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What is Financial Abuse?

What is Financial Abuse? 

*This blog is sponsored by The Hajek Family Foundation, Yellowstone Sponsor of CASA’s 2023 Rhinestone Rodeo. 

Economic or financial abuse involves maintaining control over financial resources, withholding access to money, or attempting to prevent a victim from working to create financial dependence as a means of control. 

A study by the Centers for Financial Security found that financial abuse occurs in 99% of domestic violence cases. While less commonly understood than other forms of abuse, it is one of the most powerful methods of keeping a victim trapped in an abusive relationship, and a top reason victims return to an abusive partner. 

Victims and survivors are often forced to choose between staying in abusive relationships and poverty or even homelessness. It is often cited as the main barrier to leaving an abusive relationship. Economic abuse can take many forms, including employment-related abuse, preventing the victim from accessing existing funds, coerced debt, and more. 


What does financial abuse look like? 

  • Forbidding the victim to work 
  • Sabotaging work or employment opportunities  
  • Controlling how all the money is spent 
  • Not allowing the victim access to bank accounts 
  • Withholding money or giving “an allowance” 
  • Forcing the victim to write bad checks or file fraudulent tax returns 
  • Running up large amounts of debt on joint accounts 
  • Refusing to work, contribute to the family income or pay bills 
  • Hiding assets 
  • Stealing the victim’s identity, property, or inheritance 
  • Forcing the victim to work in a family business without pay 
  • Refusing to pay or evading child support or manipulating the divorce process by hiding or not disclosing assets 

As with other forms of abuse, financial abuse can start gradually and be subtle at first. Abusers may use manipulation to appear as if they are trying to help the victim. It can sound something like, “I know you are stressed out right now. Why don’t you let me handle our finances and I’ll give you money each week to take care of what you need?” In these cases, the abuse and control grow little by little, until the victim no longer has any control over their finances or financial decisions. 

In other cases, financial abuse is much more overt. Abusers commonly use threats, violence and intimidation to keep the victim from working or having access to the family funds. Sometimes, this includes coerced debt, non-consensual, credit-related transactions. Coerced debt destroys the victim’s credit rating, making it difficult for her/him to obtain future loans, rent an apartment and even get a job. 


The Impact of Financial Abuse 

The short and long-term effects of financial abuse can be devastating. In the short-term, access to assets like cash, credit lines, and valuables is critical to staying safe. Without assets, survivors are often unable to obtain safe and affordable housing or provide for themselves or their children. CASA has 100+ confidential locations of shelters, transitional housing, and permanent supportive housing facilities for survivors. 

Longer-term effects include damaged credit scores, sporadic employment histories, and legal issues caused by financial abuse. These things can make it difficult for survivors to gain independence, safety, and long-term security. CASA’s Family Justice Center provides survivors with legal resources to help get them back on track. 


Let’s Look at the Facts 

  • 99% of domestic violence survivors also experienced economic abuse 
  • Between 21-60% of victims of intimate partner violence lose their jobs due to reasons stemming from the abuse 
  • 64% of domestic violence victims/survivors reported their abuse impacted their ability to work; 40% reported their abuser harassed them at work via phone and in person 
  • Victims of intimate partner violence lose a total of 8 million days of paid work each year, the equivalent of 32,000 jobs 


How to Recover from Financial Abuse 

Leaving an abusive relationship can be a scary, stressful time. Rebuilding your personal finances won’t happen overnight, but don’t get discouraged. There are steps you can take now, and people and resources available to help you.  

  • Avoid using credit and debit cards that can enable an abuser to track your whereabouts 
  • Keep your personal and financial records in a safe location. Leave copies with a trusted friend, relative, or in a bank safety deposit box to which your abuser does not have access. 
  • Compile an emergency evacuation box with copies of your family’s important records and documents. 
  • Keep copies of car and house keys, extra money and emergency phone numbers in a safe place. 
  • If you use the internet to explore domestic violence issues or research how to regain financial independence, make sure you clear your browsing history and your abuser cannot trace your activities. 
  • Take a financial inventory, listing assets and liabilities. 
  • If you are considering leaving the relationship, calculate what it would cost you to live on your own, and consider starting to set aside your own money in a safe place, even if it is just a few dollars. 
  • Obtain a copy of your credit report from any of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion), review the information, and report any fraud, disputed claims, or identity theft. Under FACTA (The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act), you can obtain a free copy of your credit report every 12 months. 

If this information is reflective of your relationship, please consider calling our 24-hour hotline at (727) 895-4912 / TTY: (727) 828-1269 or talking to an advocate through our chat feature at www/ 


Sources: NCADV, NNEDV, FinAbility, Forbes Advisor, Centers for Financial Security, Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence 

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