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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.

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