Financial abuse is a less commonly understood or spoken about form of abuse
By Edith Mecha
In most times when we talk about domestic violence, we tend to focus on physical, sexual and emotional abuse. Rarely does financial abuse come to mind. But why? Because financial abuse is a less commonly understood or spoken about form of abuse. Sadly, this abuse or control of one’s access to family finances and assets is prevalent and has devastating consequences. It rarely happens in isolation as perpetrators use other abusive methods to threaten and buttress the finance abuse. Research observes that it occurs in up to 99 percent of domestic violence cases.
Financial abuse just like emotional, physical, and sexual abuse involves tactics to intentionally manipulate, control, intimidate and threaten the victim in order to tie them in the relationship. It can happen to anyone of any age, race, ethnic group, socio-economic, educational status.
This abuse is one of the most powerful tactics of keeping a survivor trapped in an abusive relationship and severely weakens their ability to stay safe and financially stable after leaving the relationship.
So, why is it less spoken about?
Financial abuse is not easily noticeable at first. It is often silent and invisible. Like all the other forms of abuse it often begins subtly and gradually progresses over time. You may find instances where a partner – demands the other to stop working against their wish, takes credit using the victim’s bank details without consulting them, limits access to basic necessities like the family car.
A research conducted by the Co-operative Bank observes that one in five adults will experience financial abuse within a relationship. For women, financial abuse rarely happens in isolation – 86 percent experience other forms of abuse. Half of the victims experience a partner taking financial assets without permission while a third of the victims suffer in silence, telling no-one.
Financial freedom is a major desire for everyone, which is why it is so important to understand what financial abuse looks like.
Let’s check out some of the common signs of financial abuse below:
Financial abuse can be difficult to identify because people have different ways of handling money in their relationships. However, there are common methods that abusers use to gain financial control over their partner. They involve:
- Forces you to quit your job against your wish
- Sabotaging your work by harassing you at the workplace or battering you and causing you to miss work
- Forbidding the victim from attending job training or career advancement opportunities
- Controlling how all the household money is spent
- Not including the victim in investment or banking decisions
- Spends your money without your knowledge
- Withholding finances or giving you “allowances”
- Demanding an account for everything you spend
- Hiding or limiting access to assets
- Stealing the victim’s identity, property, or inheritance
- Forcing the victim to work in a family business without pay
- Refusing to pay bills and ruining the victims’ credit score
- Limits your access to your own bank account or mutual bank accounts
- Lives in your home without working or helping with household tasks
- Forcing the victim to write bad checks or file fake tax returns
- Running up large amounts of debt on joint accounts
- Refusing to pay or evading child support or manipulating the divorce process by drawing it out by hiding or not disclosing assets
- Preventing you from going to work by hiding car or gate keys
- Takes credit using your bank cards and refuses to offset it
- Threatens to cut you off financially when you disagree
- Uses funds from children’s savings account without mutual agreement
- Engages in other forms of abuse like silent treatment, belittling or physical abuse when they get angry over your spending habits
Financial abuse has devastating consequences on the victim. The abuse has tremendous threats to their financial well-being and prevents them from realizing their personal financial capability. Studies show that most women fear to leave the abuser because of lack of finances to support themselves and their children when out of the relationship. And for those that manage to leave, some end up returning to the abuser because of the financial strains. The need for governments and women rights organizations to create plans supporting survivors to become economically stable and self-sufficient after leaving cannot be understated.
There is need for more awareness around this form of abuse. Learning about its common signs is a good starting point. Speaking out can feel tough but getting support is particularly important.
Remember: If you feel that you might be experiencing financial abuse, please know that it is not your fault and that there are resources available if you need them. Also, look for someone you trust and share with them for more help. Check out resources here.
Watch out ways you can help a friend or a loved one going through domestic violence.
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