For a sense of how widespread the problem is, as Williams mentioned, nearly all domestic violence survivors — between 94% and 99% of them — also report some form of economic abuse, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Victims of domestic violence lose eight million days of paid work each year, the coalition says. The cost of the abuse is more than $8 billion per year.
One in four women will probably be affected by domestic violence at some point in their lives, and finances are often one of the top reasons women can’t leave an abusive relationship, experts say.
“There are so many ways that financial abuse can keep their victims trapped,” said Williams, who is the new ambassador for the Allstate Foundation Purple Purse
program. Purple Purse, founded in 2005, focuses on raising awareness and helping survivors find the tools they need to recover from financial abuse.
“If a woman’s credit is ruined, she can’t go out and move out and try and get a different apartment. She has to kind of stay where she is,” Williams said.
Vicky Dinges, the senior vice president for corporate responsibility for Allstate, said victims face economic hardships even if they find a way to leave the relationship.
“One of those things that we see when a victim does leave safely, they have a hard time affording legal fees, trying to rent an apartment, trying to see their children if they have children,” Dinges said.
Nearly 80% of Americans, according to a 2014 survey by Allstate,
said they didn’t know much about how financial abuse was a form of domestic violence. That lack of understanding is reflected in a new public service announcement
from the Purple Purse campaign.