It is essential to recognize the signs of financial abuse and to know how to safely leave a relationship that is financially abusive. When most people think of financial abuse in a relationship, physical abuse is often what is recalled. Yet financial abuse is a form of domestic violence that can also lead to intimate partner violence (IPV).
According to statistics from the CDC, IPV causes many mental and physical injuries to victims (prevalent in 1 in 3 women), and an abusive relationship can negatively impact the value of a woman’s life by nearly $100,000 over the course of her lifetime.
If you’re afraid of leaving an abusive relationship, help is available. The resources listed here can help you plan your financial future if you’re trapped in a relationship due to financial reasons.
What is a financially abusive relationship?
Financial or economic abuse is a lesser-known type of domestic violence that affects millions of women every day.
Financial abuse is when someone uses money and finances to control, manipulate, and dominate their victim. Domestic violence survivors experience financial abuse in approximately 94 to 99% of cases.
Those who withhold money or other forms of access from getting victims trapped in relationships are their abusers. Many women are forced into a choice between sacrificing their abusers or their financial security due to financial abuse. This includes access to funds, housing, and basic necessities for themselves and their families.
Financial abuse versus household money management
Financial abuse is defined by a partner’s desire for control. Financial dependence causes an abuser to demand that their partner follow his or her requests.
Although it is typical for one person to make most of the money or be in charge of home finances in a nonabusive relationship, these attributes may be present in abusive relationships as well.
A particularly common arrangement is that one partner does not work while the other stays at home to care for the children or the household. If both partners are equal in managing the earnings that is earned by the work partner, it is not a financially abusive relationship.
Also, many couples allow one partner to take charge of the daily household finances. This may include managing paperwork, paying bills, and preparing for tax time.
Usually, it is a matter of financial acumen and organizational skills. However, controlling money can become abusive if one partner attempts to confine or manipulate the other person with their knowledge of the couple’s finances.
Signs of financially abusive relationships
Learning the signs of financial abuse can help identify financial mistreatment in relationships. Remember, abuse in relationships usually results from one partner exploiting or controlling the other with money.
To prevent their victims from falling into poverty, abusers typically employ two different methods of coercion.
Controlling a partner’s access to money is one of the simplest ways for an abusive spouse to control their partner. At its most basic, limiting the partner’s access to cash can be as simple as restricting their physical presence at bank locations.
One way abusers gain control over a financially abusive relationship is by physically limiting the victim’s access to funds. They frequently sabotage their victim’s financial stability in other ways, too.
Some ways that financial abusers block their victims include sabotaging their access to treatment.
Impacts of financially abusive relationships
This allows them to provide life-saving treatment to their patients.
People who are trapped in relationships because of financial hardship often suffer comparable financial consequences. The most obvious of these effects is that they are unable to support themselves financially without their abuser’s financial assistance.
Financial abuse victims frequently do not have sufficient money to buy food or rent accommodation. This often forces them to stay with abusers who can afford to take care of their basic needs. For parents, being in a financially abusive relationship can mean the difference between their children being fed or clothed.
However, the effects of financial problems go well beyond providing medical necessities.
5 Key actions to take in a financially abusive relationship
Are you concerned your partner is financially abusive? Do you feel stuck in a relationship because of your economic situation?
If so, you should consider your options to break free from your abuser and gain financial freedom. Like many women struggling with domestic violence, you may feel worried or scared. It can be tough to leave a relationship if you have no funds, but it is possible.
Remember that there are others you can do to help.
Here are some steps you can make to avoid becoming financially abused by a partner.
1. Prepare a safety plan before leaving
It’s imperative that you stay safe if you’re in an abusive relationship. As you contemplate leaving, you should make a plan to leave safely.
The first step is to consider your own personal relationship. Not all abusive partners threaten physical violence. However, many often resort to physical control if their financial resources are no longer allowing them to exert authority over their victim.
Ask yourself if your companion has violent tendencies.
You can use the interactive safety plan creator from the National Domestic Violence Hotline to create a safety plan. This useful tool asks you questions about your living situation, job or school status, and location to provide you with local advice on staying safe in an abusive relationship.
In addition to your complete safety plan, you can create a plan to leave an abusive partner by protecting your identifying information. Prepare to securely gain access to your identification, birth certificate, and other important documents before leaving.
It may be hard for you to get all these documents before leaving an economically abusive relationship. In many cases, abused partners can’t have access to these documents. In that case, try to collect your ID cards like aid.
You may also not be able to take physical copies of your documents without your partner’s knowledge. Just snap a photo of your documents on your mobile phone instead of saving physical copies.
Upload the photos to a safe place or share them with trusted family or friends to keep them safe. Then wipe the photos from your phone (including deleting them from the recently deleted folder) if your partner tries to go through your phone.
One of the hardest parts of financially abusive relationships is the difficulty securing housing after leaving an abuser. Many victims of financially abusive relationships have bad credit and inconsistent work records due to the acts of their abuser. This could make it difficult to secure housing after leaving their partner.
Prepare a safe place to stay before leaving your agreement. This will help you feel more secure about leaving. It can also help you avoid having to return to your abuser for shelter.
Compiling a list of dependable family and friends members is usually a good choice when leaving an abuser. Nonetheless, connect with someone a perpetrator does not know or would not think about. This can help prevent you and your loved ones from retaliation by your significant other.
For example, you can live with a cousin rather than your parents. If your loved ones are close, your partner could go directly to their house to find you. Your relatives may not want to go to your home.
Another option is to rent a women’s shelter or group home. Numerous cities and counties provide free or reduced-rate shelter for abuse survivors to help them get back on their feet.
2. Figure out your current financial situation
In an abusive relationship, your partner may keep your finances to yourself to manipulate you. This enables them to control your spending. If you don’t know how much aid is available, you can’t spend it.
Understanding your financial situation, however, allows you to regain financial control.
If your companion has blocked online accounts, you can regain access by requesting your account information directly with financial institutions, such as with a simple form of ID.
For instance, if you have a joint savings account with your significant other, you can visit a physical branch of the bank and make a balance inquiry. This receipt displays your current balance and might display recent transactions.
Everyone can obtain a free annual credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com, which is authorized by the federal government. This resource is available to everyone at no charge.
Obtaining a copy of your score report is an important step toward financial independence from your abuser. Financial abusers often exploit one’s credit score to devalue them, damage their financial prospects, and drain their financial resources.
Your credit report will reveal any credit accounts in your name and your payment history and current status. This will let you know whether your spouse has set up a credit account in your name without your authorization. If your companion is in charge of an account that you opened, your Daily Summary will also display you if the account balance is up to date or unpaid.
Your partner may try to undermine your score when you leave. Your partner might overspend on joint accounts or create a new account in your name.
Use credit monitoring to alert you if this happens. A credit monitoring service will send you an email whenever there is a change to your credit report. Moreover, you might also be able to freeze your credit if something seems amiss.
3. Save up cash
Your partner might attempt to suspend your access to your digital funds after leaving a financially abusive relationship. This could mean putting a stop to your debit card or withdrawing money from a joint bank account.
You can save up cash before leaving, so you’ll have a fund to fall back on when you leave.
It is critical to be mindful of two things when saving money in an abusive relationship.
Your secure savings location depends on your living situation, relationship, and relationship with others. For example, if you frequently visit your family and friends, you may keep your savings with them. Or, you may want to consider opening a safety deposit box at a financial institution.
Be careful when keeping any savings you make at home with your partner. It’s important that you and your partner don’t keep any money in the same place, otherwise your partner might discover it.
Which brings us to the second point: how can you save up money without your abuser knowing?
You can earn cash back at a grocery store or a convenience store. First, make sure that your cash back does not appear on a bank statement. Next, check that the receipt does not list money you took out. If your abuser is watching your receipts, they may see your spending.
If you can arrange it, you can also work odd jobs that pay in cash, such as pet sitting or babysitting. This may depend on your partner’s schedule, especially if they don’t usually permit you to work.
You can finally start making money by selling your belongings. Consignment stores and pawn shops often pay cash for older items.
If possible, choose small quantities of items to deliver or sell at once. Try to avoid selling a lot of anything at the same time.
4. Open personal accounts and change passwords
Financial abusers typically control their partner’s accounts. This could mean accessing your passwords or hiding a joint account from your partner.
As you prepare to leave, think about opening new accounts in your own name. Don’t let your partner know about these accounts. You may need to have statements or opening paperwork sent to your relative’s home.
Having access to a bank account, credit card, or other financial accounts in your name alone gives you more control over your finances. In turn, this reduces your abuser’s power over you.
Also, change your login info, PINs, and passwords for any relevant accounts you have. This limits your partner’s access after you depart.
However, only change these passwords as you are leaving or getting out of your residence. This prevents your spouse from learning your plans prior to you leave.
5. Use resources available to you
It isn’t simple to leave an abusive relationship. You’ll be nervous, hesitant, or frightened as you contemplate leaving. That’s fine with me.
Abuseful partners exploit your anxiety, hesitation, and fear to exert control. By using resources available to you, you can improve your confidence and prevent the mistreatment of your spouse.
Your partner has likely made you feel as though you are financially incapable. By keeping you in the dark about money, they make it tougher for you to take charge of your financial situation.
One of the best ways to recover from being financially broke is to increase your financial literacy.
Fortunately, the internet is overflowing with financial advice. It is easy to access and can be found. For example, Clever Girl Finance provides a multitude of free educational resources to help you learn about finances.
Use these savings opportunities to save money, make smart investments, and expand your career options.
Leaving an abusive relationship is one of the most challenging things a victim can do, especially when you’re afraid of retribution. Not everyone understands what you are going through.
That’s why it’s useful to connect with other survivors of abuse and domestic violence prevention experts. You’ll have more resources to rebuild your life with the support of other individuals who recognize your circumstances.
Just as with financial literacy resources, the internet is a great place to connect with other survivors. Social Media groups, online forums, and social media influencers within the survivor community can help teach you how to recover from abuse and move forward.
Resources for those financially stuck in a relationship
If you’re financially stuck, there are resources at your disposal. These include free services you can make use of to get the financial assistance you need.
Advocates and counselors
Having a supporter or counselor by your side as you attempt to leave an abusive relationship is crucial. This person can provide emotional support and help you to stay safe from harm as you attempt to leave.
Many abuse survivors turn toward family and friends as their support network. However, your spouse may have cut off you from friends and family in order to gain more power.
There are still people who are prepared to provide the aid and guidance that you need. Therapists, for example, may offer their services at low costs or for free through women’s shelters or domestic violence programs.
If you are nonreligious, clergy members may be able to help you if you are a survivor of domestic abuse. Contacting a nearby church or other religious organizations may be a great way to find assistance.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline’s website provides a helpful local resource finder to help you find assistance. Simply select your state and city, then choose which resources you need.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline
In addition to helpful online resources, the National Domestic Violence Hotline has a phone hotline you can call to get help.
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
You can also go to the website to chat with a support representative or send a message reading “START” to 88788 to get your own personal financial life back under control today.
If you’re in a financially abusive relationship there is help available
If you’re in a safe location, you can take steps toward improving your financial situation. You can additionally pursue further education on money and cultivate healthy relationships that will improve your future and life.