5 Things I’ve Learned About Financial Abuse

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM). It’s an important topic that doesn’t get enough attention. One key component of domestic abuse is financial domestic abuse: an individual uses money or other financial means as a tool to gain power over someone.

Thankfully, this is a topic I didn’t know much about before digging in. With this being DVAM and the fact that I’m a personal finance blogger, I thought this was an important topic to better understand.

Whether we see it or not, financial abuse is all too common. Part of raising awareness for important topics such as financial abuse means being aware of the signs to spot it in the relationships around us.

For the last few days, I’ve read everything I can about financial abuse. Much of what I’ve learned has been eye-opening; it’s tough to read some of the stories. To be honest, it has me questioning the setup my wife and I have since moving from two incomes to one. I don’t want there to be even a shred of anything that could be seen as financial abuse in our arrangement. One of the reasons why we have kept separate bank accounts during our new arrangement is so we can continue to have independence when it comes to money.

After learning so much about financial abuse this week, I wanted to share five things that stuck with me.

Financial Abuse Comes in Many Forms

Financial abuse comes in many shapes and sizes. It can sometimes take form in a series of gradual and subtle actions where a person may not even realize that it’s happening. Other times, it can be obvious to those in the relationship and others around them, yet nobody knows what to do about it.

A few examples of financial abuse include controlling assets, sabotaging the victim’s career, destroying the victim’s credit or financial standing, exposing the victim to potential legal issues, or threatening family finances.

Financial Abuse is More Common Than You Think

“Each year, more women are touched by domestic violence than breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and lung cancer combined.”  Purple Purse, Allstate Foundation

This is a horrifying statistic when you stop and think about it. Additionally, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), between 21 and 60% of victims of intimate partner violence lose their jobs due to reasons stemming from the abuse.

What these statistics tell us is this is not an uncommon problem. There are millions of people who experience some type of financial abuse every year. That’s why awareness is so important: We should all have our eyes open to situations where family, friends, co-workers, or even strangers are impacted by financial abuse.

Financial Abuse is Rarely About Money

Financial abuse is about control and power. Plain and simple, it’s about using money and other financial means to have this type of influence over someone else.

Often during wartime situations, one country will try to control or cut off the opposing country’s access to equipment and supplies. In a similar manner, if one person doesn’t have access to the resources they need to break away from an abusive situation, they can quickly become trapped.

As noted above, financial abuse can take many forms; even when one doesn’t control a person’s money, the threat of financially ruining someone can be enough.

Financial Abuse Doesn’t Only Occur in Intimate Relationships

One area where financial abuse is prevalent is with the elderly. This can range from loved ones taking advantage of parents, to scam artists who specifically target the elderly. 

As with cases of physical domestic abuse, there can be a level of embarrassment or fear of retaliation from the abuser in reporting issues to authorities or other trusted sources.

There Are Resources Available to Help

Financial abuse is all around us. It can happen with a parent and child, with business partners, the elderly, and in romantic relationships. Money is a tool that can be used for good or evil. Unfortunately, financial abuse is a prime example of how money can be used as a tool for evil.

You may be thinking: What can I do to help? Confronting the abuser is uncomfortable and if you’re not properly trained, it can be dangerous. A person who is willing to take extreme measures with financial abuse could use similar tactics with anyone who interferes.

So, what can you do? Use the information below to contact someone. There are trained professionals on the other end who can help.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline: Advocates are available 24/7 at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) in more than 200 languages, TTY 1-800-787-3224. All calls are free and confidential.

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