Financial abuse in relationships is a very real and heartbreaking form of domestic abuse. It can be difficult to recognize and even harder to confront, but it is important to be aware of the warning signs of financial abuse in order to take action and protect yourself.
Financial abuse can be hard to identify because it is a subtle form of abuse, however, it has extensive and lasting effects on the victim.
What is financial Abuse in Relationships?
Financial abuse in romantic relationships is a pattern of behavior in which one person controls or exploits another person’s access to financial resources.
It can be one isolated incident but usually a long-standing pattern of behavior by an abusive partner.
Financial Abuse leaves the victim isolated and completely financially dependent on the abuser. Over time, the victim will lose all confidence regarding finances and will find it difficult to perform basic financial functions like managing a bank account and budgeting.
A financially abusive relationship often stems from a desire to control another person, but it can be a symptom of a wider issue, such as substance abuse or a domestically abusive situation.
Financial abuse in relationships typically occurs when one partner has significantly more power or authority over joint finances.
Financial abuse in relationships can take many forms:
- From controlling the victim’s access to money.
- Preventing the victim from working by creating reasons why this is not possible or discouraging them from working, can extend to physically hurting them so that they cannot go to work or keeping them up the night before an important meeting with a senseless argument.
- Regulating the victim’s income.
- Not allowing the victim to have a bank account, credit card, or access to other financial resources.
- A victim of financial abuse can be pressured and manipulated into signing documents or making financial decisions without understanding the consequences.
- Financial abusers lie about financial matters, such as the amount of debt or the state of the household’s finances.
- The abuser uses someone’s financial resources for their own benefit, such as taking out loans or opening credit accounts in the victim’s name without their consent.
- An individual uses money or access to money to manipulate and dominate another person.
- Confiscating or inappropriately using someone else’s finances or belongings and coercing them to make financial decisions that they would rather not make.
- One partner has absolute authority over all financial matters and resources, while the other partner is not allowed to have any input or access to financial documents.
- Withholding child support payments.
- Refusing to work and claiming that they cannot contribute to the economic resources of the household.
- Using the victim’s debit card and credit cards without their permission.
It is essential to be familiar with the warning signs so that financial abuse can be identified and addressed.
As a victim, you may not be aware that what you are experiencing is financial abuse, until you find yourself isolated with no access to funds. A frightening place to be especially considering the blame lies at the feet of the very person who you felt was taking care of you.
It is important to note that financial abuse often occurs alongside other forms of abuse, such as physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, and it can be a tool used by the abuser to exert power and control over the victim.
Financial Abuse of the Elderly
Financial abuse of the elderly is a serious issue that also needs to be addressed as the elderly are at increased risk of a number of forms of financial abuse.
It occurs when someone exploits an elderly person for financial gain, through deception, coercion, fraud, exploitation, and taking advantage of an older person’s mental or physical incapacity.
In some cases, it can even involve manipulating the elderly into signing a document without their full understanding of the implications and this could include a power of attorney.
It can range from outright theft to predatory lending and more subtle forms of elderly financial exploitation. Such abuse can leave the elderly person in a difficult financial situation, with few resources and options.
Unfortunately, such financial abuse of the elderly can be difficult to detect and often goes unreported.
This is why it’s important for those who care for the elderly to be aware of the signs of financial exploitation.
The signs include a sudden change in financial circumstances, unexplained withdrawals from bank accounts or investments, large transfers of funds, or someone taking control of their finances without their knowledge.
It’s also important to provide trusted financial education to the elderly and to make sure that they have access to resources and support to make financial decisions that are in the best interests of their financial assets.
Financial abuse of the elderly is a serious issue, and it’s our responsibility as family members to protect older adults from financial exploitation.
Warning Signs of Financial Abuse in Relationships
If you are not in a financially abusive relationship the signs of abuse seem very obvious.
But for many women, this form of family violence happened slowly over a long time and they initially thought that their partner had good intentions and was just taking good care of them. They do not realize the extent of the damage that is being done to them.
It is therefore important to be aware of the warning signs so that you can best protect yourself and your loved ones that may be experiencing financial abuse.
the warning signs of Financial Abuse are:
Controlling Access to Money
This happens when one person in the relationship has complete control and undue influence over the finances, including how and when their partner can access their own money.
If your partner is controlling your access to your own money this is a sign of financial abuse in the relationship.
It can be subtle and start out with seemingly helpful suggestions such as “why don’t you put that toward your debt?” or “you should invest this money you’ve saved.”
This then escalates to a point where you are prevented from accessing your own funds, using your credit card, or being prevented from working.
This process happens slowly, and the trusting victim does not even realize that they are giving up their power and financial control until it is too late.
Diversion of Assets
Your partner removes assets, such as cash, jewelry, property, or other valuables, from your name, preventing you from accessing those resources.
While this is not always a sign of financial abuse in a relationship, it is an action that should be addressed and brought to the attention of authorities if it is ongoing.
Using Financial Resources Without Permission
Your partner uses your credit cards, takes out loans in your name, or withdraws funds from your bank account without your permission.
This is a serious sign that should be addressed immediately. Financial institutions and your credit card company need to be notified otherwise you will land up with personal debt and a very poor credit score.
Coercive Financial Control
In an unhealthy relationship, your partner will control your access to financial resources by threatening you, your family, or your future. This includes threats of suicide, harm to your children, or blackmail.
Another common tactic used by the abuser is to also avoid making payments for basic necessities and indirectly force you to make these payments.
How to Deal With Financial Abuse in Relationships
Recovering from financial abuse can be a long and difficult process, but there are steps that you can take to help rebuild your financial security and independence.
a. Get Support from Family and Friends
If you are in this situation, it is important to reach out to your friends and family and ask for their support. Yes, this is often difficult and embarrassing, however, you need support and protection from a financially abusive situation.
Your family might be able to help you access funds or provide the emotional support that you need.
Talking to someone close to you can help you gain a new perspective and may help you to see that what you are experiencing is not normal.
In abusive relationships, the victim’s normal is not considered by others to be normal. The victim, however, does not realize this, as their normal has changed ever so slowly over time that they never realized it.
b. Seek Professional Help
If you feel that you could be in a financially abusive relationship, you should seek professional help. This can come in the form of therapy, a support group, or from law enforcement.
Alternatively, you could call the National Domestic Violence Hotline as these relationships are very difficult to navigate once your financially abusive partner realizes that you want to regain your financial independence.
Having a therapist or counselor can be helpful because they are trained to help you navigate this situation and have unbiased advice that can guide your next steps.
c. Gather Evidence
If the financial abuse in the relationship has gotten to the point where you feel like you are being exploited, you should start gathering evidence. This can come in the form of text messages, emails, credit card statements, bank statements, or any other information that can prove what is going on.
This can be helpful if you decide to take legal action or if you need to end the relationship while protecting yourself financially.
d. Create a Financial Plan
Depending on the severity of the financial abuse in the relationship, you may not be able to access your own funds. If this is the case, you need to create a financial plan that will help you to survive until the situation is resolved and you are in a position to leave the relationship.
This can be done by creating a budget that shows how much money you have coming in each month and what expenses you need to pay.
You should also assemble a list of possible ways that you can earn money in a short amount of time. This can come in the form of odd jobs, selling things you don’t need, or bartering.
Financial literacy is an essential life skill that you will need to relearn after being financially abused.
E. Establish financial independence
If you have been financially dependent on a partner who has been financially abusing you, it will be necessary to work on building your own financial independence.
This could involve getting a job, opening your own bank account, or seeking financial assistance from a trusted organization or government agency.
If you have not worked for a long period, you will need to research job training that you may be interested in.
Educating yourself on financial independence will prepare you for when you leave an abusive relationship.
F. Close Joint Accounts
If you have joint accounts with your abuser, it is important to close these accounts and open new ones in your own name. Having new accounts in your own name will prevent your abuser from accessing your money and creating more debt for you to take care of.
G. Repair your credit
If the abuser has damaged your credit by taking out loans or opening credit accounts in your name without your consent, it may be necessary to take steps to repair your credit.
This could involve disputing errors on your credit report, paying off any outstanding debts, and working with a credit counselor to develop a plan for rebuilding your credit.
H. Seek legal help
If you are in a legal dispute with a financial abuser, such as a divorce or custody battle, it may be helpful to seek legal assistance to protect your interests and ensure that your rights are upheld. Seek out assistance from people who are familiar with and have experience with abusers and domestic violence cases.
It is important to remember that recovering from financial abuse can be a long and challenging process, and it may be necessary to seek ongoing support and assistance as you work to rebuild your financial security and independence.
Plan to Leave the Financially Abusive Relationship
Realizing what your partner has done or is doing to you financially is devastating. You will feel trapped and isolated but need to make a plan to leave the relationship.
Bearing in mind that leaving an abusive relationship can be very dangerous, please be cautious when making plans.
You will need to:
- Upskill yourself so that you will be able to get a job.
- You will need to save as much money as possible either in a new account or in a safe hiding place. Your abusive partner cannot come to know about this, as your plan to leave the relationship will become evident and they will become angry and you will be at risk.
- You will need to gather all the important documentation that you will need once you have left. This documentation may include birth certificates and your social security number.
- The next step will be to find affordable housing, either with family or through a shelter. If you are afraid that your abuser will know where to find you if you stay with family then a shelter would be best.
- Your long-term security is important so make good choices based on your particular circumstances.
Financial abuse in relationships is an insidious form of domestic abuse. It is often underreported because the victim may not know it is happening or feels ashamed of the situation.
It is important to be aware of the warning signs of financial abuse in relationships so that you can protect yourself and those you love.
If you are experiencing financial abuse in your relationship, remember that you are not alone. There are many people who can help you, including a therapist or a social worker.
Please reach out to people who can help you. These situations never improve, they will only get worse until you have nothing left.
Take care of yourself and your loved ones. There are many survivors of domestic violence and you will be one too.
Do you now feel more prepared to deal with your financial abuse?