Let’s address a topic that is often considered taboo: domestic violence. Unfortunately, the issue is rarely openly discussed or acknowledged, and when it is, the focus tends to be on physical or verbal abuse. However, there is another aspect of abuse that has a profound impact on survivors – financial abuse, also known as economic abuse. This form of abuse affects a survivor’s finances, their ability to work, and their capacity to support themselves financially. The repercussions of financial abuse can extend long after the survivor has left their abuser, making it a particularly concerning and lasting form of abuse.
“He controlled all the money. I had to account for every cent that I spent.”
What is Financial Abuse?
Financial abuse is a form of manipulation and control that revolves around money and finances. The abuser exerts power by limiting the survivor’s access to financial resources and decision-making, such as taking control of bank accounts, hindering their ability to work, or damaging their credit.
Financial abuse occurs much more frequently than most people think. A study by the Centers for Financial Security found that it happens in a staggering 99% of domestic violence cases. What’s even more alarming is that it often serves as the first sign of dating violence or domestic abuse. Despite its common occurrence, many individuals fail to recognize it as a form of abuse, enabling its persistence.
Financial abuse is a subtle yet powerful way to keep the survivor feeling trapped and powerless. Although it may not leave visible marks like physical abuse, its impact can be equally devastating. Survivors often fear leaving their abusers due to concerns about their financial stability for themselves and their children, keeping them bound to the abusive relationship. This fear of financial insecurity drives many survivors to return to their abusers, perpetuating the cycle of abuse.
“I loved him and trusted him with our money, now I’m left with all his debts.”
Warning Signs of Financial Abuse
It’s crucial to recognize signs of financial abuse because it can be life-threatening for the survivors. Unfortunately, this type of abuse is often easily concealed, making it hard for family members to detect.
Signs of financial abuse include:
- Controlling financial resources. An abusive partner may take full control of finances, making all financial decisions without input from the survivor, including managing bank accounts, investments, and financial transactions without the survivor’s input or knowledge.
- Restricting or limiting access to money. The survivor may be denied access to bank accounts, credit cards, or cash, leaving them financially dependent on the abuser.
- Sabotaging Employment Opportunities: Abusers may interfere with their partner’s job, leading to loss of employment or hindering career growth.
- Ruining Credit: The abuser may accumulate debt in the victim’s name or deliberately default on financial obligations, damaging their credit score and financial standing.
- Forced Financial Dependence: The survivor is forced into handing over their paychecks, public benefits, or financial assets to the abuser, leaving them financially vulnerable and without control over their own money.
- Hiding Assets: Abusers may hide financial assets, making it challenging for survivors to gain their fair share during separation or divorce.
- Forced Debt: Survivors may be pressured to take on debt they are not comfortable with or didn’t agree to, creating a sense of entrapment.
“Financial abuse isn’t always just about getting money from someone…it’s really about power and control.”
It’s important to remember that financial abuse can coexist with other forms of abuse, such as emotional, physical, or sexual abuse. If you or someone you know is experiencing financial abuse or any form of abuse, seek support from trusted friends, family, or professional organizations like Family Sunshine Center to ensure safety and find ways to break free from the abusive situation.