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Kerry Washington Is Working to End a Hidden, Powerful Form of Domestic Abuse

Kerry Washington Is Working to End a Hidden, Powerful Form of Domestic Abuse

Financial abuse occurs in 98 percent of abusive relationships, according to the National Network to End Domestic Violence and "Scandal" star Kerry Washington is working to change that.

"I had never heard the term financial abuse before I started working with the Allstate Foundation," Washington said in an interview at the United State of Women White House summit last week. "And yet it's in 99 percent of domestic violence cases. It's also the No. 1 reason why women don't leave domestic violence, and the No. 1 reason why even when they leave, they go back, because they don't have the financial empowerment or wherewithal to stand on their own, to be truly free."

Washington has been working to end gender-based violence for nearly a decade though now she is working with The Allstate Foundation's "Purple Purse" charity initiative. The initiative creates a practical way for victims to escape a cycle of abuse, by resolving one of the most hidden but powerful reasons they feel compelled to stay.

Financial abuse is a term used to describe when someone is controlling a partner with a host of tactics like running up debt on a joint account, showing up at his or her workplace and sabotaging him or her, withholding financial information, or assigning a meager daily or weekly salary in order for him or her to live.

Purple Purse targets just that kind of abuse by giving women small loans to buy cars, in addition to offering help with rebuilding credit, saving for a new place to live, and creating a small business.

The organization says it has invested more than $50 million into the program and helped 800,000 women escape domestic violence situations.

Find out more about the program and how you can help support the Purple Purse Challenge here. If you are facing domestic violence or abuse, visit the National Domestic Violence hotline here.

NEXT: Kerry Washington Discusses What She's Doing for Domestic Violence Awareness Month »

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Photo Credit: YURI GRIPAS/AFP/Getty Images