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Abuse isn't always physical or emotional, it's financial too

The very sound of the word creates an image in our mind’s eye. The word itself creates a “feeling” no matter if the abuse is physical, psychological, sexual, substance related or financial. There is nothing positive about the word abuse and there is no reason to feel you need to remain a victim. Just because there is no physical mark doesn’t mean the abuse isn’t real and isn’t a problem. Financial abuse, also referred to as economic abuse, is very serious in some relationships and needs to be addressed so that you have the self-worth and value you know exists deep within yourself.

Let’s start with the simple definition of abuse. Abuse is defined as any action that intentionally harms or inures another person. All forms of abuse in the United States are illegal and have the potential to carry serious criminal penalties. Although we are typically familiar with verbal, physical, substance and emotional abuse we are less familiar with (and often more accepting of) economic or financial abuse – we will be focusing on the latter two.

As defined by Wikipedia, Economic abuse is a form of abuse when one intimate partner has control over the other partner's access to economic resources, which diminishes the victim's capacity to support him/herself and forces him/her to depend on the perpetrator financially. It is related to, or also known as, financial abuse, which is the illegal or unauthorized use of a person’s property, money, pension book or other valuables (including changing the person's will to name the abuser as heir), often fraudulently obtaining power of attorney, followed by deprivation of money or other property, or by eviction from own home. A key distinction between economic abuse and financial abuse is that economic abuse also includes the control of someone's present or future earning potential by preventing them from obtaining a job or education. Now, these are the most severe form of financial abuse and in seen in extreme cases. Often, economic abuse is much less obvious.

In its extreme (and usual) form, this involves putting the victim on a strict "allowance", withholding money. It is common for the victim to receive less and less money as the abuse continues. It is important to recognize that victimization occurs across all socio-economic levels, and when victims are asked why they stay in abusive relationships, "lack of income" is a common response. Economic abuse is a control mechanism of the abuser and can create in the abused a sense of isolation or lack of self-worth.

There are several ways that abusers may impact a victim's economic resources. For example, the abuser may prevent the victim from working or make it very difficult to maintain a job. By denying the victim access to money, such as preventing the victim from maintaining a bank account, he or she is totally financially dependent upon the abuser for shelter, food, clothing and other necessities. In the beginning, a partner might make taking care of joint finances seem like an act of kindness, offering to take the burden off the other partner’s shoulders. But over time, the abuser takes more and more control, allowing the survivor less and less access to money, thereby making him or her increasingly more financially dependent on the abuser.

So how do you know if you’re the victim of financial abuse? Ask yourself if your partner does any of the following.

  • Forbid you from working or require you to “stay home to take care of the household”?

  • Control how money is spent?

  • Deny you direct access to any, some or all bank accounts?

  • Give you an “allowance”?

  • Force you to account for all money you spend by showing receipts?

  • Spend money on himself or herself but not allow you to do the same?

There are several ways to manage economic abuse: ensure one has safe access to important personal and financial records, ensure one's research activities are not traceable and, if you believe you are going to leave the relationship, prepare ahead of time. Don’t be a victim. Get yourself on the path to financial freedom and increase your self-worth.

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