Kerry Washington has never been shy about speaking out about issues relating to women's rights. Now, she's doing so in an official capacity as an ambassador for the Allstate Foundation Purple Purse campaign, a movement to fight against domestic violence in all of its insidious forms — including financial abuse.
"We can see black eyes and we can see bruising...[but] financial abuse is the number one reason why women stay and why they can't walk away," Washington told People magazine.
According to The National Network for Ending Domestic Violence, 98% of domestic violence cases also involve some type of financial abuse, which is defined as one partner using money as a weapon to control the other.
Perpetrators of domestic violence often use financial abuse to isolate victims, chip away at their independence and discourage them from reporting mistreatment. One survey of women who left abusive relationships found up to 77% of survivors were unable to leave their relationships because they were financially dependent on their partners.
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This is the third year in a row that Washington has served as the ambassador for the Purple Purse campaign, which aims to "bring financial abuse out of the shadows so victims can get the healing and support they deserve," according to the campaign's website.
As in previous years, Washington will debut a new trademark purple handbag and spearhead a new social media campaign to raise awareness, featuring the hashtag #freetowalk. The campaign's kick-off video, "America's Largest Prison," was inspired by the true story of a Michigan mother who managed to break free of an abusive relationship.
In the United States alone, one in every three women and one in four men will or have experienced physical violence from an intimate partner, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Although victims of financial abuse are not subject to physical violence, Washington wants people to know that it can be just as traumatizing as physical abuse.
"Financial abuse is such an invisible weapon," Washington told People magazine. "...It matters so much to be able to do something about that because it unlocks the solutions in the other areas as well."