You May Be A Victim of Abuse Without Your Knowledge

Here’s the thing: you might be a victim of abuse without knowing it.

No, I’m not talking about physical violence, but something a little less obvious, more insidious — and just as worse.

Have you ever heard of the term financial abuse?

(While I’ve not experienced it myself, it’s a topic that’s close to my heart not only because I work in the finance industry, but because I’ve seen so many women victimised by it, either knowingly or unknowingly. If this post helps at least one woman out there recognize her situation for what it is, then I would’ve achieved what I set out to write.)

What is financial abuse?

First things first. What do I mean by “financial abuse”? WomensLaw.org, a US website launched to provide legal information and resources for survivors of domestic violence, defines it like this:

Making or attempting to make a person financially dependent, e.g., maintaining total control over financial resources and withholding access to money, are some forms of financial abuse (also called economic abuse).

Purple Purse, a US national campaign focused on ending domestic violence through financial empowerment services for survivors, has the following definition:

Financial abuse prevents victims from acquiring, using or maintaining financial resources. Financial abuse is just as effective in controlling a victim as a lock and key. Abusers employ isolating tactics such as preventing their spouse or partner from working or accessing a bank, credit card or transportation. They might tightly monitor and restrict their partner’s spending. Victims of financial abuse live a controlled life where they have been purposely put into a position of dependence, making it hard for the victim to break free.

The message is consistent: if you’re in a relationship where you’re feeling manipulated or controlled through financial means or when you feel your partner may be limiting your financial independence, you may be a victim of financial abuse.

What are the signs of financial abuse?

According to refuge.org.uk, the following may be signs you’re experiencing financial abuse:

Does/did your partner:

  • Prevent you from working, or stop you from going to work?
  • Prevent you from going to college or university?
  • Ask you to account for every peso you spend?
  • Check your receipts or bank statements so they can monitor how much you are spending?
  • Keep the log-in details, bank cards or PIN numbers for your joint account so that you cannot access the account?
  • Spend money allocated to bills for other things?
  • Steal, damage or destroy your possessions?
  • Spend whatever they want, but belittle you for spending any money?
  • Insist on control of all financial matters?
  • Insist that all the bills and loans are in your name (but does not contribute to them)?
  • Make you ask permission before making any purchase, no matter how small?
  • Make significant financial decisions without you (e.g. buying a new home, car)?
  • Place debts in your name?
  • Steal money from you, or use your bank card without permission?

If any of these situations feel familiar, you may be experiencing financial abuse.

Even in a country like the Philippines, which was the only Asian country to have made it (at one time) to the World Economic Forum’s ranking of the world’s 10 most gender-equal countries, I suspect the above situations are far too common.

Female participation in the Philippine labor force is much lower at just a little over 50%, compared to 70% in the UK and 67% in the US. This indicates that it’s highly likely that Filipina women are under-utilized in the labor market, and may suffer from inferior work opportunities compared to men, less stable work, or unpaid work burdens (think stay-at-home moms that depend on a single income). Overall, this makes them more vulnerable to financial abuse.

Okay, so I might be a victim of financial abuse. What do I do?

I know it’s very difficult, especially if you’re a stay-at-home mom counting on your spouse’s income, to be truly financially independent. I have read personal stories of women feeling absolutely crippled by being given less money for basic necessities by their partner if they complain about their situation. Your partner may even threaten to leave you, which especially if you have kids, can be devastating.

But — and here’s my attempt at a glimmer of hope — there are some things you can do.

  • Start working on your financial literacy. I know (trust me, I know) finance is not the most exciting subject in the world. However, it pays to know at least the basics — how to take stock of your finances, how to make a simple budget, the best ways to save whatever you can, how to prioritize your expenses — for you to be able to properly assess your specific situation. There are plenty of free resources online. The Commission on Filipinos Overseas launched Peso Sense, a nationwide Financial Literacy campaign “designed to encourage improving productive expenditure, improve the capacity for saving and promote entrepreneurship among Filipino beneficiaries of international or domestic remittances.” The Peso Sense website, http://pesosense.com/, contains free e-Learning modules with topics like Basic Finance, Managing Your Money, and a primer on the stock market.
  • Ensure you know your own ATM PIN codes, online banking passwords, and similar login information. You can always change them if you feel they have been compromised.
  • Have copies of important financial documents such as your bank statements, credit card information, etc. Know which assets are in your / your spouse’s name (bank accounts, credit cards, land titles, etc.).
  • Save whatever you can — as Tesco used to put it, “Every Little Helps.” Put away the cash in a location only you know.
  • Look for a part-time job or sideline, if possible. If you blog, look for a way to monetize it. Maybe you can start a small online Facebook shop selling on consignment, or set up a makeshift sari-sari store at home.
  • Up-skill for free. There are plenty of free resources online if you wish to take courses to improve your skills: think Coursera, edX, or Open2Study, among others.
  • Reach out to trusted friends, family, or even your local church. Especially if you feel you’re a victim of abuse, as they may be able to help you and your family get back on your feet.
  • Financial abuse may be an indicator of more widespread abuse. You can report / discuss your situation using Violence Against Women (VAW) Hotlines on this link.

To paraphrase refuge.org.uk, remember: it’s your money, your life.

I’m interested to hear if you know of anyone with this experience, of if you have other suggestions of how to cope. Feel free to comment below.

 

Image credit: Fabian Blank

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A Ducky Day Out

I think it’s fun to act like tourists in our home city once in a while. It helps me avoid taking in the city’s beauty for granted.

Hubby and I passed by Marina Square the other week and saw a Duck Tour bus drive by. Why not take BB on a little tour of the Singapore sights? we thought. In case you don’t know what a Duck Tour bus is, it’s like any other tour bus except for the vehicle itself — the bus can drive on land and float on water (hence the name “duck”). Apparently these amphibious buses originated in World War II. According to The Atlantic: “The name DUKW derived from military equipment coding: D stood for the year of production (1942); U denoted its amphibious quality; K indicated front-wheel drive capability; W rear-wheel drive. Unsurprisingly, they just became known as ‘ducks.'”

A DUKW tour splashing in the water

We booked our Captain Explorer DUKW tour online through City Tours. Toddlers are charged S$2 (paid in person when you collect your tickets). The collection and meet-up point is at Marina Square Shopping Mall, with some conveniently placed kiddie rides opposite in case your little bub gets bored waiting to board.

The week leading up to our tour, BB couldn’t stop talking about it. “Sakay duck toi” (“Ride duck tour”) he declared at every opportunity — which made it ironic that as soon as we got on the bus, he started agitating to get off. 😅 I thought I had to forgo our S$28/person ticket fee, but he thankfully relaxed when the bus started moving (and the sights started to get interesting).

While the noise of the engine revving up may have had something to do with his initial fear, I think the tour guide’s crappy sound system (the constant microphone feedback was painful to hear!) and insistence on playing the PPAP song on loop was much, much worse. We had to endure her most of the ride. 😒

Thankfully — the sights more than made up for the sounds.

We had seen these landmarks before, but it was ours and BB’s first time to see them from a boat in the bay. (Hubby and I had taken a river cruise on a bum boat a few years ago, but only got as far as the Merlion.)

I had never seen the underside of the Helix Bridge before…

BB also got to see my office from afar…

He was delightfully engaged for most of the ride, pointing out the buildings, the Ferris wheel, the dragon boats, and even the taxis we spotted when we were still a little close to land. He loved the big wet splash the bus made when we entered the water.

We saw the following landmarks on the tour:

1. Marina Bay
2. Marina Barrage
3. Marina Bay Sands
4. Gardens on the Bay
5. Merlion
6. Helix Bridge
7. Floating Stadium
8. Marina Bay Financial Centre
9. Singapore Flyer
10. Fullerton Hotel

I suppose a positive for travelers taking the bus alone is that the noisy tour guide is more than happy to take photos. She also does the tour in both English and Chinese.

Before going back to Marina Square the DUKW tour bus also drove by The National Museum, St. Andrew’s Cathedral, and The Cenotaph, a war memorial honoring the WWI and WWII dead.

While it was an experience riding a DUKW tour bus I’ll probably recommend the Singapore River Cruise bum boats as a better option for cruising with toddlers — it’s quieter too!

That said, we got off at Marina Square hungry for some Wee Nam Kee chicken rice, fully satisfied with the little slice of Singapore we got to see that day.

Kids Read #9 (Halloween edition!): Ma-Me-Mi-MUMU! 🎃

It was always such a treat to be allowed to stay up late to watch Magandang Gabi, Bayan‘s Halloween specials, with its cheesy floating “white ladies” and powdered cemetery ghosts. To a ’90s kid like me they were the SCARIEST THING EVER (followed closely by the early Shake Rattle & Roll franchise).

Jomike Tejido’s Ma-Me-Mi-MUMU! is a wholesome take on the Philippine supernatural, through the eyes of little Sophia and her Lolo Nanding (Grandpa Nanding).

We begin with a neighborhood boy taunting Sophia, saying, “May mumu sa bahay n’yo!” (“There’s a mumu in your house!”) Sophia is afraid of encountering a mumu (monster) in her house — and imagines one in the kitchen, in the bathroom, or wherever she goes.

Lolo Nanding helps her overcome her fear of monsters by presenting them in a friendlier light. Tejido makes clever use of these creatures’ “real” traits as a way for Sophia to bond with them.

For example, Lolo Nanding encourages her to challenge any manananggal she meets to a sewing contest. In local folklore, manananggals are vampire-like creatures that can separate the upper and lower half of its body to be able to fly at night and prey on pregnant women. (!) But Tejido’s version is cute as a button!

Similarly, Lolo Nanding suggests that Sophia use the tiktik’s long, snaking tongue to paraglide…

… that she teach the tiyanak, a monster baby, his ABCs…

… and give the kapre, a cigar-smoking giant thought to reside in big trees, some pakwan (watermelon) candy so he’d dump his cigar.

For other monsters Tejido doesn’t stray far from folklore. If you pass an unexplained mound on the ground in the province it’s supposedly good practice to say “Tabi tabi po” (“Excuse me”) just in case you disturb these nuno sa punso, or Philippine dwarves.

Ma-Me-Mi-MUMU! is a fun introduction for children to a distinct part of Philippine culture. I personally love that Sophia is introduced to these creatures by her lolo, to whom she gives his favorite tea and fruit at the end, as thanks for rhyming so long.

There’s a gallery at the back of all the monsters in the book…

… and the book is bilingual in English and Filipino, so you can help your little one learn the language too.

A highly recommended, scary-not-so-scary book to read the kids this Halloween!

 

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Ma-Me-Mi-MUMU! (Tahanan Books)
Written and illustrated by Jomike Tejido

Php 195 at National Bookstore

Kids Read #8: There Was a Peranakan Woman Who Lived in a Shoe

I try to help BB embrace the vibrant culture here in his present home, Singapore, mainly through the books we read to him and by taking him around this small island-city. To BB, the best way to get from point A to B is via the local SBS or SMRT buses — he loves looking out the large windows and pointing at the things he sees (“Biddings! Tees! Canes!” [Buildings! Trees! Cranes!]).

As for books, Epigram Books has a lot of good selections for kids and adults alike. An excellent find of ours is There Was a Peranakan Woman Who Lived in a Shoe by Gwen Lee, a book BB has been asking us to read more of lately.

BB is now old enough to remember his favorite nursery rhymes. He even replaces the words sometimes, in an attempt to make us laugh (“Baa, baa black…BUS!”).

BB’s perfect for Ms. Lee’s book, which rewrites traditional English nursery rhymes in a Singaporean context, using local food, places and festivals.

For instance in “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Lights” (a recreation of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”), the focus is on the local Deepavali festival or ‘The Festival of Lights.’ Meant to symbolize light conquering the darkness, the Deepavali (or Diwali) festival has Hindus “waking up at dawn to bath in oil, dressing up in colorful clothing, and going to a local temple for prayers. At home, clay oil lamps are lit, doors are decked out with green mango leaves, and colorful designs called ‘rangoli,’ which are made of dyed rice or flours, are drawn on the floor. Homes are also thoroughly cleaned and adorned with flowers and other colorful decorations.” (1)

Other rhymes include ‘Hickory Dickory Dock’ (about the common house gecko instead of a mouse!), ‘Hey Diddle Diddle’ (about moon…cakes), and the titular poem, which instead of an old woman in a shoe with too many kids, is about a Peranakan woman in a shoe with too many nonya kueh (sweet or savory bite-sized snacks). Peranakan refers to Straits-born Chinese or Baba-Nyonya. They’re the masters of Singaporean staples like laksa, which “blend Chinese ingredients with cooking techniques and spices used by the Malay/Indonesian community.” Yum!

Beautifully illustrated by Cheryl Kook, the book is a lovely re-imagining of beloved traditional rhymes and humorous enough to merit repeat “Read, Mama!” requests from BB.

That’s good enough for me!

 

(1) Source: https://publicholidays.sg/deepavali/

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There Was a Peranakan Woman Who Lived in a Shoe (Epigram Books)
By Gwen Lee, Illustrations by Cheryl Kook

S$14.90 + GST