Many of us instinctively think of domestic abuse as being physical. Society and the mental health field are increasingly recognizing emotional abuse as another form of control. Another form of domestic abuse, that can be quite damaging although it is less recognized, is financial abuse.
Domestic abuse, physical, emotional and financial, is about power and control. When an intimate partner exercises control over your access to money and the way you spend your money, you may feel powerless and stuck.
Let’s take a closer look at financial abuse and how to break free from a controlling partner.
What Constitutes Financial Abuse?
Let’s first define a healthy relationship. Transparency, mutual agreement and support are all signs of comfort and trust in a healthy relationship. There’s no need for secrets or gaining power over your partner.
Financial abuse is lack of those things. As an example, here are some signs of financial abuse:
- Requiring your paycheck be deposited to an account over which you have no control
- Providing you with an allowance amount decided by your partner
- Requiring you to account for your spending
- Withholding access to financial statements so you don’t know about household finances
- Monitoring use of a credit card
- Ruining your credit history
- Restricting your access to employment or earning power
- Interfering with your job in attempts to get you fired
- Questioning where money is spent and the reasons for every expenditure
- Punishments for not following rules
Although on the outset, it appears that your partner is “taking care of things”, these signs also point to a level of fear from your partner. The financial abuse may also reveal itself in emotional ways as well, such as shaming or trying to make you feel guilty. In fact, financial abuse may be the first sign of escalating domestic abuse.
What You Should Do If You’re Being Financially Abused?
One of the most frightening things about financial abuse is that it could quickly lead to physical violence. Obtaining your own credit card or getting a P.O. box means that you will receive correspondence to your home address. Tread carefully if you recognize that you’re being financially abused. If you open up a new bank account and redirect your salary, your partner could easily become violent or attempt to manipulate you in other ways.
If you suspect that your partner is being financially or otherwise abusive, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline or your local domestic abuse organization for assistance. You can also look for free legal clinics or pro bono legal services.
You may also become dependent on the help of trusted friends and family members for a loan or funds to secure legal assistance for leaving the relationship. This will supply the means you need to get help and do your research without alerting your partner.
Once you’ve left the abusive relationship, it can be challenging to get back on your feet. When you have control over some of your funds, you’ll want to create a financial plan for leaving.