What is Financial Abuse?

What is financial abuse?

There are many different types of abuse that someone can experience. Many people can understand physical abuse due to the marks or injuries that leaves. However, there are other types of abuse that are harder to see but can be equally devastating. Financial abuse is one such type.

As with all types of abuse, financial abuse is rooted in the desire of one partner to have power and control over the other. A partner who chooses to abuse will control their partner’s finances or their ability to provide for themselves through a job or public assistance they receive. The following examples are not a comprehensive list but give an idea of how a partner could be financially abusive.

Examples of Financial Abuse
  • You have a joint bank account, and your partner monitors your spending and yells at you for every purchase.
  • Your partner gives you an allowance, and you are only allowed to spend that money on what they need.
  • Your partner affects your ability to work, such as causing you to be consistently late or preventing you from going to work some days, leading to issues or potential firing.
  • Your partner receives your public assistance check and refuses to give it to you.
  • Your partner takes any money earned from you and controls where you spend it.

In these situations, the partner who is abusive has control over the finances and has the power to determine if the other partner can work or not. This imbalance is abusive.

Safety Planning

While financial abuse can be complicated, there are ways that you can protect yourself.

  • Ensure you have your own financial assets, whether that is a private bank account or your own personal cash that is hidden from your partner.
  • Put two-factor authentication on your banking information or credit cards. This can ensure that only you can access your finances. You can also talk to your bank about setting up a notification if someone tries to change passwords or access accounts.
  • Talk to a trusted friend or family member who can keep money for you or receive public assistance for you.
  • Make copies of any important financial documents and hide them in a safe place, such as a safety deposit box.
  • Make a list of things you own together (cars, property, furniture) and take photos to help show that they are yours.
How to Support Someone Experiencing Financial Abuse

There are many ways to support someone who is experiencing abuse. Remember, it is always important to check-in with the person you are supporting, preferably while they are away from their partner who is abusive. It is important to support them in the ways they are comfortable with, as they know their situation best. Here are some possible ways you could help or support them:

  • Hold money for them or help them save for themselves.
  • Offer rides or support with work issues.
  • Help them document the abuse.
  • Allow them to use your address for personal banking and mail.

Though financial abuse can be hard to see, it does impact many people who are experiencing abuse. According to our most recent report, 27% of our contacts who were in abusive relationships reported experiencing financial abuse. This number has sadly grown during the COVID-19 pandemic and will continue to be an issue for survivors. Financial abuse can lead to long-term issues for survivors even when they leave the abusive relationship. It can affect their credit score, ability to find work, or put their finances in disarray. Programs like the Allstate Foundation’s Moving Ahead curriculum can help survivors learn how to rebuild their finances and improve their credit score so. Our advocates are here 24/7 to help answer any questions and offer support.

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