October 06, 2019
Listen to Podcast Episode:
One focus of the Women and Money Podcast is shining the light on financial abuse. About a year ago, The National Domestic Abuse Hotline teamed up with Avon and asked Suze to speak with survivors.
Today's podcast is a conversation with a woman by the name of Lisselot. Lisselot is a survivor of domestic abuse, financial abuse, physical abuse, all kinds of abuse. And as you may know, this is a passion of mine because why? One out of four women in the United States of America suffer from financial abuse, and every single one of them that I have ever talked to got in it the same way. They met somebody, they loved this person because this person was so nice to them, gave them everything they wanted. They moved in together, even though Lisselot, as you'll see in this episode, had a job was doing great, she was working, everything. Eventually, the abuser always asks for you to quit your job, they promise you the world, and as soon as you do not have any money on your own and now you are stuck, that's when they go to town. So, take a listen to the story directly from Lisselot.Lisselot, number one, thank you for coming to want to share your story. I've read a little bit about what's happened to you, and, you know what I find fascinating, is that you went through years with your husband as, you know, an abusive relationship when it came to financial abuse. But it wasn't until he became physically abusive with you that you had what it took to leave right away. So, shed some light on this for us.Everything started when I met this guy in the Dominican Republic where I'm from. He is 19 years older than me, so when I met him, he was so caring about what is going on with me and helping me make decisions. And he's someone that knows what he wants, or so I thought, somebody more mature than me. He was so demanding, for example. He asked me to marry him and then we prepared the wedding in three weeks because he told me he wants me to be here with him. And then that's the way to get my residency, the green card, and then I can live here, work and make a future together. When I moved to the U.S., I started working in April 2013 and we decided to save money together. So, I was putting most of my income in a locked safety deposit box at home with a password, not a key. In the beginning, I saw the money, everything was there and we had a good relationship, but he tried to manipulate me. He started telling me, how you have to wear this skirt, I'm not talking about the shirt, but the skirts. He'd say wear jeans, it's better for you. He started with that kind of manipulation, but I didn't pay attention to that red flag because I was in love with him.So, when I got pregnant, and he started telling me that I look ugly, you're getting fat, you are not the same person that I met before, and I don't know if I'm still in love with you with this pregnancy.And when he would say these things to you, what would you think?I think that he was right. Yes.So, wait. Wait. He told you that you were ugly, you're fat, you're not the same woman. And you would look at yourself and go, you're right?No, not right away, because it was a process. So, I was gaining weight, you know, and then I believed his words.So Lisselot, one of the main warning signs that you would tell women is that as soon as your spouse, or your boyfriend, or girlfriend starts to control you, they start to degrade how you look, how you act, how you are, they're controlling. Why do you have to do this? Why do you have to do that? This is what you should wear. Is that a main flag that everybody should pay attention to?Of course, it is. Yeah, because they never start hating you, they start little by little, probably trying to lower your self-esteem, trying to make you feel that you are not good enough. And this is the process. This person is playing games with your mind. And then when I get home with a newborn, he asks me to resign from my job. So, stay home with my daughter for her well-being. And then he said he will take care of the bills. And did you?I did. And when he asked you to stay home with your daughter to take care of her and he would take care of the bills, did he take care of the bills?No, he didn't. I had to ask my family for money so I could pay my cell phone, buy groceries, buy diapers, to buy the things that I need. What he did, he used to buy take out from restaurants, just for him. So, it was a difficult time without savings because after that, when I asked him for money, the money that I saved, he told me the truth. He lost all of the money in gambling. So, the money that you put into the safety deposit box that had a combination on, that you originally would see the money go in there, did he change the combination?Yes, of course. So, he told me, oh, you know what? I spent all the money in the casino.So he had a gambling addiction?Exactly. How much did you put into that little safety deposit box?Around $12,000 one year working.You were able to save out of your own money $12,000? What did you do?I worked in an insurance brokerage office.And you do have a degree?Yes.What do you have?I have a bachelor's degree in marketing and I have an MBA in business from Spain.So here you are, this educated woman, self-reliant woman, able to save $12,000. Yet you couldn't see the situation that you were in. When I say that to you. How does that make you feel?Uh, right now it makes me feel oh, my God, I opened my eyes. That's what I think now. But at that moment, I was so disturbed, I didn't know what to do. Oh, my God, that was too hard for me to figure it out. What made you open your eyes?When he told me he spent all the money. And then when I asked him, and I was so upset, he was like you know what? I can hit you with this belt. And he did it, like, you are my child, you know? I don't know if it's because he's 19 years older than me. He thought that he was like my dad.So, he took his belt off and hit you with it? Like he spanked you?Yes. Yeah, like if I did something wrong and I was a child, you know? And he did those things with my daughter in his arms. So, I cried and I tried to calm him because of my daughter, I was more concerned about her,you know? I tried to calm him, and I told him, let's fix everything. And then I waited like one hour to make sure, and then just took my baby in my arms and I ran. I left the passport and my ID's, everything. So right after he hit you, you took your baby and you ran out the door?Yeah, one hour later.Where was he when you ran?He was in the kitchen, I was praying a lot. Oh, God help me, let me find a way to get out of here. And he was in the kitchen and probably he thought that I wouldn't leave him, because at that moment I didn't have a job, no savings, no family here, you know?And you left? That took courage. You walked out the door with your daughter, no clothes, no identification, absolutely nothing. No money. Where did you go?I took a cab and I went to my friend's house.And did you ask your friend for money to pay for the cab? Yes, yes, she helped me a lot. I was there for three days because then I went to the police to make a report. And the police officer gave me a card and he told me to go to that place and ask for help. And then I asked for help and they gave me shelter for me and my daughter, it was a nice place and I felt safe, and I felt that I could start over.And did you ever have contact with him again?Yes, because he's my daughter's father.Does your daughter still see him now?Yes.In the beginning, I used to have to drop off my daughter in a police presence. It was for one year, we did that every two weeks. And today when you drop off your daughter with him, are you afraid that one day he'll disappear with her?No, no, I'm not. Probably because his abuse was just for me, not for her. He loves her and actually he has his own life, he has someone, he has a wife.And is he on any level contributing financially?Not right now. What I'm receiving for child support is $50 per month, can you believe that?No. But I can believe it.So how are you making it now? How do you make it financially?I'm working in a property management office. So, I try to make my budget and keep my eyes on my money. This is an opportunity for me to start over. To build my life again, to help other women, because they probably don't know that they are living under abuse.Which was worse? The physical abuse, the one-time hit with the whip, or the financial abuse?The first one was verbal and emotional. And that was the worst? Exactly. The financial abuse happened before, but I didn't know.What is that about? Do you know that every one of you, even 20 years after it's been over, you've just realized you had financial abuse? It's almost as if financial abuse doesn't even exist until you realize, somebody else tells you, oh, you were abused financially. What do you think that's about?For example, in my case, I figured it out when I asked him for the money and he told me he spent all the money. So, the financial abuse it was happening before but when I figured it out, the physical abuse and financial abuse were the same day.So, the worst for you was the verbal and the emotional, then the financial, then the physical. Don't you find that fascinating? Because most people think it's only an abusive relationship if it's physical. And the true damage, the true damage, at least in my opinion, is that which you cannot see. Do you feel that you've overcome that damage now?I did. And what allowed you to be able to do that?First of all, my self-esteem. And my daughter. That's not the kind of life that I want for me, and I don't want that kind of life for my daughter.And what would be the final message that you would want all the women watching this to know?Yes, I would tell them to be aware of the red flags. And don't try to help somebody when you are not helping yourself.I love that. And what would you tell them about money?Oh, keep your eyes on your money. Because I just put 100% in another person and I didn't put attention in my money because I trusted him. Now, I'm always checking my accounts and everything that I have.I love that. Thank you so much for sharing, yeah, love you, girlfriend. Thank you. Remember, if you are being abused or you know someone who is being abused, please reach out to the National Domestic Violence Hotline or Purple Purse, or write to me here at AskSuzePodcast@gmail.com. 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