Serena Williams raises awareness about financial abuse
She's fierce on the court, with a nearly 25-year professional tennis career that includes 23 Grand Slam singles titles and 4 Olympic gold medals. But Serena Williams, one of the most successful female athletes in the world, is giving voice to an issue rarely talked about.
"I had no idea what financial abuse was. When I read that 99% of domestic violent cases do involve financial abuse, I feel like that was a really, really high number, and it's shocking," Williams told CBS News correspondent Jericka Duncan.
Financial abuse is defined as an abuser taking control of finances to prevent the other person from leaving to maintain power in a relationship. The National Network to End Domestic Violence says financial abuse occurs in nearly all domestic violence cases. Williams said she's seen the impact through a friend.
"A really close friend of mine was going through a situation that wasn't really healthy for her, wasn't healthy for her friends, or her family-- and it was difficult to tell her. And then I realized, look, oh my goodness, she's-- all the signs that I was learning about with financial abuse, she was involved in. It was really intense," Williams said.
Williams, a national ambassador for Allstate Foundation Purple Purse, teamed up with the foundation to release an ad called "Signs" to help educate people about financial abuse.
Shelley de Vito said she knows the signs first hand. For 17 years she was married to a man she said financially abused her.
"I had to get permission to buy groceries. I was told what stores to go to to buy various items," de Vito said. "I had to turn in the receipt when it was given to me."
The preschool teacher rarely told anyone.
"Any time I said anything people would say, 'Did he hit you?... At least he doesn't hit you,'" de Vito said. "And so it does make you feel shame, it makes you think, 'Well, maybe it's not that bad.'"
She said her children gave her the courage to leave.
"My kids were 11 and 14 at the time and I was like, what am I showing my 14 year old son? I didn't want him to think this is how a man treats a woman and I didn't want my daughter to think that this is what we do. That we're submissive to a man," de Vito said.
De Vito took her now ex-husband to court, claiming he financially abused her. He denied all her allegations in his court filings.
"Over three million children will witness domestic violence. How important is that when you think about your own family, when you think about your role as a mother, and putting your voice behind a cause like this?" Duncan asked Williams.
"I feel like a responsibility to make people know more about things like financial abuse-- and how to avoid it. Like, I wanna teach my daughter everything about it, and if I have more kids, and if I happen to have a boy, I wanna teach him about it so he is not a part of the problem, and only adds to the solutions," Williams said.
De Vito said now she feels more empowered by her choices and shares her story with domestic violence victims.
"When you feel invalidated, disrespected, afraid, silenced, verbally, emotionally, sexually, financially, physically abused, it is not a healthy relationship and you need to leave. For yourself, for your children and for your life," she said.
Allstate's Purple Purse initiative is providing domestic abuse survivors with a step-by-step financial empowerment curriculum. If you or someone you know is suffering from any form of domestic abuse, reach out to the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.
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