Signs of Financial Abuse

Signs of Financial Abuse

I’ve been developing a financial literacy seminar over the past several months. Because I mostly work to educate women about their finances, my research has led me to an unexpected and sad discovery. According to the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) 98% of domestic violence situations involve some sort of financial abuse and women are overwhelmingly the victims.

So I started Googling what financial abuse actually looks like and unfortunately, it can be subtle and take a myriad of forms. According to the NNEDV, signs of financial abuse can include the following:

  • Not allowing the victim to work

  • Sabotaging work or employment opportunities

  • Controlling how money is spent

  • Not allowing victim access to bank accounts

  • Withholding money or giving “an allowance”

  • Not including the victim in banking or investment decisions

  • Forbidding the victim from attending job training or advancement opportunities

  • Forcing the victim to write bad checks or file fraudulent tax returns

  • Running up large amounts of debt on joint accounts, taking bad credit loans

  • Refusing to work or contribute to the family income

  • Withholding funds for the victim or children to obtain basic needs such as food and medicine

  • Hiding assets

  • Stealing the victim’s identity, property, or inheritance

  • Forcing the victim to work in a family business without pay

  • Refusing to pay bills and ruining the victim’s credit score

  • Forcing the victim to turn over public benefits or threatening to turn the victim for “cheating or misusing benefits”

  • Filings false insurance claims

  • Refusing to pay or evading child support or manipulating the divorce process by drawing it out by hiding or not disclosing assets

Financial abuse is all about control. If a victim doesn’t have the access to funds, assets, and/or employment they are far less likely to leave the situation. This fact is exacerbated when the welfare of children is involved.

So how to we combat financial abuse? It’s important to first recognize the signs listed above. Whether you are the victim or know someone who is, it’s important to find a person or entity you can reach out to be it family, friends, a local women’s shelter, church, etc. These resources may be able to help you prepare to leave and assist you in establishing a new life.

I came across this Buzzfeed article and found it has some practical advice for preparing to leave a financially abusive situation.

Finally, financial literacy and education is how we’ll stop financial abuse in the future. When women are empowered with their money and have the tools to keep their hard earned finances safe, we can begin to end financial abuse. The more we know about our finances, the easier it’ll be able to spot the signs of financial abuse and save ourselves or the women we love from falling victim.

If you or someone you know is a victim of financial abuse, contact the U.S. National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or TTY 1-800-787-3224.

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