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Financial Abuse Is a Form of Domestic Violence and Serena Williams Wants You to Know About It

Serena Williams after her win at the Women’s Singles Final in 2015 (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)Serena Williams announced on Thursday that she would be a new ambassador for Allstate Foundation Purple Purse, an initiative founded by the insurance company to help domestic violence survivors financially prepare for their future.

Economic abuse is largely overlooked in the dialogue about domestic violence. According to the Center for Disease Control, one in four women in the United States experience physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime; a study from Michigan State University that surveyed 103 domestic violence survivors found that 99 percent of them also experienced some form of economic abuse.

Economic or financial abuse is described as a method used by abusers to gain power and control over their victims through hindering their partners’ access to assets and financial information, which prevents them from “just walking away” from the abuse.

“Not a lot of people really know about financial abuse,” Williams said to Mic. “It’s an invisible but also really devastating form of domestic abuse that traps victims in these harmful relationships.”

Williams’ announcement came alongside a hidden-camera-style video that featured ride-sharing passengers in a car who discover a purple purse with a phone inside that has been left behind. The phone soon begins ringing with a series of alarming and foul texts that indicate an abusive relationship. Obvious horror spreads across the passengers’ faces.

“Let’s see how far u get with no money and no job. U have nothing without me” is the last text sent to the phone before a call comes through from a young woman asking to meet the passengers so she can get her lost purse. Upon meeting, the obviously worried passengers ask for reassurance that she’s in no danger.

“Finances are the No. 1 reason victims can’t ‘just leave.’ If you knew someone needed help, what would you do?” flashes across the screen before the video comes to a close. The video is meant to remind viewers to say something if they see a problem.

Allstate launched the foundation in 2005 and has since been working to bring awareness to the severity of financial abuse, while providing victims with the support they need. The foundation has helped over one million victims achieve safety and security and has invested more than $55 million to help women leave abusive situations.

Nearly eight in 10 Americans are unaware that financial abuse is a form of violence, despite how prevalent it is. Financial abuse takes many different forms, which, Williams said, makes it so widespread.

“Most of the time, when people leave abusive relationships, they have this awful debt and that can take years and years to recover from, especially if they have kids.” Williams said

In a press release, Allstate announced it is making a social experiment-based short film, “Lost Purse.” The film will follow a domestic violence victim and illustrate how financial abuse traps women in abusive situations, while exploring people’s reactions when given the opportunity to help the victim.

In 2014, Kerry Washington joined the Purple Purse Foundation as an ambassador, as well.

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