Does your partner or spouse insist on maintaining complete control of household finances? Maybe he – or, less frequently, she – restricts your access to bank accounts and withholds access to investments or other important financial information. If so, you may be the victim of a financial abuser.
Financial abuse is nearly always a tactic used by an abusive person in a domestic violence situation. In fact, research shows that financial abuse occurs in roughly 99% of domestic violence cases, according to the NNEDV.
Financial abuse is “one of the most powerful methods of keeping a survivor trapped in an abusive relationship” according to the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV), a resource for information and training and assistance to organizations against domestic violence.
That’s because an abusive person’s tight control of finances inhibits the victim’s ability to get out of the relationship or stay safe after leaving an abusive partner.
1. No access to bank and credit accounts
If your spouse is the only one in the marriage with access to joint bank accounts, credit cards and online account passwords, even though you’ve asked for access, that’s a sign of financial abuse. Without access to joint funds or credit, the financial abuse victim feels trapped in the abusive relationship with few options for leaving the abuse.
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2. A tightly controlled “allowance”
If your partner simply allots a certain amount of money to you for household spending as part of your mutually agreed-upon budget, that’s not necessarily the action of a financial abuser.
However, if your partner restricts your access to household funds, doling out an “allowance” each week or two for which you must account for every penny, that’s a common tactic used by financial abusers. The allowance may even start out as a seemingly loving act, with your partner offering to handle all the finances because you’re under a lot of stress.
“This scenario commonly leads to the abuser giving the victim less and less in ‘allowance,’ and by the time the victim decides she or he wants to take back control of the finances, she or he discovers that the accounts have all been moved or she or he no longer has knowledge or access to the family funds,” says the NNEDV.
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3. Your partner forbids you to work
Financial abusers frequently demand that a spouse or partner quit working so that person has no income of their own. That way, the victim can’t save enough money to leave and start a new life. If you do have a job, the abuser may sabotage your employment by forcing you to miss, leave or be late to work or by stalking you at the workplace.
Often, a woman “does not leave an abusive relationship because she fears she will not be able to provide for herself or her children,” according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health (OWH).
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4. Extreme monitoring of spending
Both people in a relationship keeping track of spending for budgeting purposes is a good practice for saving and managing money. But when one partner demands a receipt for every cup of coffee you buy and a detailed accounting of everyday purchases, that’s too much control and one of the hallmarks of a financially abusive partner.
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5. Running up unpaid debt on your credit
A financially abusive partner may force you to open credit cards under your name that you’re not allowed to use. Then the partner charges large amounts of debt on the cards that he or she refuses to pay. Meanwhile, you’re responsible for paying the debt but may have no income or access to bank accounts or household funds. As a result, your credit score suffers.
Once you leave a financially abusive relationship, it’s important to take steps to protect your credit. “By freezing your credit accounts or having a credit bureau issue a fraud alert, you can make it harder for someone to open accounts in your name,” says the OWH.
This article by Deb Hipp was originally published on Debt.com.