Can You Spot These 6 Signs of Financial Abuse?

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  • Domestic partner violence is very common, and unfortunately, financial abuse can be a big part of it.
  • If your partner refuses to discuss financial matters with you, jeopardizes your job, or withholds money from you altogether, those are major red flags indicating an abusive situation.
  • If you're experiencing financial abuse, you can turn to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, which can be reached online or by phone at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

There is help available.

Sometimes, the people who are supposed to love us can hurt us instead. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), more than 10 million American adults experience domestic violence every year. The National Domestic Violence Hotline notes that all forms of abuse are ultimately about power and control, and financial abuse can be one of the most insidious ways to control a partner. NCADV also notes that 94%-99% of domestic violence victims have also experienced economic abuse. And unfortunately, this kind of abuse can be one of the reasons why people get trapped in domestic violence situations. Read on for some warning signs that you or someone you know is being financially abused.

1. Refusing to discuss finances

If your partner is secretive about money matters or keeps vital financial information from you, this is a major problem. This can sometimes look like the abuser being the main manager of the household finances, which isn't a bad thing in and of itself. If one person doesn't mind managing the bills and ensuring that everything gets paid, it can save the other person time and worry. The problem comes when that partner doesn't allow the other access to bank account information, credit card accounts, or utilities. If you can't see what's going on with your money, you don't know how it's being spent or how much you have. Some financial experts recommend that each partner maintains a separate bank account to ensure they have a measure of control over some of their money -- this is a really good idea.

2. Setting a spending limit

While it's a great idea for couples to be on the same page about money and how much should be spent on different things, it's a red flag if one partner is telling the other that they may only spend a certain amount, and demanding receipts to account for any money spent.

3. Jeopardizing employment

Another way a partner can control another's finances is by negatively impacting their job situation. If your partner interrupts your work (with visits or phone calls) in an attempt to sabotage you keeping that job, or doesn't allow you to hold a job at all (such as by keeping you from applying or attending interviews, or even demanding you quit the job you have), this is a major sign of financial abuse.

4. Withholding money

This is perhaps the most cut-and-dried way that someone can economically abuse another person. Your partner might insist on taking your paycheck and depositing it into an account you don't have access to, or could refuse to give you money for necessities like food or clothing (for yourself or even for your children). This behavior is designed to keep you trapped in an abusive situation, and it works, as without money, you might have very few options to leave a violent relationship. Withholding money can also look like a partner keeping all assets in their own name, such as a mortgage or a credit card account, leaving you without financial resources of your own.

5. Hiding assets

Sometimes an abusive partner may hide financial assets from you altogether. They could open bank accounts or credit cards and spend money you don't know about on anything they want, all without your knowledge or consent.

6. Economic exploitation

Another major red flag for financial abuse is when one partner exploits the other's credit by forcing them to open credit cards and spend their own money without having a say in where it goes. This can result in credit score damage as well as draining of financial resources that the abused partner could use to escape the relationship. And if your credit is harmed by a relationship, it's also that much harder to leave. If you try to rent an apartment and you're denied because of black marks on your credit caused by your partner, you might be stuck.

What can you do?

If you or someone you know is a victim of economic abuse, it can be very difficult to break free, and if you're without financial resources, it's even harder. To get help, you can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline, which has a live chat feature on its website, and you can also call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or text START to 88788.

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