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Show Me the Money: Confronting Financial Abuse

“Money makes the world go around
The world go around
The world go around
Money makes the world go around
It makes the world go ’round.”
– From the movie “Caberet”

Did you know that many victims of domestic abuse stay with their abusers because they are not financially equipped to make it on their own? Today you may be in the position where you are trying to stretch every penny and we understand. However, it is important to know that it is never too early or too late to learn how to plan a budget. Why? Because it is necessary to be equipped with knowledge so you can tackle some tough decisions once you are on your own. Those decisions will help you plan your future. In this first part of our three part Financial Literacy series we begin to help you “map out” your Road to Economic Freedom.

What is Financial Abuse?
According to The Allstate Foundation, financial abuse often begins subtly and progresses over time. The aim of financial abuse, as with other forms of abuse, is to gain power and control in a relationship. Financial abuse along with emotional and physical abuse, manipulation, intimidation, and threats is aimed at getting and maintaining control over another person. The purpose is to trap them in the relationship.

What are some warning signs?
Financial abuse is a tactic used to control relationships by preventing access, use, or maintenance of money or other financial resources. It might include:

  • Controlling all decisions of how money is spent.
  • Withholding money or “giving an allowance”.
  • Withholding basic living resources, medication, or food.
  • Not allowing their partner to work or earn money.
  • Stealing their partner’s identity, money, credit, or property.
  • Justifying behavior as cultural or religious.

To help you determine whether you are in a financially abusive relationship, ask yourself these questions. Does your partner:

  • Steal money from you or your family and/or force you to give access to your money or financial accounts?
  • Make you feel as though you don’t have a right to know any details about money or household decisions?
  • Make financial or investment decisions that affect you or your family without consulting or reaching agreement with you?
  • Refuse to include you in important meetings with banks, financial planners, or retirement specialists?
  • Forbid you from working or attending school or training sessions?
  • Overuse your credit cards or refuse to pay the bills?
  • Force you to file fraudulent tax claims?
  • Prevent you from obtaining or using credit cards or bankcards?
  • Withhold physical resources including food, clothes, necessary medications, or shelter from you?
  • Force you to work in a family business for little or no pay or refuse to work to help support the family?
  • Interfere with your performance at work through harassing activities like frequent telephone calls, emails or visits to your workplace? Force you to turn over your benefit payments or threaten to report you for “cheating” on your benefits so your benefits will be cut off, even if you aren’t cheating?
  • Force you to cash in, sell or sign over any financial assets or inheritance you own (e.g. bonds, stock or property)?
  • Force you to agree to power-of-attorney in order to be able to legally sign documents without your knowledge or consent?
  • Force you to cash in, sell, or sign over any financial assests or inheritance you own (e.g. bonds, stock or property)?
  • Force you to agree to power-of-attorney in order to be able to legally sign documents without your knowledge or consent?

If you find yourself answering yes to one or more of these questions, you may be in a financially abusive relationship. Recognizing this may be very difficult, but there is help available. You are not alone.

Our second blog in this three part series is titled “Keeping Safe: You and Money Too” will post on Thursday, April 19. We will continue to help you, “seek financial independence, one step at a time.”

Lisa Armstrong, AWP Older Adult Advocate
Jacqueline LaPorta, AWP Shelter Manager


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