Financial abuse is a form of domestic violence that often goes unreported. While it can take many different forms, financial abuse typically occurs when one person in a relationship controls the other person’s financial resources and prohibits them from accessing financial information.
According to a study by the Center for Financial Security at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, 42 million women suffer intimate partner violence, with 99% suffering financial abuse.
But the data may not show the whole picture of how severely financial abuse impacts its victims.
“I was the model wife, dressing and looking the part, dying my hair the way my husband liked, and representing the family at the PTA the way he thought I should,” explained one anonymous victim.* “I married really young, so when my husband said it wasn’t my job to know what was going on financially, I believed him. I also believed him when he called me selfish for asking for free access to our joint accounts or a little more allowance.”
Financial abuse can be incredibly damaging to victims both emotionally and financially.
Financial abuse can take many forms but often includes the abuser taking control of the victim’s finances, preventing them from accessing money or financial resources, and limiting their ability to make decisions about their financial affairs.
In some cases, financial abuse can even lead to bankruptcy or homelessness. “I remember realizing when things were wrong. I had no access to any accounts without him and nowhere to go after spending years isolating from my family,” she explains.
Financial abuse also serves as a way to control victims. Limiting access to money and financial resources allows abusers to keep victims under their thumb and prevent them from escaping the relationship.
“He used every trick in the book to get me to stay, including threatening custody of my kids, kicking me out of our home, ruining my good name with family friends. I thought it could happen to me, but there I was, trapped.”
It can be difficult to spot financial abuse, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the signs.
Here are ten signs of financial abuse.
Being forced to sign financial documents you don’t understand.
Having someone else control your financial accounts or decisions.
Receiving an excessive number of financial demands.
Being denied access to financial information.
Receiving threats of eviction, repossession, or being cut off from essential services that you are entitled to.
Being forced to give up your property or assets.
Receiving harassing or threatening phone calls, text messages, or emails about money.
Having someone accompany you when you go to the bank or other financial institution.
Seeing unexplained withdrawals or transfers from your accounts.
Having to ask for money from others to meet your basic needs.
The financial abuse survivor explains, “It wasn’t always obvious. He would make me feel like I was stupid if I didn’t agree to do things his way. He also told me that I was lucky to be with him and that I needed to do what he said.” Eventually, the victim was able to escape financial abuse and find a better life for herself.
Here are some of her tips for escaping financial abuse:
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Many people are willing to help, including strangers, friends, family, and professionals.
Stay strong and focused. It can be difficult to break free from financial abuse, but remember that you are worth it.
Create a budget and stick to it. This can help you regain control of your financial situation.
Get organized. Keep track of your expenses and income, as well as your assets and liabilities.
Educate yourself about financial planning and investing. This will help you make informed decisions about your money.