What image comes to mind when you think of domestic abuse? Typically the answers we hear are a bruised and battered woman- there is hitting, screaming, and a lot of tears. An image you might not be seeing in your mind is one where the perpetrator is denying their partner of their own money, destroying their line(s) of credit, and making all the financial decisions. 


99% of abusive relationships include financial abuse.


Financial abuse is a tactic used by perpetrators to gain further control over their partner. This form of abuse could include reducing accessibility and controlling shared assets and resources, exploiting your personal resources, and interfering with and jeopardizing your work. Some common examples of financial abuse are:


(Source: NNEDV)

  • Forbidding the victim to work.
  • Sabotaging work or employment opportunities by stalking or harassing the victim at the workplace or causing the victim to lose her/his job by physically battering prior to important meetings or interviews.
  • Forbidding the victim from attending job training or advancement opportunities.
  • Controlling how all of the money is spent.
  • Not including the victim in investment or banking decisions.
  • Not allowing the victim access to bank accounts.
  • Withholding money or giving “an allowance.”
  • Forcing the victim to write bad checks or file fraudulent tax returns.
  • Running up large amounts of debt on joint accounts.
  • 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 victims’ credit score.
  • Forcing the victim to turn over public benefits or threatening to turn the victim in for “cheating or misusing benefits.”
  • Filing 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 often the main reason why survivors have such a challenging time leaving the relationship as they are financially bound and do not have the means to live independently. This powerful method of abuse inhibits the victim from taking safe steps toward leaving, but there are precautions that a victim can take while in the relationship and when attempting to leave the relationship. For example, it is advised for those who are choosing to stay in the relationship to have a separate, secret stash of money either in a safe hiding place or a separate account. This is money that the victim can be saving on their own in case of an emergency. Some things to consider for those who are choosing to leave the relationship is to take at least half of joint funds immediately upon leaving, and 75% if there are children they are leaving with. Additionally, collect any important documentations such as identification, receipts, loan agreements, etc., that could be useful for legal purposes. Survivors should always change their PINs immediately and open a new bank account if possible.

You may be curious as to what a financially healthy relationship looks like and what steps someone escaping abuse can take in developing a solid financial foundation for themselves and future relationships. The key element in a financially healthy relationship is equality. Both partners should have access to financial information, assets, as well as both partners are playing a role in financial decision making. Additionally, couples should feel as though they can voice their concerns/goals/desires associated with money and are respected for their own beliefs and values. 

An important aspect of this topic is financial empowerment. Many times survivors leave their relationship not knowing how to do basic financial chores such as opening a bank account, creating a budget, or consistently contribute to a savings account. Getting comfortable with money can be a large feat but becoming financially independent is oftentimes the first step in creating a sense of empowerment. 

If you or someone you know is struggling financially because of an abusive relationship, please contact Safe Harbor at 385.515.4044 to get in touch with an advocate.