Are you being financially abused? Are you sure?
Many of us know how difficult it can be talking to your partner about money. After all, money can cause tension and frustration in your relationship. So, imagine if your partner wanted to take the load off and manage your finances.
“I’ll take care of it,” they say. Your partner decides on the budget and takes control of spending. But what seems like convenience may suddenly turn into something else. Your partner may start restricting your access to your money. They may even remove you from all financial accounts.
They assure you that they have it covered. But behind the scenes, they are ruining your finances and credit.
Money is starting to become a weapon of control.
Recognizing the Signs
What may start out as something subtle and helpful can turn into financial abuse. According to the National Network to End Domestic Violence, “Financial abuse is a common tactic used by abusers to gain power and control in a relationship. Whether subtle or overt, there are common methods that abusers use to gain and maintain financial control over their partners.”
Financial abuse is present in 98 percent of abusive relationships and could put those affected between a rock and a hard place. Most people who are being financially abused don't even know it's happening at the beginning.
Michelle* is a survivor of financial abuse. “When I was in my physically abusive relationship,” she says, “my then-boyfriend abused me financially by withholding access to my accounts as a means to stop me from visiting my home, to pay bills without his permission, and to essentially hold me hostage.”
Even when those dealing with financial abuse decide to leave, things can get tricky.
“At one point, he caught on that I was about to leave him,” Michelle says. “But before I could, he drained our bank accounts and canceled my credit card (by logging in using the password he created for me). I couldn't purchase gas, get a hotel room, or even pay my cell phone bill.”
Eventually she did leave and had to deal with the consequences. “When I did finally leave, I was shocked to see that he destroyed my credit by applying for accounts and utilities at our apartment in my name, racking up debt and then not paying them off,” says Michelle.
It's a tough spot to be in, and unfortunately, financial abuse can have serious consequences for the victim.
Victims of financial abuse could have their credit score tank because of unpaid bills, as well as having their money drained. This makes moving on or leaving extremely difficult.
What Can You Do?
If you think you're possibly being financially abused, but aren’t sure, there are some telltale signs to look out for. These include withholding access to funds and not allowing you to go to work or advance your career. Other examples include changing your financial passwords and racking up credit card debt in your name and not paying it back. Essentially, financial abuse is any situation where money is used as a form of control to limit your access and power.
If you find yourself dealing with financial abuse, start collecting your financial documents and bank statements. Change your passwords.
Financial educator Tonya Rapley adds, “Consider using a P.O box or a safe address on your applications and profiles so that they cannot use this information to locate and harm you. Any address you give potential creditors will show up on your credit report.” In addition, continue to monitor your credit at AnnualCreditReport.com.
*Name has been changed to protect privacy.