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Learn about domestic violence and financial abuse.

Domestic violence is defined as any pattern of coercive, controlling behavior of one partner over another. One of the most harmful forms of domestic violence is called financial abuse. It is one of the main reasons victims stay in or return to an abusive relationship.

What is Financial Abuse?

Financial abuse is a tactic used by abusers to control victims by preventing access to money or other financial resources. It often begins subtly and progresses over time. Like other forms of abuse, it aims to gain power and control.

Financial abuse works by controlling access to money and other resources. It might include:

  • Controlling how money is spent
  • Withholding money or "giving an allowance"
  • Withholding basic living resources, medication or food
  • Not allowing a partner to work or earn money
  • Stealing a partner's identity, money, credit or property

Recognizing Financial Abuse

Financial abuse can be hard to recognize. Below are a few questions that might help you identify if you or a friend are being financially exploited.

Does your partner:

  • Decide if you can use cash or credit/debit cards or question your spending?
  • Steal money from you or your family?
  • Force you to give access to your money or financial accounts?
  • Make you feel as though you don't have a right to know any details about money?
  • Refuse to include you in important meetings with banks, financial planners, or retirement specialists?
  • Forbid you to work? Or to attend school or training sessions?
  • Interfere with your work performance or sabotage your job by making harassing calls or unannounced visits?
  • Overuse your credit cards? Refuse to pay the bills?

Elements of a Healthy Financial Relationship

Healthy financial relationships are about compromise and equality. A true partnership does not include financial abuse. It's based on open communication. It works toward agreement in all financial matters. Family finances are seldom easy. In fact, most couples argue about money. However, it is possible to have a financially healthy relationship. Here are some ways couples can negotiate their wants and needs.

  • One partner might manage the day-to-day finances and bill paying. But both partners have access to any financial information.
  • Couples may have different values around money. But together, they will negotiate to form joint financial goals.
  • Couples set plans to meet joint goals and support each other in the process.
  • One partner may earn more income. But both partners understand and respect that decision making is equal.
  • Both partners have access to their money. They do not need to ask permission or hide their day-today spending.
  • Large or long-term financial decisions are made jointly between partners.
  • Both partners are honest. Both have access to money and know where and how money is spent.

Learn about the warning signs of abuse.

A person experiencing domestic violence will often be afraid to openly share their circumstances for fear of retaliation from their abuser. If you suspect someone you know may be experiencing domestic violence, start by watching out for these key indicators, then see how to start a conversation.

This person may:
  • Seem scared or anxious to please their partner
  • Be overly agreeable to everything their partner says and does
  • Check in often with their partner to report on their activities
  • Frequently receive harassing phone calls from their partner
  • Talk about their partner's temper, jealousy or possessiveness
This person may:
  • Have limited access to money or credit cards
  • Have their spending tightly monitored
  • Worry excessively how their partner will respond to what are typically considered simple, everyday purchases
This person may:
  • Frequently miss work, school and social obligations without notice or explanation
  • Make seemingly odd clothing choices in an effort to conceal bruises or scars, for example: wearing long sleeves or turtlenecks in the summer and sunglasses indoors
This person may:
  • Have low self-esteem, even if they were once very confident
  • Show significant changes in personality, such as an extroverted person becoming withdrawn
  • Show signs of depression, anxiety or being suicidal

More ways to educate yourself

The more you understand the abuse many men and women face each day, the better equipped you can be to join us in breaking the cycle for good.

Download the Purple Purse Brochure (PDF).

Allstate Foundation Purple Purse is committed to bringing domestic violence and financial abuse out of the shadows by educating family, friends and colleagues of victims. The following downloadable PDF brochure outlines key statistics, signs of abuse and how to start the conversation with someone in need.

Download now
Get the facts from the experts.

From defining common domestic violence buzzwords to offering key insights revealed in the Domestic Violence Counts annual census report, the National Network to End Domestic Violence can help you better understand the issue.

See buzzwordsSee census report

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