Victims 'destitute' as domestic abusers control money, campaigners warn

ireland
Victims 'Destitute' As Domestic Abusers Control Money, Campaigners Warn
Distressed woman, © PA Archive/PA Images
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By Cate McCurry, PA

A growing number of domestic violence victims are being left “destitute” in the countdown to Christmas amid a surge in financial abuse cases, campaigners have warned.

Stop Domestic Violence in Ireland (SDVII) said it is experiencing its busiest ever December so far and it has been inundated with calls to its helpline over the past two weeks.

Founder Priscilla Grainger said this time of year is “hectic” as the festive season heightens tensions within families.

She said the problems have been exacerbated this year by the pandemic and lockdowns.

Ms Grainger said the organisation has fielded almost double the amount of calls compared to last year.

She said the increase in calls is being fuelled by a significant rise in the number of financial abuse cases, in which abusers exert power over their victims by controlling their money.

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There’s no money for food or toys for the kids, women left with nothing

In some cases, the victims’ bank accounts have been completely cleared out just weeks before Christmas.

Ms Grainger said: “We are seeing a worrying surge in financial abuse cases in recent weeks, with victims literally left destitute with no money for food or clothes because their abuser has complete control over their finances.

“In several cases there’s no money for food or toys for the kids, women left with nothing unless they go to their local community welfare office.

“Many are basically living on handouts while their abusers keep all of the money, which in some cases is being used to feed addictions – drink, drugs, gambling.”

Control

Family law solicitor Sandra McAleer said she is also dealing with more financial abuse cases before the courts.

She said: “Financial abuse is now very common in domestic violence cases we’re seeing.

“To exercise control, the abuser has to see where everything is going, where the victim is spending the money.

“The pandemic has made it easier for abusers because everything now is non-cash transfers.

“If the abuser can access your bank account, they can pretty much see where you’ve been in the morning and where you went to at night.

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“Financial abuse is a very controlling element of domestic violence.

“An abuser doesn’t have to physically hit their victims, they can control them financially by drip feeding them small amounts of money for the most basic things, like food for the children.”

Ainie Grainger is the co-founder of Stop Domestic Violence in Ireland (Ainie Grainger/PA)

Ms Grainger and her daughter, SDVII co-founder Ainie, 22, suffered extreme financial abuse before they eventually managed to escape.

Priscilla Grainger recalled how she dreaded Christmas, when she had little or sometimes no money for food, clothes or toys while her abuser kept most of the family’s money to feed his gambling addiction.

She said: “It always comes flooding back at this time of year when the decorations go up.

“The feeling of absolute dread: where will I get money to put food on the table, to buy a few toys for Ainie, who was very young back then, even to buy proper clothes to keep us warm.

“I had to beg for every little scrap. He kept us living in this state of constant fear, worrying where the next meal was going to come from.

“By controlling the money he exercised complete control over our lives.”

Christmas donations

This year, SDVII has teamed up with the Inner City Helping Homeless charity, headed by Dublin city councillor Anthony Flynn, to help abuse victims and the homeless.

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To date, they have raised just under the value of €25,000 in food, clothes and toys for children living in homes affected by domestic violence.

Ainie Grainger said: “People have been incredible – we’ve been blown away the kindness and generosity we’ve seen in recent weeks.

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“We don’t take any cash donations, just vouchers for food, toys or any of the basics that are badly needed.”

Anyone who would like to donate clothes, toiletries or dry foods to assist domestic violence victims can drop them off at Inner City Homeless, 144a Slaney Close, Dublin Industrial Estate, Dublin 11.

If you have been affected by any of the issues, you can contact SDVII on 086 869 7022, visit its website at stopdomesticviolence.ie, or the organisation’s Facebook page facebook.com/pg/stopdomesticviolenceinireland/about.

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