Financial Abuse: Another Way Abusers Keep Women from Leaving

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Many people think of physical or verbal abuse when they define domestic violence. But financial abuse is an important—but often overlooked—aspect of abusive relationships. What is financial abuse and how can a woman get help if she’s experiencing financial abuse?

What is financial abuse?

Financial abuse occurs when the abuser controls a woman financially. At first, he may reassure her not to worry, that he’ll take care of the bills, but this can become a slippery slope. An abuser may prevent a woman from knowing the family’s financial situation or refuse to give her access to money. He may threaten her to keep her from working and earning money. Financial abuse is extremely important because it keeps a woman dependent on her abuser, and makes it much more difficult for her to leave the relationship.

Signs of financial abuse

Here are some signs of financial abuse. In a financially abusive relationship, the abuser may:

  • Withhold money or put the woman on an allowance.
  • Steal money from her.
  • Force the woman to provide her bank account information and make transactions without her consent.
  • Prevent her from working or only allow her to work part-time.
  • Dictating the types of job a woman can work.  
  • Threaten that if she doesn’t quit her job, the relationship will be over.
  • Sabotage her job by showing up at her workplace or otherwise harassing her.
  • Track her spending.
  • Refuse to give her money for necessities, such as food, gas or transportation.
  • Become the woman’s only financial source.
  • Force her to hand over any money she earns or savings she has, and forbid her access to the bank accounts.
  • Threaten to leave the relationship or refuse to support her financially, knowing that she can’t survive financially without him.
  • Max out the woman’s credit cards, or using her identity to obtain credit cards without her consent.
  • Withholding financial information from woman (ex. tax returns filed, child tax, his personal accounts, debts, etc.)

What can be done?

If a woman is in a financially abusive relationship, she can:

  • Seek support and create a plan. She can tell her family and friends about the abuse and create a plan to leave the relationship. . Shelters like Interval House help women create plans to help them leave safely, and support them as they get back on their feet. Our BESS (Building Economic Self-Sufficiency) program helps women to regain their financial independence and get back into the workplace.
  • Save secretly. She can open a secret bank account, and start saving (even a little bit) until she’s ready to leave.
  • Keep copies of any financial document. If she’s able to obtain any financial documents, keep photocopies in a safe place. These can include bills, bank statements, credit card statements, and income tax returns.
  • Create a credit history. She should keep a secured credit card at a safe location, such as a family or friend’s place that she can use to build her credit.
  • Store documents in a safe place. She should start collecting important documents such as birth certificates and store them in a safe place—outside the home.
  • Build job skills. She may need extra education in order to get a job. Online courses may be a safe way to help her rebuild her skills.