Warning Signs of Financial Abuse & How To Break Free
Financial abuse is a common 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.
Financial stress is one of the main reasons women feel stuck in unhealthy and abusive relationships. And financial abuse is one of the main tactics an abusive partner will use to control you. His goal is to take away your power, so that you will need him, and won’t be able to leave. By the time you recognize that your partner is abusive, you may be financially dependent on him, in debt, and under- or un-employed. It may seem impossible to leave in your current financial situation. But, there are ways to reclaim your financial power, and to leave safely. First let us look at the warning signs of financial abuse:
1: Control Freak – He Takes Charge of the Money
A client told me that not long into their marriage her husband told her he would take care of all the finances. He instructed her to hand over her paycheck (she made a decent income working in a service sector), and in return gave her a small allowance that was barely enough to cover her transport fare to and from work, plus meals. If she wanted to go shopping, she had to ask him for permission. Needless to say, he was the only one with access to their bank account. Being young and naive, and having grown up in a conservative household, she assumed this was the way things were done. This can also happen even when the woman is the high income earner.
Abusers might also make women save their receipts to make sure that everything they purchase matches up to the amount spent, And they may go to lengths to ensure that your name isn’t on anything, from savings accounts to the deed on the house. That way, he owns it all. Unfair situation, but true.
Victims of financial mistreatment may not immediately understand that they’re being taken advantage of. Abusers are crafty, so it may start small. Your husband might say, ‘Let’s put everything in a joint account and I’ll manage the money,’” Sounds innocuous enough, plus you presumably love the person and trust that he has your best interests at heart. But then things progress little by little — until, before you know quite what’s happened, you’re COMPLETELY UNDER his power.
2. He Files Fraudulent Documents
A lady said one night her husband made a surprising conference: He had refinanced their mortgage and opened up a credit card in her name by forging her signature on the paperwork. He admitted he had made some business mistakes and needed the money to cover his debts.
“I think there was a part of me that always knew he was driving us into financial ruin, but like everything else, I kept it buried,” she remembers. He promised he would use the money to pay back the debts and she took him at his word. Shortly afterward, calls from creditors started coming in. They eventually filed for bankruptcy.
Demolishing your credit score is also a mechanism to keep you powerless. Other shadowy strategies abusers use: hiding assets, such as major purchases like a car, or concealing debt from their significant other.
3. He Sabotages Your Career
He may harass you at work to the extent that your employer decides to let you go. Maybe he hurts you so badly that you can’t go into the office, either because you’re in pain or have a visible bruise that would raise questions. An example is one survivor who worked in HR. “The company had a policy that employees could not let their voicemail get full,” she says. “Her partner knew this, so after hours, he called her line over and over again in order to overload her mailbox.” When she explained the situation to her manager, he freaked out and, not wanting to get involved in a complicated domestic situation, simply terminated her.
Another lady said her husband went about threatening her coworkers once she finally worked up the courage to leave him. Luckily, they were more understanding than a lot of employers would have been. She said they rallied around her to make sure that herself and other staffers were kept safe. One reason it is very essential to have a cordial relationship with co-workers.
4. You Don’t Feel Safe Talking About Finances
Domestic violence in all its forms essentially boils down to intent. For instance, let’s say your partner is a compulsive over-spender who is knee-deep in debt. He may need professional help, but it doesn’t necessarily mean he’s trying to harm you. Another lady said, “My husband has no interest in finances, so I’m the one who manages the budget, from where we store documents to how our retirement savings are invested. He has abdicated responsibility of his own free will.” And of course, even though she oversees the money, it’s not an abusive relationship.
But when you find that if your partner and yourself are arguing about bills and he gets up and starts clenching his fist in a menacing manner, then the intent is to put you in a place of fear in order to quiet you, to get his wa.y.
You should be able to discuss difficult topics – financial or otherwise — without being scared of his wrath.”
Though it is much more common for the wife to be the victim of financial abuse, some women have powerful personalities and want to control the household as well as the finances. This is because they doubt their husbands’ worth and assert control in an abusive way..
So – Are you financially abused?
Give yourself a gut check: Do you ever feel intimidated by your partner, either emotionally or physically? Are there certain conversations that you can’t have with him because they’re “not allowed”? Is it a true partnership, where you have equal say — even if you make less? Do you negotiate about money when you have a difference of opinion, or does he make decisions without your input?
Your intuition is legitimate, even if you haven’t experienced what you’d consider outright abuse. You should investigate your feelings further by speaking to someone you trust or by getting in touch with ACTS Generation for advice.
How Do You Break Free From Financial Abuse
- First, get a realistic picture of your expenses and income. Write out all of your bills and what you earn, from all sources, if you have any.
You may find that you are in a better position than you thought. Abusive partners often find ways to hide money or to spend on frivolous things. Once you’re solely responsible for your own money, you may find that you have more than you thought – and plenty to survive on your own.
- Start saving, as much and as often as you can. If your partner does not see your pay stubs, set up a separate bank account in only your name and have some of your check automatically deposited into that account. You can tell your partner that you are contributing to a retirement fund through work. If you do not work, or cannot deposit funds into an account, find a safe place to stash away cash. Keep a coffee can somewhere your partner won’t find it – if not at home, then maybe at work or at a friend’s or neighbor’s house. Put your change from the market/supermarket or anything left in your wallet at the end of the day in the can. You’ll be surprised how quickly it will add up.
- If you don’t work, explore your options. Work on your resume. Explore classified job ads. Work on building your skills and finding out what jobs may be available in your area. If vocational training or education is a barrier to getting a job then start going to school online. Digital marketing know-how will be an added advantage. Try to find work you can do on a part-time basis around your living area. Even a volunteer one because sometimes, you get some small pocket money. Knowing your options is empowering, and may help you realize that you aren’t really stuck at all.
- Understand your rights. If you are married or have a child in common, you are probably entitled to some financial support when you separate. Schedule a consultation with a family law attorney or book an appointment with your local legal aid office. Consults are often free and can give you an idea of what type of compensation you may have a right to. Most women allow fear of loosing custody of the kids keep them in violent bondage. This is not so – the law is clear on custody of children of certain ages.
- Build your safety net. Often, it’s the fear of financial failure that keeps us stuck. Make a list of everyone you could call if you were really in trouble – not just those you would be comfortable calling, but anyone you could call. Hopefully you will never need to. But, just knowing that you have people who would help you may relieve your fears, and give you the courage to move forward.
- Option of Leaving: Plan your way slowly or swiftly out of this relationship and leave, if need be. Relationships like this can never be trusted to become equitable since so much of it is about power and control. Reach out to trusted friends, relatives or even a local church who many be able to house you until you’re able to get on your feet.
Remember, no amount of money is worth living in fear or being disrespected. You deserve to be safe, appreciated, and respected – all the time, and especially by the person you ‘love’. The Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act of 2015, gives a clear guideline of repercussions against financial abuse of a spouse.
If you would like to talk with someone about your options, go to the Ministry of Justice, Human Rights Protection Unit, in your State, if there is no National Domestic Violence Hotline in your area. You can also call ACTS Generation at +234 704 385 1725. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; The Lagos State Human Rights Protection Unit: +234 9085180570 – Block 2, 1st Floor, Room 104, The Secretariat, Alausa, Lagos State
Have you been through financial abuse and want to share more options? please let us know –