Tracy Guy


Trapped in Silence: The Interplay of Financial Abuse, Systemic Inequality, and Patriarchal Power in Domestic Violence

Tracy Guy
May 19, 2024

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Domestic violence is not just about physical harm—it is a multifaceted issue deeply rooted in power imbalances, systemic inequalities, and coercive control. For many women, leaving an abusive relationship is not as simple as walking away; it often entails navigating a complex web of financial abuse, institutional barriers, and patriarchal power dynamics that can trap them in dangerous situations. In this article, we examine how financial abuse, systemic inequality, and patriarchal power dynamics intersect to prevent women from leaving domestic violence situations, often at significant risk to their lives.

Financial Abuse

Financial abuse is a common tactic used by perpetrators to maintain power and control over their partners. This form of abuse can take various forms, including controlling access to money/ restricting access to bank accounts, covertly moving money around or hiding money in overseas accounts, withholding money, sabotaging employment or education opportunities, accumulating debt in the victim’s name, controlling how money is spent and coercing victims into financial dependence. For many women, financial abuse serves as a barrier to leaving an abusive relationship, as they lack the resources or means to support themselves and their children independently. Without access to financial resources or a stable income, women may feel trapped in severely abusive situations, unable to afford basic necessities or secure safe housing.

Systemic Inequality

Systemic inequality exacerbates the vulnerability of women experiencing domestic violence, particularly those from marginalised communities. Discrimination based on factors such as race, ethnicity, class, disability, or immigration status can compound the barriers faced by survivors, limiting their access to support services, legal protections, and economic opportunities. Additionally, systemic failures within the criminal justice system, social services, and healthcare systems may further marginalise survivors, leaving them without adequate protection or recourse for justice. As a result, many women are left feeling isolated, powerless, and without options for escape.

Patriarchal Power Dynamics

At the core of domestic violence lies patriarchal power dynamics that perpetuate gender-based inequalities and normalise violence against women. In a patriarchal society, men are often socialised to assert dominance and control over women, relegating them to subservient roles and denying them autonomy and agency. This imbalance of power creates an environment where women are systematically disempowered and silenced, making it difficult for them to assert their rights or leave abusive relationships without facing retaliation or further harm. Moreover, societal attitudes that minimise or justify violence against women perpetuate a culture of victim-blaming and shame, further deterring survivors from seeking help or speaking out.

Psychological Impact of Financial Abuse

Financial abuse from an intimate partner can have devastating psychological effects, leading many women to contemplate suicide as they struggle with feelings of entrapment and hopelessness. The manipulation and control exerted through financial abuse can erode a woman’s sense of self-worth and autonomy, making it seem impossible to escape the abusive relationship. The constant stress of financial instability, coupled with the emotional and psychological torment inflicted by the abuser, can push women to the brink of despair, leading them to view suicide as the only escape from their overwhelming situation. Addressing financial abuse and providing comprehensive support and resources is crucial to prevent such tragic outcomes.

The intersection of financial abuse, systemic inequality, and patriarchal power dynamics creates formidable barriers for women attempting to leave domestic violence situations. Without adequate support, resources, and systemic change, many women remain trapped in abusive relationships, risking their lives in the process. We must recognise and address the structural inequalities and power imbalances that perpetuate domestic violence, working towards a future where all women have the resources, support, and agency to leave abusive relationships and reclaim their lives. Only through collective action and solidarity can we dismantle the systems of oppression that uphold gender-based violence and ensure that every woman can live free from fear and violence.

1800 RESPECT (Family Violence Support) 1800 737 732 (24 hours)

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