Financial Abuse is Domestic Violence

My husband used money for leverage, power, control and triangulation. He tried to use money to regain control over me after he abandoned me & I went no contact. I was terrified when he first left me with no money, food & all the bills past due, but I’ve made it. It hasn’t been easy but God has supplied all of my needs. Healing has been slow but I’m in such a better place spiritually & mentally. I would not be where I’m at today without the kindness of strangers & a Secret Angel to whom I will forever be grateful.


By Survivors for Survivors

The Impact of Financial Abuse
Dating a Thief: The Impact of Financial Abuse

By Amy Thomson

One of the most frequently cited reasons survivors give for not leaving an abusive relationship is lack of financial resources. Estimates state that victims experience financial abuse in 98 – 99% of all cases of domestic violence. It is a form of control that restricts the victim from being financially independent through hardship and traps the victim in the abuse because they have no way to survive outside the relationship.

The main reason financial abuse is such an effective form of control is that victims often rely on the abuser for shelter, food, clothing, medical, and child care expenses. It is common for abusers to deny victims the right to work outside the home as a way to exact tighter control over their victims.

Under these circumstances, the victim and children are at the abuser’s mercy as the abuser is the only source of income. The victim has no source of independent income and relies upon the abuser’s medical insurance and salary to cover household expenses and personal needs. Victims are often barred access to lines of credit and bank cards and given an “allowance” by their abuser that is insufficient to cover household expenses.

Even when the victim is allowed to work – or is forced to be the only provider – the abuser still usurps control over household finances. Paper checks are confiscated and the abuser controls access to the victim’s bank cards.

Some of the more obvious impacts of economic abuse make it challenging to be financially self-sufficient in a world that requires stable income and credit ratings for the most basic needs. It can damage the victim’s credit score and make it impossible to qualify for loans, mortgages, and other lines of credit. Evictions lead to difficulty in securing safe, affordable housing. Finding work can be a struggle when the victim does not feel comfortable explaining the gaps in employment.

What may not be so obvious is the potential to increase the level of danger in cases of intimate partner violence. One of the most troubling aspects of economic abuse is the power it has to trap the victim with the abuser. When combined with isolation tactics – either through physical distance or forced alienation from loved ones – the risk increases exponentially.

Entrapment by financial abuse occurs because the victim is financially dependent upon the abuser due to lack of access to family finances making it nearly impossible to leave. When the abuser controls all aspects of the victim’s financial life, the victim has no safety net. Without work, a victim seeking to escape their abuser cannot afford basics like shelter, utilities, food, medical or child care. Knowing they cannot afford these things on their own often leads them to stay with their abuser and keeps them at risk for escalation of abuse, physical injury, or death.

Financial abuse also causes hardships after a victim has left. Costs of living and inability to find sufficient work coupled with damaged credit increases their risk of homelessness and living in poverty. Medical conditions may go untreated as they cannot afford doctors’ appointments or medication. Conditions may deteriorate to the degree where the victim may return to their abuser. When the victim makes this choice, they are at increased risk of retaliation, heightened control, and escalation of physical violence.

Signs of Financial Abuse

Your partner demands that you account for all expenditures and often becomes angered at the smallest discrepancy.
Your partner displays signs of annoyance or jealousy when you spend money on yourself or others – even if the purchases are small amounts.
Your partner expects you to ask them before you spend any money – even if you are not married and do not share joint accounts.
Your partner presses you to leave your job and stay at home under the guise of wanting to take care of you. They may also force you to work in positions that bar you from advancing or be unsupportive of promotions. Conversely, your partner may refuse to work and force you to cover all living expenses.
You have become scared of your partner’s reaction when you spend money and hide purchases.
Your partner assumes control of all finances and forces you ask permission for access to money, lines of credit, or other accounts. You may also have an “allowance” that deliberately falls short of personal expenses or bills.
Your partner forces you to give them your PIN numbers and passwords for all financial accounts.
Your partner accumulates unpaid debts in your name and refuses to pay them off. You also may be asked to cosign for loans in their name or close out your 401K.
Your partner interferes with access to transportation to and from work or acts in such a way that causes you to be fired from your job.
What to Do before Leaving

If you are safely able, keep small amounts of change from purchases hidden in a safe place or open a bank account or credit line in your name with all communication set to electronic.

If you cannot safely hide the above at home, hide money and important financial, personal, and medical information with someone you trust. This includes account numbers on which the abuser may have you listed.

Use the phone or computer of someone you trust to search for information on public assistance and domestic violence organizations.

What to Do after Leaving

To determine the extent of damage caused by the financial abuse, you need to begin the discovery process by pulling credit reports. You can run three free reports a year at AnnualCreditReport.Com. Once you have a clearer picture of the damage, begin contacting creditors. You can also dispute errors or fraudulent activity with the bureaus.

Another resource you can use is your state’s Crime Victims Board. Some allow for the application of financial assistance for urgent basic needs with the provision that you had your abuser arrested and charged.

Some domestic violence organizations like Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence have financial literacy and grant programs. They may also have scholarship programs for survivors and family affected by domestic violence. Others may have holiday adoption programs to help those affected by abuse afford gifts for children.

Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence MISSION:
To educate communities on the dangers of domestic violence, connect victims and survivors, and assist them in the transformation of their lives – by providing a personal development retreat, scholarships, financial empowerment, an advocate-run hotline, and our innovative awareness campaigns.

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