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Money Manipulation: Understanding Financial Abuse

Trigger Warning: Domestic Violence



Domestic violence is a pervasive problem in the United States, affecting approximately 10 million people each year. This is an issue that cuts close to home for many, especially since domestic violence rates in the Kansas City area have been on the rise since the end of the pandemic. Domestic violence manifests in several different forms, including physical, mental, and emotional abuse. One of the lesser-known types of domestic abuse is financial abuse.


While financial abuse is typically less acknowledged than other types, it is actually the most common, with some form of financial abuse occurring in 99% of domestic violence cases. Due to the subtle nature of financial abuse, it can be hard to identify when it's happening, and even more challenging to find resources to help those enduring it. Let’s discuss what financial abuse is, what it looks like, and what can be done to help victims.


What is Financial Abuse?


In short, financial abuse is when one person controls the financial situation of another person through various means in order to keep them trapped within the relationship. This often manifests as the abuser ensuring that the victim cannot acquire, maintain, or use financial resources. Financial abuse is often not the only form of control happening in an abusive relationship but is rather a tactic used to keep the victim from leaving.


What Does Financial Abuse Look Like?


Financial abuse can take on many different forms. Some forms of financial abuse are overt, such as keeping all money in an account that the victim does not have access to, confiscating the victim’s paychecks, sabotaging the victim’s career or preventing them from having a job, and even stealing t


he victim’s identity. However, financial abuse can also be very subtle. Criticizing and/or minimizing a partner’s career choice, constantly questioning a partner’s personal purchases, and demanding that one partner quit their job to be a full-time parent are all potential financial abuse red flags. Even things that may seem nice at first, such as a partner offering to handle all of the bills or buy houses and cars in their own name are tactics that some abusers use to gain financial control over their victims. Financial abuse can look different depending on the situation, but the main outcome is that the victim is either unable or unwilling to leave the abusive relationship due to financial insecurity.


Impact and Resources


The effects of financial abuse are often severe. Victims who are able to escape often face a hard road to securing and maintaining the resources they need to build a life on their own, and some return to their abusers out of fear for their financial futures. However, if you or someone you know is experiencing financial abuse, there are steps that can be taken to protect yourself and your loved ones.


Leaving the relationship is often the best solution. However, this may be impossible or unsafe for many victims. Other ways that a victim can begin protecting themselves and regaining control of their finances is by covertly changing account passwords and PINs, opening separate and secret bank accounts, accessing a credit report to see if the abuser has opened accounts or credit lines in the victim’s name, and talking to trusted loved ones, organizations, or faith groups to seek support and help. However, domestic violence is a perilous situation and abusers often make it as difficult as possible for their victims to leave safely. If you or someone you know is a victim of financial abuse and/or domestic violence, please call the Domestic Abuse Hotline (800-799-7233), 911, or United Way’s 2-1-1 to get connected with organizations that have the resources to help domestic abuse victims regain safety and rebuild their lives.


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