Digging deeper into financial abuse - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Digging deeper into financial abuse

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MADISON (WKOW) -- There's a form of domestic violence we don't hear about often, financial abuse.

But, it's incredibly dangerous.

27 News digs deeper into the power financial abuse can have on a victim's life, as one local victim shares her story of nearly losing everything.

"When it takes over your life and you don't feel safe as a result of it, that's really when it becomes too much."

An abuser took everything she had, a man she trusted for years.

We are not sharing her identity to keep her and her children safe.

"Little by little, I was taken advantage of, from the aspect of the income that I made, the credit that I had, the job that I held, my family members, everything slowly became compromised."

Her money was taken, her credit destroyed, by the father of her kids.

"I had to seek other means of feeding my children. I had to have the food stamp program or BadgerCare , or things like that to provide for them because I saw no other option."

Then came his weekly questions about her life insurance policy.

"If I wasn't there, if all of a sudden there was a life insurance payout, how great of a windfall would that be?  Looking at all the different pieces that had come into play, my life probably was in danger."

"Coming to the realization that we needed to leave, that I needed to leave the situation, that was the hardest thing to overcome. The biggest setback to myself was the concern of, 'How am I gonna support my children?"

That's the helpless state many victims of financial abuse are left in.

Shannon Barry with Domestic Abuse Intervention Services, or DAIS, in Madison says, "According to national statistics, 98% of domestic violence relationships include some form of financial abuse. Not allowing the victim to work, not allowing the victim to have their own financial resources, making sure a victim is never on a lease or anything like that so they can't establish a rental history that's separate from the batterer."

Barry says when abusers control through money, it often keeps victims in physically violent relationships.  

"Maybe they can't leave because they've never held a job themselves, because they've never been allowed to work, they don't have their own resources, they don't have access to their own health insurance or child care," she says. "We see how critically important it is, in terms of people achieving long term safety, is having that financial independence."

DAIS offers a series of career workshops for victims to help them get back on their feet.

Services like that helped the victim who spoke to 27 News, when she left her abuser and found a safe haven for her kids at a local shelter.  

"I wasn't alone. That there were resources for myself and others like me to be able to find steady ground in life again and rebuild themselves."

Now she's using her experience to be a voice for other victims.

"Acknowledging with other women who may be going through it, or with different organizations that may need to raise awareness and grow support to recognize the need, I've definitely become a champion for that cause."

If you or someone you know is in an abusive situation, you can call the DAIS Help Line at 608-251-4445 or 800-747-4045.

Advocates are there 24 hours a day to answer questions and get you the help you need.

If you're in immediate danger, you should call 911. 

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