The warning signs of financial abuse and how to protect yourself.
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When you think of domestic abuse, it is most likely that you think of physical or verbal harm to a person in a committed relationship. However, this is not always how abuse looks. One of the most commonly overlooked and rarely discussed forms of abuse is financial abuse.
Financial abuse is when a victim’s financial health is put in harm’s way or destroyed by someone taking control of their ability to access or use their own financial resources. According to Forbes Advisor, “a study of 103 women who had suffered domestic violence found that 99 per cent of them also reported experiencing economic abuse, defined as a partner taking control over a significant other’s ability to acquire, use and maintain economic resources.”
Recognizing the signs of financial abuse is important in ensuring your safety, security and in protecting yourself against this potential abuse.
A partner or abuser is in charge of your finances
In some partnerships, one person is more fiscally educated or is more comfortable dealing with money and so, they take on paying the bills, budgeting etc. out of your collective funds. This is normal.
However, it is abnormal when a partner takes control of all finances and doesn’t let you have access to any accounts or information regarding these things. By doing this, the abuse is stripping away their partner’s financial autonomy and ability to be knowledgeable on financial matters that are impacting them. This can also make it extremely difficult for the victim to obtain essential items and can drastically impact their quality of life in a negative way.
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The sabotaging of employment
In an attempt to control an individual’s finances more, an abuser may sabotage your current or projected employment in an attempt to keep you without an income of your own. This can take many forms including harassing you at work, causing you to be ill-prepared for a shift or even preventing you from showing up to your workplace at all.
This also means that an abuser may tell you that you can’t work at all as a way of keeping you tethered to them and unable to provide for yourself.
Ruining your credit score
Another sign that you are experiencing financial abuse is if your abuser is ruining your credit score or history. They may be doing this by forcing you to take out a new credit card in your name, or taking one out in your name themselves and then making you purchase things on this card for them. They are doing this with the intention of never paying it back. Remember, usually at this point they are already controlling the rest of your finances and so, you won’t be easily able to pay back the credit card yourself.
This will inevitably harm the victim’s credit history and score which is one of the most difficult things to bounce back from if you manage to get out of the abusive situation.
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Now, it’s normal in a partnership to want to keep track of spending habits so that you can budget things out as a pair however, this can easily turn abnormal when in an abusive situation.
When an abuser is controlling all of your finances, it is common that they will give you an “allowance” of some amount to keep you feeling like you still have a say or a place in the financial conversation. This allowance often decreases over time and is met with the expectation that you will report every penny that you spend back to them. They may also make you feel too guilty or intimidated to spend that “allowance.”
All this being said, these signs are not always how financial abuse is portrayed. It can be different in every partnership depending on the relationship dynamic between the individuals involved, financial status etc. It’s important to know that there are things that you can do to protect yourself in these situations and get help if needed.
If you are afraid of experiencing financial abuse make sure to protect your personal information, have an alternate way of accessing your credit report, find support in those that you love and trust and open a secret bank account that only you know about to ensure you have a place for savings that no one else will locate. These things will help you protect yourself and get out of a situation in the event that you do experience this type of abuse.