Kerry Washington addresses domestic violence: Financial abuse is 'the reason why so many people stay'

The actress seeks to raise awareness of one of the invisible forms of domestic abuse at a New York charity event

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The Independent Online

Kerry Washington has outlined just one of the many reasons domestic abuse victims stay with their partner – financial manipulation.

“It's the reason why so many people stay,” she told The Huffington Post. “That whole hashtag #WhyIStayed that happened last week, you saw how many of those responses were about feeling trapped financially.”

The actress was talking at a New York event held to raise awareness for an initiative called the Purple Purse, for which Washington has designed a purple bag to highlight the role of money in abusive relationships.

The issue of domestic violence has been raised numerously over the past week, following leaked footage of NFL player Ray Rice knocking his then-fiancee, now-wife unconscious. He has been suspended indefinitely.

His wife, Janay, has defended her husband’s actions, describing public and media reactions to the incident as “horrifying”.

Washington says that 98 per cent of domestic violence victims suffer financial abuse – a means of asserting power and controlling and limiting their partner’s and future actions and freedom of choice.

“What that means is destroying that person’s credit, jeopardising their job, controlling their finances, making a person feeling disempowered so that they feel like they can’t walk away from an abusive situation,” she said.

“The purple purse is really a symbol for the economic strength of a woman to be able to take her purse strings back and take care of herself and her family. So it's really exciting because it's bringing attention around financial abuse.”

Addressing the perennial question “Why doesn’t she just leave?”, Washington said people aren’t “aware of financial abuse”.

“If a woman isn't even aware of the dynamics of financial abuse - what it looks like, what it is - she may not even know that that's part of the tools being used to control her and manipulate her and keep her trapped,” she said. “When there is more information around it, people can begin to identify it and then get the help they need.”