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You’ve finally managed to get the courage and support to leave your abusive partner. You think you can breathe again and start rebuilding your life. Think again. Immediately post separation is a very dangerous time for abused women. Your ex is now furious; you have escaped his control and left without his permission. He is desperate to get his control back. You belong to him and you have dared to think otherwise!
According to the Femicide Census of 2018, of the women who were killed by their ex in 2017, 55% were killed in the first month and 87% in the first year.
If you do manage to survive these first few months, things are going to get harder. He wants revenge, he wants his control back, he wants you to run back to him, he needs you to show what a “man” he is, to prove that you just can’t manage without him and you need to learn this. His tactics will become more underhanded. He wants to break you both mentally and financially.
A major problem for women leaving abusive relationships is debt. Their former partner is liable to have racked up large debts in joint names and then refused to pay them. This leaves the abused woman liable for the whole debt, be they credit cards or loans in joint names that he has coerced her into signing or even forged her signature on. Women have to remember that a joint debt doesn’t mean that you are liable for half of it. You are jointly and severally liable, which means that the company can demand that you have to pay the whole debt.
It isn’t only debt that can start during the relationship. Many women in an abusive relationship are not allowed to work by their abuser, to make them financially dependent on him. So when they leave it can be difficult to get a job and so not be able to afford to leave him as they won’t be able to pay rent, etc, which can lead to homelessness. If the woman’s name is on the property and/or the mortgage, local councils are likely to say that the woman has intentionally made herself homeless or that she has a house to live in and therefore she isn’t eligible for social housing. So they can end up in insecure or unsafe housing or in a refuge.
The abuser can also make sure that his ex-partner doesn’t get a fair share of any joint property on divorce or separation. This can also lead to years of expense as she tries to get what belongs to her legally.
If the couple have children, the abuser can continue his financial abuse through maintenance. Abusers do not believe that they should pay for their children. They won’t pay the mortgage if the mother and children are still in the family home (“I’m not paying for a house I’m not living in!”), leaving her with the full burden. Abusers will give up their jobs to become unemployed or become “self-employed” and hide their true income simply so that they don’t have to pay a fair share toward the upkeep of their children.
Abusers will enter endless legal proceedings just to ensure that their ex-partner has to spend whatever savings and income she has on legal fees and make it difficult for her to hold down a job when she has too keep appearing in court. These legal proceedings are also very stressful and can make the woman ill and damage her mentally. In some cases, the abuser will go as far as to go for residence of the children, just so they don’t have to pay maintenance. In fact, they will happily claim it even though they have ensured that the mother cannot earn a decent wage! If they have residence it also means that they can claim benefits for the children. If the mother has managed to get some sort of part-time work and are managing on benefits to pay the rent, she will probably lose her home if she loses the children. Losing the children to an abuser is common in Family Court. Courts often transfer residency from a protective mother to the abuser if she brings up domestic abuse or sexual abuse of the children in court.
Once a woman has been in an abusive relationship, it will be a long time before she is actually free of her abuser and able to recover and build a life for herself again. Abusers will continue their abuse for as long as they are able and whilst the law allows abusers to get away without paying child maintenance and family courts ignore and disbelieve evidence of domestic abuse and there is no punishment for financial abuse women and children are going to continue living in poverty. Protection and support for women escaping domestic abuse is essential. Abusers need to be punished and stopped from their continued abuse even after the relationship has ended. That’s if you have actually managed to survive….