone. Some of the things she loves will be gone. Some of the things that have on occasion been the only things grounding her will be gone. She realises that when she leaves she will have to fend for herself and as an abused woman she has been taught by him that she is not able to cope or fend for herself. She fears poverty. She fears homelessness. She fears mental health problems. She fears everything about a life on her own. She may also feel angry. Why should she give up her established life and all she has worked for and lived through and endured. It is hers as much as his. She feels angry for her children and she feels guilty. Why should they have less? Should she disadvantage them? Is it right for her to do so? Remember she is not always convinced that she is abused since he tells her she is not and that she is to blame for his treatment of her. She is selfish if she leaves ...he has assured her of this. She possibly also still loves him and fears a life on her own because she might be lonely (this one will definitely pass the fastest sisters).

She may be the one with money. He will threaten to take it from her if she leaves. Possibly by taking the children and lying about her to obtain custody. The threats themselves are the essence of the financial violence. She may not be reduced to the poverty of many women exiting violent relationships but the financial threats are still the element of abuse that harm her. The terror of a financially violent threat crosses class boundaries and bank account levels.

Women suffering any of this. You are not selfish. You are not guilty. You are not on your own. You are not mad or horrible or unlovable or worthless or stupid or weak or any of the things he is saying.

This is how it works for women. Having children makes you economically weak. Emotionally wealthy often... but economically weak. Abusive men know this. They use it to their advantage at all points in their abuse. Know that when you feel scared it is not because there are things to fear without him but because there are things you fear because of him.

10. Once a woman leaves... he has lost some power. He may still be able to threaten her physically and he will certainly do it mentally - those scars may never heal and are easily opened into fresh wounds. Financial violence for these men is never ending potentially. If there is any reliance on funds from an abusive man....and clearly if a woman has had his children then this is the case.... then he still has a route to abusive power over her.

He can manipulate what he gives her; how he gives it to her and when. She no longer has the automatic support of the CSA. She must pay to access this or go through some sort of "mediation" and "agreement" process..... terms which make an abused woman either snort in derision or scream in terror depending on how long since they exited the relationship. This is handing access to the abused woman back over to an abusive man. If she refuses this then she must pay for the privilege of using the CSA service.

This can happen many times over whenever he decides to behave poorly over payments. He will probably do this often. A man who enjoys power.... why on Earth would he NOT do this to harm a woman he can no longer harm in other ways?

11. He may use any opportunity he can to make threats to leave her financially vulnerable. He may lose his job, he may hide funds, he will do anything in his power to take money away that he knows she needs or will randomly threaten to do so.

12. When things get legal .... he will make continuous threats. A woman who has believed his financial ability (and he will have convinced her she is not good with finances) will believe the threats. She may settle for less than she should. She may be convinced there is nothing to have. Or that she is not entitled it. She is still frightened and still unsure of her own ability and thoughts and even needs.

So...... this all looks very bleak. I have left a lot out. I have looked at this and thought.... shit that makes it all sound really impossible. I must put a positive spin on this. I must somehow tell women it will be alright eventually. But the reality is ....  leaving an abusive man is a financial nightmare. The potential for him to continue abusing her through financial means is terrifying.

Which is why.... when a woman leaves she needs real financial support. She needs legal help. Free. She needs somewhere to go and she needs somewhere that will help her get to the next step. Free. She needs a step back into the world of work or education or support if she can't. Free. She needs therapy. Free.

A woman told me last night that a man reduced her maintenance by the price of a tin of cat food a day when her cat died.

Think about that level of control.

I asked my friend from the beginning of this piece... "looking at how you you ever wish you'd stayed?" She smiled. "See this smile. It's all mine. Those children that are waiting for their dinner where we will laugh and chat and solve problems. Mine. Friends like you who come round and cheer me up. Mine. Some things he cannot take from me any more. It will be ok."

Best wishes,

JH x

N.B... a friend asked 'But is the term "violence" the correct term to use?' I think it is. I think the terror that ensues is the result of a deliberate attempt to harm a woman. Some of that harm is physical if her mental health is affected. It is physical if she endures poverty or vulnerability to attack if she becomes homeless. Going hungry is physical violence if inflicted upon her deliberately by the male perpetrator. It wouldn't be "violence" if it was a "result" of other violence. However, this is mostly a series of calculated and considered acts that the perpetrator knows (hopes) will deliberately hurt a woman. I therefore think the term "violence" is appropriate. "Financial Abuse" .... seems to encompass something more to do with the aspect of wealth/poverty than with the control, threats and intention of this particular aspect of domestic violence and abuse. Feel free to disagree.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Buying Into Banter - The Greatest Trick.

Banter. Bantz. Just bantz dude. Proper bantz. Loads of bantz. Enjoying the bantz.

That's all it is. It's a laugh. A joke. A harmless way of poking fun at each other and - I'm putting my tongue firmly in my cheek here...... we're all in it together. 

In fact, the second the Prime Minister thinks about it long and hard enough he will declare Prime Minister's Question Time - "just lads and bantz".

-The women don't matter of course. That's what it is across the House of Commons floor most of the time. Men trading banter. Unfortunately for the laughing audience, the majority of the time real people outside the chamber and excluded from the joke are dying all over the place - well outside the realms of political "banter". People are holding out on laughing at the food banks. People are passing on holding their sides as they try to hold on to their sanity as their women's refuge closes. But you keep up the bantz boys. 

Back to where this started and gradually crept up on us. All of a sudden it is the benchmark of whether you belong. Can you banter? What is your banter like? Are you any good at it? Can you take it? Men all over Twitter, Facebook and The Red Lion are indulging in Banter. It is like when Norm enters the pub in Cheers. The king of banter takes his seat and the bantered fall before his feet. The banter is basically insults. Thrown fast and hard. A frequent "pooh" follows a particularly cutting thrust. It might be countered. A wound may be made but eventually all must laugh. ALL MUST LAUGH. 

The Oxford English Dictionary defines it in a number of ways. 

The noun - banter

The verb - to banter

Ok... move along. Nothing to see here. The grip this new form of "joking" has on our popular culture is nothing to worry about. It's been going on for centuries. It's relatively harmless.

But..... you know a feminist always has a "but" up her sleeve don't you? We aren't called 'Killjoys' for nothing! And really, the killjoy is the enemy of the banterer (?).

You can delve a little deeper into the historical definitions if you can be bothered...

Oh... so banter can be a form of deceit - possibly even criminal? Interesting.

And also,

To "banter folks out of their senses" - oh well that doesn't sound so pleasant now does it? Making people insane! Driving them "mad". Far less innocuous than "teasing" or "sharing a joke". We aren't all in it together if one party ends up unable to live a normal life are we? Or one commits suicide?

Or from the US we can see it is a challenge....

Hmm. Now there's a thought. What if a banter is not actually a "shared joke" but a "challenge" a "battle". What if the battle is against a specific set of people? What if those people are any oppressed group? People of Colour, Women, LGBT people?

What if the use of the word banter is used by aggressors to defeat an enemy? What if it was used as a weapon against those oppressed people? Oh dear. Now banter looks a lot less fun.

I think I can see the Prime Minister contacting the Daily Mail to say it was someone else's idea to call PMQs "banter" after all. It was that horrid Andy Coulson's idea perhaps?

The term has become one that determines a man's place in the pack. If you can sally forth with decent banter and leave your opponent open mouthed then the elbow on the bar becomes yours. The ears of the pride become yours. You win. You are the Alpha Banterer.

The danger is that this has extended. It has been absorbed by the ones who want to do a little more than "sally forth" with a pint of Stella. It has become something appropriated by males as something a little bit more useful indeed. It has become something you can use as a new tool against women ( and other oppressed groups - but I see it more often as a misogynists tool at present - and of course those misogynists are twofold abusers of Women of Colour)

Call them fat? Banter.

Call them a slapper? Banter.

Tell them to know their place, get their feet close to the sink, get raped, get slapped, get silent quick.... BANTER!

Oh what a gift! Just when men thought they were getting shaky with all this feminist stuff threatening them. Just when they couldn't say things which objectified women because they could spot it and call you on it. Just when the press were starting to take away your daily tits, stop you from calling women whores and prevent you from raping young women in hotel rooms without asking..... just then you were gifted BANTER!

Oh and my word have the men run with it. They love it. They say it all the time. They repeat it so often that to challenge it seems churlish, uncool, off point, outdated. A killjoy! Oh that very worst of things!

The thing that worries me. It's turning into the new "laddette" motif. Girls are doing it too. Women are turning tricks for the banterer (?) as in the nineties they would try to drink ten pints and hoarsely launch into football chanting. They are beginning to laugh at "banter" and take part. They are learning to see insults as "not really insults". They are learning to insult other women and call it by the man's term. "It's just Bantz babe. Lighen up"

Oh this is a blinder the men have played. I don't mean that metaphorically. Men are putting out the eyes of women with this term. They get to insult women. They can pull the strings of women and make them insult each other. They can make them smile through gritted teeth as they pull those strings.

Smile for the banter girls.

Misogyny is dead. Long Live The Banter.

The greatest trick the misogynist ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist.