Domestic violence and abuse can take many forms that reinforce each other, preventing the abused person from changing things on any front. Below are some fast facts about a prime example, financial abuse. Most importantly, we offer some links to more information and help.

What is financial abuse?

Financial abuse when an intimate partner (a spouse, girl/boyfriend, etc.) controls the other partner’s access to money, credit, jobs, other people with money, etc. The control makes it hard for the victim to support themselves and be independent, forcing them to depend more on the controlling person.

The abuser may try to damage the victim’s long-term ability to have a career or an independent future. Many physically abusive partners use their financial control to keep their power and control over the abused person.

How common is financial abuse?

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that about one out of every four women experience domestic violence during their lifetime. Some financial abuse happens in 94% of all domestic violence cases, according to a study from Rutgers University.  A different survey suggests 70% of women from the ages of 18 to 35 experience financial abuse in an intimate relationship. Almost half of men in the same age group report experiencing such abuse.

How you can recognize financial abuse?

A widely reprinted article from the Associated Press suggests actions your partner may use in a pattern of financial abuse. Also, the CBS affiliate in Washington, DC, published another article providing signs, including:

  • Your partner often checks your financial accounts but does not give you access to theirs.
  • You are afraid to ask for money or access to finances.
  • Your partner opens credit cards or other financial accounts without telling you.
  • Your partner bullies you with reminders that they are the dominant partner financially (“This is my house/money”).
  • Your partner prevents you from working, takes money you earn from work, finds ways to interrupt your work schedule or bothers/embarrasses you at work.

It is not unusual for the abused partner to be more financially knowledgeable or capable than the abuser.

Ideas about ending the abuse

First, if you are afraid for your safety, immediately call or chat with the National Domestic Violence Hotline (800-799-7233 or TTY 800-787-3224).

If you feel safe, consider exit strategies, but do so quietly. Hints that you may call it quits could raise your danger level or empty all the accounts.

Find out as much as you can about where your accounts are, what is in them and how to access them. Banks and other financial institutions will be familiar with such situations and will know what to do. Be honest about what you are trying to do.

A qualified attorney experienced in family law could also help you think about legal options to help you move on to a better chapter in your life.