What is financial abuse and how to protect yourself
What is financial abuse and how to protect yourself
Many of us think of abuse as physical, emotional and even mental. We often don’t think of financial abuse as part of this equation, but for many people, this is a harsh reality. Financial abuse is a form of coercive control, and there are numbers of women* who are unable to leave their partners or lead an independent life. It can leave women with no money for basic essentials, access to bank accounts, ability to earn their own income, in debt and also this can continue after the relationship has ended.
I think financial abuse by a partner is more widespread than is realised. From running up debts in someone’s name, restricting access to a bank account, to a partner who controls all finances. Financial abuse can take many forms, but it’s important to understand when it is happening to you.
“Economic abuse is designed to reinforce or create economic instability. In this way, it limits women’s choices and ability to access safety. Lack of access to economic resources can result in women staying with abusive men for longer and experiencing more harm as a result.”
Nearly a third (31.9%) of respondents said their access to money during the relationship was controlled by the perpetrator
A quarter of respondents said that their partner did not let them have money for essentials during the relationship
A third of respondents had to give up their home as a result of the abuse or leaving the relationship and nine found themselves homeless as a result of leaving
43.1% of respondents told us they were in debt as a result of the abuse and over a quarter regularly lost sleep through worrying about debt
56.1% of our sample who had left a relationship with an abuser felt that the abuse had impacted their ability to work and over two-fifths of all respondents felt the abuse had negatively impacted their long-term employment prospects/earnings.
Sadly the pandemic has meant that vulnerable people have been at home with their abusers, and the pandemic has only escalated the situation. People are trapped within their homes and the pandemic is used to control and keep people at home. Isolated from families and friends, they are even more vulnerable.
Unfortunately, many people ignore the ‘red flags’ in a relationship, but as you can see from the above, that much of the financial abuse started later in the relationship.
With any Narcissistic Abuse, the ‘Love-Bombing‘ stage is at the beginning of the relationship, where the abuser will make you feel so special. More often than not, the relationship will develop very quickly. and they will tell you they love you very early on in the relationship. Following the love-bombing stage, comes the Devaluation stage and then the final Discard. An abusive relationship can affect your confidence, ability to work, isolate you from friends and family, and affect your general health.
When to seek help
Abuse only gets worse, not better. If someone is starting to abuse you, then look to get out of the relationship and do not ignore the red flags. I joined a support group when I was recovering from what had become an abusive relationship, and sadly not everyone gets out of an abusive relationship alive. I have witnessed women scared of their partners, yet unable to move out because their partner has made them vulnerable by isolating them from friends and family (a common tactic) and completely dependent on them for money (again another control tactic).
If you are in a position where you feel trapped and are scared of your partner, please seek help. Do not tell your partner you are leaving, but look for an escape route. Seek professional help and make sure that you protect yourself.
How to protect yourself
In any relationship, it’s important to protect yourself both financially, physically, emotionally and mentally. Abuse often happens gradually, which is why lots of people stay in an abusive relationship. Financial control means you might not have access to money, you have children who you are trying to protect, and might even have had all access to money stopped.
So let’s look at ways in which you can protect yourself. You may think your partner may be smarter with money if they offer to look after all of the finances, but this is also a red flag. Make sure you know what’s going on with your finances at any one time. During COVID times with people losing their jobs, being in a relationship often means that we are supporting one another. However, financial abuse means that someone is willing to abuse their trust and relationship with you as a means of coercive control. It takes years for some women to recover financially from all of the debts a partner has ran up in their name, or have had all of their assets taken away from them.
Keep a separate bank account from your partner
Change your passwords regularly
Check your credit rating
Only take out a loan if it is for you
Do not share your PIN number
Check your own mail
How to leave safely
If you want to leave your partner, there are a series of steps you can take to ensure your safety and make sure your finances will be as manageable as possible. Contact a lawyer to help or seek legal aid to help you once you leave. Unfortunately, financial abuse can have long effects if you are saddled with debt, have joint finances or have lost control over your money. Be careful about leaving your phone around or your social media accounts open. Log out and delete all cookies so that someone can’t log straight back in using your internet history. If you are communicating with someone to plan your escape, you don’t want these messages discovered.