Tag Archives: financial abuse

What’s the deal with Financial Infidelity?

Cheating on your partner with money is a thing.  And for many, can be just as emotionally destructive as finding out about the sexual kind of infidelity.

Many admit to having lied to their partners about how much they earn, have spent, have borrowed or lent, especially to family members and friends.  It’s just a little lie right?

And although you may not feel the need to share every decision you make with your partner, little lies can lead to big ones.  Covering your tracks takes serious time and effort and if and when your partner discovers the extent of the cover-ups, things can get seriously out of hand.

Being upfront about your finances is about trust.  It’s much easier to achieve your joint financial goals when family funds are pooled and work together for the common good.

Others choose to keep their finances completely separate and private, but pool equal or set amounts into a joint fund to cover family expenses or goals such as combined holidays.  Either way, being upfront and honest about your financial commitments and obligations is paramount.

There’s plenty of reasons people don’t want to share, or won’t.  If you’ve been in a relationship before and have moved on, you may not want your new partner to know all the gory and intimate details of your financial life.  Others are just as happy to share.  It’s setting the expectations early and having regular money talks that can prevent massive issues down the track.

For those who’ve been in financially abusive relationships, there’s likely to be massive trust issues with sharing.  Financial abuse is rarely discussed, yet a widespread problem globally.  And I’m not talking about having a low budget for the groceries.  Financial abuse is about someone using money to exercise power and control in a relationship.

It covers everything from running up debts, defaulting on joint loans, putting a partner under inordinate amounts of pressure to reduce, limit or stop spending, even banning access to accounts.  No wonder those who’ve ‘been there before’ believe in maintaining some form of independence, including a completely hidden and private stash.

If you’d like to know more or think you may be experiencing financial abuse in your relationship, you can visit ASIC’s MoneySmart website to find out more.  Thankfully, there’s lots of options on where to turn if you think you’re a victim of financial abuse, or believe someone you know may be experiencing this kind of crisis.

What does Financial Abuse Really Look Like?

Economic abuse is a form of abuse when one intimate partner has control over the other partner’s access to economic resources, which diminishes the victim’s capacity to support him/herself and forces him/her to depend on the perpetrator financially. …Financial abuse applies to both elder abuse and domestic violence.

– Economic abuse – Wikipedia

 

I’ve spoken out about financial abuse in the past, but it’s hard to imagine for a lot of people.  We know it’s out there, but what does it look like?  How does it affect people?  What’s the fallout?

I spoke to one survivor who is brave enough to speak out, and I want to share her story.

I met Tanya when I wanted to know more about media and publicity and enrolled in one of her courses to learn how to write a Media Release correctly and we stayed in touch via social media after the event.

I recently interviewed Tanya on learning she’d be a victim of financial abuse and she was kind enough to reveal her story to me.

Tanya had been an investigative journalist back in the day and has also gone on to run businesses.  When she met and fell in love with the man who would become her husband, she was quite well off.  She had a successful business, property and cash in the bank.

At the end of the relationship, there was nothing left in her own name.  All had been transferred into a company and trust of which he was the director and signatory of.  She remained just a shareholder, so all decisions could be made without consultation.

The belittling had by then been going on for years.  She was told she was bad with money, and obviously, she thought, it was true.  Everything she had was no more.  All her decisions were wrong.  He was right.  The emotional abuse was there too, alive and well.

Friends and family hardly recognized the frail shell that eventually did leave the relationship, the one she’d been told that she’d never be brave enough to do.  The relationship by then was twelve years old and Tanya had wanted out for the last six.

Her health was broken.  She had a stroke and a series of seizures brought on by the stress and she was financially at ground zero and emotionally bankrupt.  But she had a good reason to soldier on, her daughter.

Now, I’ve never been in a situation anything remotely like Tanya’s and we often hear now about ‘victim blaming’ statements.  Onlookers may make comments like ‘she should have gotten out earlier.’ ‘Why would you stay with a guy like that?’ ‘What was keeping her there?’ ‘Why did it take so long?’  And I guess unless we’re there ourselves, we’ll never really, truly know.

So, to ask the question everybody seems to want the answer to… why did you stay? 

“It was the frog in the pot scenario. If you throw a frog into boiling water it jumps out, but if you put it in warm water and slowly turn up the heat it will be boiled alive before it even knows it.

“I was isolated by the time I realised I needed to get out, cut off from my family and my friends, I felt there was no out. But then one day, I realised I couldn’t risk being a bad role model for my daughter any longer. I wanted her to know that she could get out, should the cycle repeat, and that she could have an amazing life in doing so.

“One day my husband gave me an ultimatum…. stop ‘playing around with the media’ and get a job in a supermarket. When my daughter heard this, she burst into tears and said ‘that’s not you mummy’.

“In that moment I realized I’d failed her and we had to go.”

And how did you finally manage to get out?   

“I started putting $20 per week onto a grocery card so that we’d have funds to last us for food once we’d gone.  I managed to have three months saved when we left and had squirrelled things away with a close friend.  The timing had to be right too.  It’s not an easy thing.  If I had advice for anyone looking to move on from an emotionally and financially abusive relationship is that if possible, put aside whatever you can to tide you over for when you’re out.  That may not work for everyone, but it sure made a huge difference to me.”

It took a lot of time and the rebuilding is ongoing, of Tanya’s health and finances.  She’s used all of her experience in media and small business to build a success business today and her personal and business growth continues.

I’d like to thank her for being brave enough to speak out and let others see the real face behind financial abuse and it’s very frightening reality.  And also, to know that there’s hope.  No matter how broken, we can rebuild.

 

Disclaimer:  Please note that these are Tanya’s recollections and story and as such cannot be verified for accuracy.

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!