November 2022: Identifying Financial Abuse in Romantic Relationships

Financial abuse is a very deceitful form of domestic violence within relationships. Because of this, it often goes undetected by the victim, especially in its earliest stages. However, identifying financial abuse in romantic relationships is imperative as it can be one of the first signs of dating violence.

For those of you who do not know, financial abuse, also known as economic abuse, occurs when “one intimate partner has control over the other partner’s ability to access, acquire, use, or maintain economic resources, which diminishes the victim’s capacity to support themselves and forces intentioned dependence.”

The perpetrators of financial abuse seek to trap their victims in the relationship. They may take complete control of the victim’s income or forbid them from working. They may ruin the victim’s credit score by taking cards out in their name and acquiring loads of debt. The longer a victim stays in a financially abusive relationship, the more financially dependent they may come on their abuser.

Many victims of financial abuse feel that they cannot leave their partner because they will not be able to financially support themselves or their families alone. If they leave their abusive relationships, they may face difficulty finding affordable housing, food, or transportation. Victims with children face even larger financial obstacles. After years of abuse, those who do leave these relationships are highly likely to return to their abuser because establishing financial independence after years of financial abuse can be extremely difficult and may feel impossible.

According to Forbes Magazine, there are four common types of financial abuse that can occur within romantic relationships:

  1. Abuser “Takes Care” of Finances

It may be normal to have one person in charge of managing the finances in a relationship. However, when only one person is in complete control and refuses to allow the other to access information or money in joint accounts, this turns into financial abuse. Victims will not have access to money for basic resources or spending unless their abuser specifically lets them.

  1. Employment Sabotage

When the abuser does not want their victim to have access to their own income, they will intentionally sabotage their job so the victim either quits or is fired. Examples of this include harassing the victim at their workplace or intentionally distracting or abusing victims before important work events to interfere with their work performance. Additionally, abusers will not permit the victim to find a new job to ensure the victim remains dependent.

  1. Economic Exploitation

As mentioned before, some abusers will intentionally ruin victims’ credit scores to trap them in abusive relationships. This is a form of economic exploitation that can often occur without the victim even knowing. Refusing to pay bills under the victim’s name can affect them years down the line because victims may be unable to take out loans or mortgages due to bad credit history.

  1. Coerced Debt

Coerced debt is similar to economic exploitation. However, the difference is that the abuser threatens or manipulates the victim into taking on debt themselves. This is a more complicated form of abuse because victims will have a hard time proving that they did not consent to the debt they’ve found themselves in since they made the transactions themselves.

If you feel that you are facing one or more of the forms of financial abuse above, there are methods and resources available to safely remove yourself from the situation. Please contact either the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or the local Vera House Foundation in Syracuse, NY at 315-468-3260.

By: Julianna Rae Porrier