The not so festive but always relevant topic – What is financial (or economic) abuse?
Money is always a hot topic, and difficult to discuss for many. Even in a healthy relationship, discussions about money can be difficult. So when should you start worrying about the level of control you or your partner have?
Firstly, financial abuse very rarely happens in isolation, it usually comes with other forms of controlling behaviour. But it involves putting significant financial control into the perpetrator’s hands, and limiting access to, control of, and sometimes the ability to create funds for the victim. Financial insecurity being one of the leading reasons victims of abuse return to their abusers, it is also one of the most effective methods of control, where a victim may feel stuck between homelessness or living with their abuser, with no way to acquire savings to get out.
Here are some things to look out for.
Controlling your money or assets
- Putting debts in your name
- Ruining your credit score
- Expecting you to pay their bills or other obligations
- Trying to control the money you have earned or saved, this includes feeling entitled to it and sometimes simply taking or spending it without your permission or with coerced permission.
- Putting themselves in difficult financial situations that would require you to bail them out.
- Insisting on access to your financial records, or covertly ensuring they have access to your private financial information.
- Criticising or controlling how you spend your own money often with double standards on how they spend theirs.
- Threatening to claim benefit fraud, embezzlement or otherwise illegal financial behaviour to reduce your access to financial support.
Interfering with your ability to make money
- Belittling your career choices
- Demanding, or pressuring you to quit your job. This includes for the children, to maintain the house, or citing other obligations, such as your obligation to them as a partner.
- Jealousy over perceived relationships with co-workers can also often come into play, and how your work and time at work is interfering with your relationship.
- Preventing you from working. For example, by interfering with your sleep, hiding your keys, taking the car out when you need it for work.
- Harassing you at work with phone calls, “stopping by”, demands whilst you are working, or other interruptions
- If you are working from home, constantly interrupting you during work hours with household demands, even interfering with work/zoom calls they know might be important.
- Discussing feeling threatened by how much you are making, and how it makes them feel inferior if they earn less.
Control of shared assets
- Refusing to work.
- Withholding financial information such as passwords or account details to utilities or mutual savings accounts.
- Making large financial decisions independently. Even if they are the breadwinner, if you have both agreed to have one of you stays at home, you should have an equal say over large financial matters.
- Keeping you in the dark about finances and your joint financial situation.
- Setting unrealistic allowances, they may not even give you enough for the essentials and berate you for discussing this with them.
- Controlling your spending, including forcing you to justify all your spending. They may demand receipts and proof of purchase.
- Sabotaging your joint savings, or your ability to save any money of your own.
- Withholding money, or requiring you to request money if you want to spend any.
- Not allowing you to hold a bank account, or have access to joint accounts.
- “Fly off the handle” when money comes up as a topic of discussion between you. They may become verbally or even physically abusive.
- Deliberately drawing out divorce proceedings, withholding child support payments etc to financially cripple you.
- Withdrawing joint money into their private account.
- Justifying putting shared assets in their name only.
- Threatening to withhold financial support/cut you off if you argue, disagree or do not do as they tell you to.
- Spending money allocated for household essentials or rent on other things.
If you feel you, or someone you know, may be in this position, talk to someone. As we mentioned earlier, financial abuse very rarely happens in isolation and only gets worse over time. Talk to a trusted counsellor, GP, family member, religious leader or friend. Remember it does not have to be a romantic partner that is behaving abusively, it can be a carer, family member or even friend.
Call Women’s Aid 0808 2000 247
Call the Men’s Advice Line on 0808 8010 32
Call LGBTQA+ support at Galop on 0800 999 5428 or send them an email to email@example.com