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financial abuse

Am I Being Financially Abused? 12 Signs of Financial Abuse

Financial abuse is a form of domestic abuse in which one partner exerts control over the other’s financial resources, often resulting in severe consequences for the partner being controlled, their financial stability, and overall well-being. If you find yourself wondering “Am I being financially abused?” and there are other types of abuse present in your relationship, it is likely that financial abuse is also involved. Research shows that financial abuse occurs just as frequently in unhealthy relationships as verbal and physical abuse. In fact, 99% of domestic violence cases involve financial abuse.  

Overview:

  • What is Financial Abuse
  • Signs of Financial Abuse 
  • Examples of Financial Abuse
  • Resources if You Need Out of a Financially Abusive Situation

A Quick Note

If you or someone you know are in a financially abusive relationship, it is vital to seek help and safely remove yourself from the situation. It is not okay for someone to manipulate you with money, to control your finances so that you do not have access to them or the ability to make your own financial decisions or use finances or other assets as a way to manipulate or coerce you in any way. 

There are resources available to help you. Please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

What is Financial Abuse

Financial abuse is a form of domestic or interpersonal abuse that involves financial manipulation, control, or exploitation of an individual’s financial resources and decisions to exert power and maintain dominance within a relationship. It encompasses a wide range of behaviors, such as restricting access to money, monitoring spending, sabotaging employment or educational opportunities, and accumulating debt in their partner’s name. Financial abuse can leave people financially dependent, trapped in a cycle of coercion and fear, and unable to make independent financial choices. It is a subtle yet deeply damaging form of abuse that can have lasting consequences on a person’s financial stability, self-esteem, and overall well-being. Recognizing the signs of financial abuse is crucial for individuals to seek help and break free from such harmful relationships. 

Signs of Financial Abuse

1. Control of Financial Resources

When a person takes total control of all financial resources, such as income, bank accounts, and assets, and makes it difficult for their partner to access money or make financial decisions independently. This control can be used as a tool for manipulation and coercion. 

2. Monitoring Spending

When a person closely monitors and scrutinizes every expenditure made by their partner, demanding receipts and justifications for all purchases, no matter how small. This constant oversight can create a climate of fear and anxiety. 

3. Forbidding Financial Independence

Poeple who are engaging in financial abuse may actively discourage or prevent their partner from pursuing education, employment, or financial independence. This keeps their partner financially reliant on them.

4. Sabotaging Employment 

People who are engaging in financially abusive behavior may actively discourage or prevent their partner from pursuing education, employment, or financial independence. This keeps their partner financially reliant on them. 

5. Withholding Financial Information

The person engaging in financially abusive behavior keeps critical financial information, such as account passwords, access to bank statements, or knowledge of financial assets, hidden from their partner, making it difficult for their partner to have any financial autonomy. 

6. Using Debt as a Weapon

People who are financially abusive may accumulate debt in their partner’s name without their consent, leaving them responsible for repayment. Alternatively, they may max out credit cards or take out loans, leaving their partner to deal with the consequences. 

7. Financial Threats and Coercion

People who are financially abusive may use financial threats or coercion to control their partner, such as threatening to cut off financial support or take away assets, like a home or a car, if their partner doesn’t comply with their demands. 

8. Forced Signing of Documents

Partners of people who are financially abusive may be forced or coerced to sign financial documents, contracts, or legal agreements against their will or without proper understanding of what they are signing, leading to financial obligation or losses. 

9. Stealing or Misusing Funds

People who are financially abusive may steal money from the victim’s accounts, spend their savings recklessly, or divert funds for their own purposes without permission, causing financial hardship for the victim. 

10. Isolation from Financial Resources

People who are financially abusive may isolate their partner from friends and family who could provide financial support or guidance, making it even more challenging for their partner to seek help or escape the abusive situation. 

11. Using Children as Leverage

People who are financially abusive may use children as leverage by threatening to withhold child support or other necessary resources unless the victim complies with their demands. 

12. Crippling Debt 

People who are financially abusive may intentionally drive their partner into significant debt, often through reckless spending or financial decisions, trapping them in a cycle of financial dependence. 

Knowing these signs and being able to recognize them is incredibly important. Often, people who engage in financial abuse might engage in other abusive behaviors, including gaslighting. This tactic can make their partner lose confidence in their ability to decipher what is true. Being able to spot the signs early can help keep you out of a dangerous situation.

Examples of Financial Abuse

Control of Financial Resources

One example of financial abuse is the control of financial resources. In such cases, the person who is engaging in financially abusive behavior gains control over their partner’s income, bank accounts, and assets, effectively making all financial decisions on their behalf. They may require their partner to hand over their paychecks, take control of joint accounts, or demand that their partner transfer assets into their name. This control leaves their partner financially powerless, unable to access money for basic needs or make independent financial choices.  

Manipulation of Debt

Another example involves the manipulation of debt. In this scenario, the person engaging in financially abusive behavior may accumulate debt in their partner’s name without their consent or knowledge, using their personal information to open credit accounts or take out loans. They might then use these funds for their own purposes, leaving the victim to bear the financial burden. Their partner may only discover the debt when creditors come knocking, jeopardizing their credit score and financial future. This form of financial abuse not only leads to financial hardship but also a sense of betrayal and helplessness. 

Resources to Help You Out of a Financially Abusive Situation 

National Domestic Violence Hotline

Website: https://www.thehotline.org/

Phone: 1-800-799-SAFE (1-800-799-7233)

The National Domestic Violence Hotline provides support and resources, including guidance on financial abuse and options for seeking help. 

Local and Domestic Violence Shelters and Organizations

Look for local domestic violence shelters and organizations in your area. They often offer emergency housing, counseling, legal, assistance, and resources to help survivors of financial abuse. 

Legal Aid Services 

Contact your local legal aid office to explore your legal options, including obtaining protective orders, divorce, and child custody matters. They can often provide free or low-cost financial counseling services to help individuals regain control of their finances.

Financial Counseling and Education

Non-profit organizations like the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) offer free or low-cost financial counseling services to help individuals regain control of their finances. 

There is a free guide you can download here that has additional information on money management. 

Financial Empowerment Programs

Many community organizations and domestic violence shelters offer financial empowerment programs designed to help survivors of financial abuse build financial independence and stability.  

Employment and Job Training Programs

Look for job training and employment assistance programs in your area, which can help you gain new skills, find employment, and become financially self-sufficient.

Social Services

Contact your local Department of Social Services or Human Services for information on programs like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and Medicaid, which can provide financial assistance. 

Therapy Counseling

Consider seeking therapy or counseling to address the emotional and psychological effects of financial abuse. Therapists can help you heal and develop coping strategies.  

Local Law Enforcement and Legal Support

Reach out to your local law enforcement for immediate safety concerns. They can also connect you with victim advocacy services and legal support.

Online Support Communities 

Online forums, social media groups, and websites like the “Survivor Forums” on the National Domestic Violence Hotline’s website provide a platform for survivors to share experiences and find support from others who have gone through similar situations. 

Personal Finance Workshops and Classes

Attend financial literacy workshops and classes in your area or online to learn about budgeting, saving, and managing money effectively. There is a free investing class here. 

Banking and Financial Institutions

Visit a local bank or credit union to open a personal bank account in your name only. Ensure that your financial information is secure and not accessible to the abuser. 

Final Thoughts

If you suspect that you or someone you know is in a financially abusive situation, it is imperative to seek safe and effective help. The best place to start is by reaching out to the National Domestic Violence Hotline and contacting local shelters or support groups for resources in your community. Situations with people who are engaging in abusive behavior can escalate, and it is important to keep your safety in mind. The trained professionals at the National Domestic Violence Hotline will be able to help you create a plan to safely exit the situation. 

It can be emotionally difficult to leave an abusive situation, as well as physically. Reaching out for support from a licensed therapist can help you begin to heal from the abusive situation. Finding support and community from trusted friends, family, or support groups will also help you on your journey. 

If you are in a financially abusive situation, it is important to know that there is hope. There are resources available to help you. You are not alone in this situation. Thousands of people have been in similar situations and there are resources available to protect you. 

Gaining financial literacy can help you gain the confidence and knowledge necessary to take control of your own finances and prevent financial abuse from occurring in the future. Remember, you have a right to access your own money. There are additional money resources for you in this free guide. 

If you need help, please call: 1-800-799-7233.

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