Financial abuse is something that is rarely talked about but incredibly common. This insidious form of abuse involves exercising control over the finances of another person. Often, those who suffer from financial abuse rarely speak out, since they might feel ashamed or trapped by their lack of control over, or access to, financial resources.
This type of abuse is also the number one reason why domestic violence victims stay in an abusive relationship, or return to one after having left. Financial abuse can take many forms, but here are a few examples of how abusers exert financial control:
1. No personal bank account
Financial abusers often prevent their victims from having a separate, personal bank account. This can become problematic if the victim tries to leave the relationship, since her abuser can prevent her from accessing funds, or seeking shelter where she can be safe.
2. All expenses are tracked
A financial abuser might track every penny of the victim’s spending, making her account for every purchase, and demeaning her if she spends money on something not approved by her abuser. In many of these cases, the abuser can spend however he sees fit, while the victim is forced to ask permission for purchases as small as a pack of gum.
3. Giving the victim an allowance
When a victim of financial abuse isn’t allowed to have her own job, or if she is forced to hand over her paychecks, she can wind up with an “allowance” that is controlled by her abuser. This can spiral into scenarios where the victim is not given access to enough funds to cover groceries, cell phone bills, gas and other necessities. Declined credit cards at the cash register and a deactivated cell phone can easily become the result, further trapping her in the relationship.
4. Using the victim’s Social Security number to elevate debt
This is a common tactic to gain more control over a victim’s credit score. The abuser uses their victim’s Social Security numbers to open credit cards or loans, eventually ruining her credit and racking up debt that she cannot pay for on her own. A ruined credit score can also affect the ability of the victim to rent or buy her own home, purchase a cell phone, or in some cases, get a job. Abuse like this can cause a victim to become trapped in her relationship — if she leaves, she likely faces poverty and even homelessness. In fact, The National Center on Family Homelessness reported in 2013 that 50% of homeless women cite domestic abuse as the immediate cause.
5. Sabotaging job opportunities
Financial abusers often sabotage their victim’s ability to get or hold down a job. They may prevent her from arriving on time for work or a job interview; or they may show up at her place of employment to interrupt, harass, or intimidate, potentially causing her to be fired. This type of financial abuse can take many forms. In some cases, it can also involve forcing the victim to work for a family business for no pay. Without her own source of income, she is forced to rely on her abuser for money.
If you or someone you know is suffering from financial abuse, there is assistance available. Please call 435-628-0458 for help.