Financial violence against women: recognizing and ending

My friend’s voice was shaking. She told me that the father of her two sons had threatened on the phone that he would work even less so that he would no longer have to pay her child support. reason for the threat? She had asked him to transfer the child support that was already much too low every month, as agreed with the youth welfare office, and not just every now and then. Despite having her own full-time job, she cannot manage all the expenses for the children on her own. He laughed at her.

Ever since that phone call, she’s been plagued by existential anxiety.

I was disturbed by the father’s demeaning behavior and the fear of insolvency that has gripped my girlfriend ever since. I started researching. Because I wanted to find out whether this is an isolated case, or whether other single mothers feel the same way.

I learned a new word about it: financial violence.

Financial violence is part of everyday life for many women

Financial violence takes place quietly in private – but sometimes also at work. She leaves no physical traces, but mental scars, despair, existential fear, feelings of guilt, self-doubt. That is why it is seldom recognized and named for what it is: as violence.

During the research, I noticed how diverse and commonplace financial violence is. And that it is often accepted by society, sometimes downplayed as a “minor crime”, like “calculating oneself penniless” in order to avoid having to pay maintenance to children and ex-wives as far as possible.

Or jokes are made on stages that the man is hiding his wages. What is obviously perceived as normal and thus justified: We in Germany make a state secret about our money. That’s how I put it in the May issue of the institution seen by ZDF. A show I really appreciate.

Hiding your own financial resources from your partner? This is not automatically financial violence, it depends on the dependencies. But consciously concealing one’s own salary in a marriage? And the audience laughs about it? For me there are abysses:

False, patronizing, arbitrariness

It’s already cross-border when mothers have to cut corners when it comes to running the house, but men buy big cars because they think they’re entitled to it. After all, they made the money! Or the father who goes on vacation with his buddies while the mother uses her parental allowance to pay for the family’s meals and the children’s expenses. She no longer has money for her normal cosmetics because he refuses joint money.

The concealment of one’s own earnings as the sole breadwinner, or whether family assets exist and how they are invested, that is financial violence. Or the marriage contract for the separation of property, which the woman should agree to without compensation. This intentionally creates imbalances in disposal and power that violate the claims and rights of a party.

Financial violence throws mothers in particular into existential difficulties, but also (assistant) wives without their own or very low income. It takes liberties, exploits, humiliates, humiliates and kills people’s chances in life. It is time that this structural violence was also brought to the attention of the public.

Financial violence gives a name to a feeling

Many women are often unaware that violence is being done to them through economic leverage. They may feel angry or powerless, or feel bad and humiliated. But they have no word for what is happening to them. And that doesn’t open up any solutions if I can’t give the feeling a name.

Many women hold back financially when children come, work part-time, give up financial self-determination and hope for the loyalty and fairness of their partners. And get disappointed.

Scientific research is missing

I didn’t find any study that looked at financial violence. It is quite obviously a part of many relationships and marriages – without us knowing about each other. One reason for this is certainly because we talk far too little about our personal finances and what is connected with them. Shame keeps us from it and the (wrong) thought that it only affects one personally.

Financial violence is a social taboo.

It is not a purely private problem, but a structural one. Causes and consequences are described in sociological studies. The term, however, financial or economic violence, is rarely used and does not belong to the active, social vocabulary. And economic or financial violence is also not in any law.

Until money divides you

This is the name of a book by Katharina Martin that she wrote in 2005 about the forms of financial violence.

She defines:

  • Financial violence is financial dependency that is abused.

From spouses, fathers, ex-partners, parents – through traditions, old role models, social norms and even laws, especially in tax law. But not alone. Martin also writes about accomplices in banks, lawyers’ and notaries’ offices and on judges’ benches.

What is financial violence?

Katharina Martin’s definition of the term complements the brochure of the city of Oberhausen “Recognising financial violence – freedom begins where control ends.”

  • Financial violence is the exercise of Power and control in the financial area, so that one’s own actions and decisions are restricted.
  • It means the unequal Power of disposition over financial means and the exploitation of economic superiority.

Financial dependency is not to be equated with financial violence. The abuse of this dependency is violence.

If two people agree, one does the household and the other raises the money, everything is shared and the couple manages the house together, then that is not abuse. It is a form of partnership and teamwork.

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