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The cost of financial abuse

Neisha Himes didn't see the signs of financial abuse at first. She is not alone. Most people – 78% of Americans – don't recognize or understand financial abuse as a sign of domestic violence. But it's the most prominent and least recognized forms of abuse. The only way we can stop it is if we can see it.

October 12, 2023

Content warning: This article and video discuss domestic violence. Please view with care.

"I remember he threw my belongings out once in a snowstorm," Neisha Himes said.

Himes is a domestic violence survivor. She loves dancing and boxing, and holds her family close to her heart. She's a poet. A mother of two.

"I felt like I was standing inside of a snow globe. I was the only person in it … and I'm just screaming, and nobody hears me. Nobody knows I'm there. And I'm just feeling very, very alone. And the only place I had to go was back inside that home, because where else was I gonna go?"

Himes was in financial straits before she moved in with her then-boyfriend. She lost her home. She had to make the hard decision to send her children to live with their father.

Her number one priority was to reunite with her children.

After sleeping on friends' couches and renting weekly hotels, she thought living with him would save money and secure a home to do that.

What was supposed to be a solution turned into her biggest problem because she didn't recognize the signs. Financial abuse is the number one reason survivors stay in or return to unsafe relationships.

"The lack of autonomy, the lack of agency that a lot of people have in relationships is so normalized," said Sharisse Kimbro, program officer at The Allstate Foundation. "So many Americans don't recognize financial abuse because it's so embedded into our systems and culture."

Seventy-eight percent of Americans, in fact. And according to a recent report on domestic violence survivors, one in five who have been subjected to economic abuse don't identify it that way.

Know the signs, understand the impact

So how do we fight something we can't see? We learn what financial abuse can look like:

  • Not having access to personal or joint bank accounts.
  • Being given an allowance or having to ask for money.
  • A partner interfering with work.
  • A partner taking out credit cards or loans in your name without your permission.

"He would call my job incessantly … so now I'm not focusing on work. Now I'm getting in trouble," Himes said. "There was a point where I had to take a second job just to make ends meet."

"Financial insecurity is the number one obstacle to survivor safety," said Sonya Passi, founder and CEO of FreeFrom, a nonprofit that provides direct cash assistance to domestic violence survivors.

Himes' physically, emotionally and financially abusive relationship lasted five years before she left.

Now, Himes is a founder and CEO of GROW (Girls Recognizing Our Worth) Foundation, a nonprofit that helps survivors rebuild their lives after abuse. She also operates her own consulting business, Neisha Christine Consulting, LLC, to help raise awareness and provide training about domestic violence to various institutions and organizations. And, she's earning her degree in social work.

"I do believe I went through what I went through because I was supposed to, not because I deserved to. So I can take that and help as many people as I possibly can," Himes said.

How to help

  • Get survivors the cash they need: Donation-based cash assistance programs like FreeFrom help survivors cover basic needs like housing, transportation, food, diapers and more.
  • Offer resources: Helping a survivor with transportation or a safe place to hold money can be vital.
  • Spread the word: Share this article and video, and help more people learn about how domestic violence affects us all.

"For us to really support survivors, every single one of us has to ask what role we can play, what we can do," Passi said. "In your community, you can support survivors by letting people know that you're there."

Himes believes that by understanding domestic violence, there's hope to end it.

"It affects us all, and the sooner we recognize that, the sooner we can do something about helping those who are going through it and making sure that it doesn't happen again," she said.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline website or call 1-800-799-7233 – it's a free, 24/7 service.

Survivor safety starts with us

Domestic violence can be physical, emotional and financial, and we can all help disrupt the cycle. Join us in supporting The Allstate Foundation's partners as they work to give back the financial freedom every survivor deserves.

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