Financial Abuse – signs and options

After a tragic swathe of deaths due to aggressive partners and the fabulous work of Rosie Battie and other campaigners to raise awareness, most of us are all too familiar with the specter of domestic violence.

Some of us may have experienced it in a former relationship, know friends and family who are going through it now, or we may be still living the nightmare.  Most of us understand all to clearly that physical abuse and emotional torture are just ‘not on’ or part of a normal and loving relationship.  But many haven’t heard of financial abuse, although they may be familiar with some it’s symptoms.

By definition: Financial abuse is a tactic used by abusers to gain power and control in a relationship. The forms of financial abuse may be subtle or overt but in in general, include tactics to limit the partner’s access to assets or conceal information and accessibility to the family finances.

It is even believed that senior financial abuse will be the crime of the 21st Century.

So what does it look like and how can it be avoided?

Perhaps, you’ve been forced into a career that you wouldn’t normally have chosen for yourself.  It keeps you from succeeding as you’d like to.  It’s a daily grind, doing something you don’t love for an hourly rate.  Your partner may even bandy around ultimatums… choose the job or the relationship!

Others won’t allow you to have your own bank account or spending money.  They dole out the housekeeping funds only and keep their partner financially dependent for every dollar. Others track every cent, forcing their spouse to hand over each and every receipt so that they can see exactly how the money has been spent and ensure no cash withdrawals have been made or funds skimmed from their payments.

Some threaten to leave, and being the sole source of income for the family, the partner stays in place, knowing their livelihood and that of their children depends on the breadwinner.

So what to do?  It’s a complex area and advice to ‘just leave’ isn’t always appropriate, although is likely the ultimate goal.  Relationships based on power and abuse aren’t about love, trust and commitment.  Many feel that their partner may turn physically abusive if they don’t get their own way financially.

Reaching out to trusted friends and family members is a good place to start.  Perhaps you need to plan an exit over time.  Others are happy to cut and run.  Do you need to find a shelter or somewhere to house you and the children while you get back on your feet?  Are you able to get part-time work with funds directed to a new account to start saving for a new life?  Dog walking, cleaning, car-washing or baby-sitting can provide cash funds to be stashed for when the day comes. Do you have a hobby that can be monetized?  Can family and friends help with donations that can be repaid when you’re financially stable once again?  Are you able to do an online course or vocational training to bring your skills up to date?  Find out about community assistance in your area from local councils or libraries.

Financial abuse is a complex area, and ensures low self esteem and feelings of poor self worth.  The abuser is happy to be in a position of power and keep their partner down-trodden.

If you’ve managed to break away from a financially abusive partner, I’d love to hear how you managed the exit!

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