Abuse of a partner financially should be treated the same way as physical abuse

Nomsa Dladla and Dudu Muvhali joined a protest to highlight how the justice system is failing rape victims. The writer says any type of abuse is unacceptable.
Nomsa Dladla and Dudu Muvhali joined a protest to highlight how the justice system is failing rape victims. The writer says any type of abuse is unacceptable.
Image: Elizabeth Sejake

The other day my friend Rachel was in tears, complaining her husband treated her like a child.

She said he was controlling and, although he was not physically aggressive, she felt very battered.

For instance, last week he threatened to kick her out of their house because he was not happy with the food she had prepared.

Rachel also detailed how he inspects their home when he returns from work and complains when he sees even a speck of dust.

"If he does not treat me like a maid, he treats me like a child," said Rachel.

She explained further how her husband constantly reminds her that he buys everything. He often reminds her as the only employed spouse, he expects her to excel in running the household at least, and tell her that he will not tolerate laziness from a wife.

He also punishes her by refusing her access to money.

Over the years she hoped he would one day change for the better, but the opposite had happened.

He restricts her financially and her status in their house has been reduced to that of a child. She needs his permission to do the most mundane of things.

It always depends on his mood whether or not to give her the money for toiletries.

When he gives her the money, Rachel must account for every penny used. She must keep the slips or face a tongue-lashing.

He treats her that way despite their agreement upon getting married that she would take on the role of a stay-at-home mom. This after he had encouraged her to leave her job, which was paying quite well.

They agreed she would take care of their home and children, but over the years things have changed drastically. She now finds herself in a dire situation.

I explained to Rachel that her husband was financially abusing her. This type of abuse was just as torturous as physical abuse and has long-term psychological effects.

In fact, financial abuse is a form of domestic abuse.

Research reveals, however, that women are unable to identify financial abuse and that they rarely talk about it because it is so humiliating.

It is also much easier to hide, unlike make-uping bruises from the beating.

But fundamentally, women who find themselves in financially abusive relationships or marriages are often trapped.

For example, Rachel no longer wants to be married, but is unable to leave because she will not be able to self-sustain - she has been unsuccessful in finding a job.

A report states that abusive partners always threaten to leave, which is "one of the most overt forms of financial abuse".

Usually, an abusive partner will "threaten to leave or deny financial support knowing that the woman is unable to support herself without the finances of her partner".

"Once the partner levies such a threat, control is established, since she knows without her partner's help her daily needs won't be met.

"So, she stays in her lane and keeps herself in line fearing that without her partner, she will be destitute with no place to go."

That said, Rachel's story teaches that we need to discuss all types of domestic violence more openly in order to find lasting solutions.

But any type of abuse is unacceptable.

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