When people think of domestic abuse, they often think of the physical, verbal, or emotional forms of it. Rarely does financial abuse get mentioned, but it is actually more common than you might think. Simply put, financial abuse is when money is used as a tool for manipulation in relationships, and is something that the United Nations Foundation estimates happens in 99% of domestic violence cases

This form of abuse is a major factor as to why victims have such a hard time leaving or keeping away from abusive relationships. And the tricky thing about it is that it isn’t always evident. Many victims don’t even realize that they’re in an abusive relationship. To know whether you or someone you know is being victimized by a financial abuser, look for these telltale signs.

Your partner is controlling your money

The most obvious sign of financial abuse is when a partner restricts access to funds. Shannon Thomas shared some real-life cases from her book Exposing Financial Abuse: When Money is a Weapon, in which a number of women’s finances were being controlled by their spouses — to the point that one of them couldn’t afford feminine hygiene products. By doing this, the victim won’t have enough resources to get by on their own, which is the abuser’s way to keep them trapped. Making you feel guilty about spending money on yourself or others is also a manipulation technique. There have been some cases where the abuser hasn’t even been the breadwinner, yet they have found ways to make their victims give up their earnings just to keep them dependent on their abuser. 

Your partner is sabotaging your career

Is your partner keeping you from getting a job or from advancing in your career? Do they keep disrupting your place of employment only to get you in trouble? Or do they find sneaky ways to keep you from working, like deleting important documents? These might be signs of career sabotage. Keeping victims unemployed is a tactic for keeping them financially dependent on their abuser. Financial abusers might also use deprecating language, like “You won’t succeed in that job,” as a form of gaslighting. 

Your partner is taking advantage of your generosity

From a previous discussion here on Esteemology about the exploitative nature of the narcissist, financial abusers can certainly qualify as narcissistic. Taking advantage of your generosity is one of the clearest types of financial abuse. A person might convince you to give them most, if not all of your savings, therefore leaving you in debt. They can be very charming and subtle when needed, or harsh and upfront with their demands.

Your partner is ruining your credit

Stealing or secretly spending your money is also a form of financial abuse. Buzzfeed News reported on a phenomenon called “coerced debt”, which involves credit transactions made without the knowledge of the other party. Married women are commonly victimized by credit card fraud from their abusive partners, damaging their credit standing so that they remain financially dependent on their husbands. Many cases also involve vengeful ex-partners who want to inflict further harm on their victims or pressure them into rekindling the toxic relationship. 

What should you do?

If you feel victimized by financial abuse and want to leave, start by finding safe ways to save your money. Ask a friend or a family member you trust to keep your funds for when you need to re-establish yourself in the future. Try and keep your personal information safe, like changing your PIN numbers for your bank accounts.

There are also groups that can help you like the National Network to End Domestic Violence (1-800-799-SAFE (7233)). They can direct you to counselors, psychologists, or legal defense officers should it come to that point. They will also be able connect you with financial planners who can give expert advice on rebuilding your finances. A post shared by Maryville University on the future of the financial services industry points out that these professionals not only help organizations increase profits, but also aid individuals to manage their funds as well, by pulling themselves out of debt, and planning for their future. If you are suffering under a financial abuser now, it is important to understand that it is very possible to build a future away from them with some courage and with the help of a strong support network. 

Often, it takes someone else’s perspective for a person to realize that they are being victimized by their partner. Understanding these signs is essential in knowing when to step in between an abusive relationship, especially if it involves someone you care about.

Article specially written for esteemology.com

by Jovita Bishop


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