Topic: Financial abuse
What is financial abuse?
Financial abuse is one form of control used by domestic violence perpetrators in order to gain
power over their partner, and is the most direct way in which domestic violence and financial issues relate to each other. Financial abuse can take many different forms, but all are aimed at limiting and controlling the partner’s current and future actions and freedom of choice. For example, an abuser might do one or more of the following:
Interfere with her employment, education or training: for example, by preventing her from participating in paid work or education; or alternatively, insisting that she works, but hands over all her earnings to him.
Control access to all the household finances (including her own earnings/benefits): for example, by keeping control of bank accounts, credit cards, benefits, etc.; not giving her any money; and/or taking away any money/ resources she has of her own (including money for day-to-day housekeeping expenses, her savings, or other personal money); insisting she accounts for every penny she spends.
Steal from her and use the money for himself; or transfer joint assets into his own name.
Refuse to contribute to shared household expenses, including failing to pay regular bills
despite agreeing to take responsibility for them; or building up debts in her name or joint names – sometimes without her knowledge (e.g. utility bills, which she thinks he has paid).
Insist she take out loans and credit in her own name, or force her to take on sole or
joint responsibility for credit or loans beyond what she considers to be manageable.
Force her to take actions which are dishonest, illegal or against her own sense of
right and wrong; for example, to claim benefits fraudulently, interfere with gas and electricity meters, become involved in prostitution, shoplifting, etc.
It is often very difficult for victims to recognise abuse which is of an economic or financial nature: it may develop slowly and insidiously, so that what at the outset could be seen perhaps as protectiveness can become increasingly controlling, and leave no outlet for an independent life of any kind. For example, a potential abuser might say something along
I’ll take care of all the bills – you don’t need a bank account.
I earn enough for both of us, so you don’t need to work now: I’ll look after you.
While initially this might seem acceptable, it gives the one earning and paying the bills considerable power which could potentially be exploited in order to perpetrate abuse over the other partner.
Over-spending, and building up debts in the partner’s name or joint names can also develop slowly and – even if this is an intentional form of control – it may not become obvious for some time; for example –
Both victims and those supporting them may be reluctant to name this behaviour as “abuse”. Hence many women will have lived with it for many years, until the negative impact has become almost overwhelming.