Identify financial/economic abuse in a relationship
When most people think of domestic abuse, the first thing that comes to mind is likely verbal abuse and physical assault. But research shows that financial abuse occurs just as frequently in unhealthy relationships as other forms of abuse.
What Is financial abuse?
Financial abuse is an aspect of ‘coercive control’ – a pattern of controlling, threatening and degrading behaviour that restricts a victims’ freedom.
Financial abuse can leave women with no money for basic essentials such as food and clothing. It can leave them without access to their own bank accounts, with no access to any independent income and with debts that have been built up by abusive partners set against their names. Even when a survivor has left the home, financial control can still be exerted by the abuser with regard to child maintenance.
They also may have their own money restricted or stolen by the abuser. And rarely do they have complete access to money and other resources. When they do have money, they often have to account for every penny they spend.
Overall, the forms of financial abuse vary from situation to situation. Sometimes an abuser may use subtle tactics like manipulation while other abusers may be more overt, demanding, and intimidating.
While less commonly understood than other forms of abuse, financial abuse is one of the most powerful methods of keeping a victim trapped in an abusive relationship. Research shows that victims often are too concerned about their ability to provide financially for themselves and their children to end the relationship. Plus, financial insecurity is one of the top reasons women return to an abusive partner.
What is economic abuse?
Economic abuse is wider in its definition than ‘financial abuse’, as it can also include restricting access to essential resources such as food, clothing or transport, and denying the means to improve a person’s economic status (for example, through employment, education or training). The charity Surviving Economic Abuse describes it in the following way:
“Economic abuse is designed to reinforce or create economic instability. In this way it limits women’s choices and ability to access safety. Lack of access to economic resources can result in women staying with abusive men for longer and experiencing more harm as a result.”
According to National Study on Violence Against Women in 2019, 21% of Vietnamese women experienced economic abuse from a husband/partner during their lifetime, and 12% currently (in the last 12 months). Meanwhile, 47% of women experienced emotional violence from a husband/partner during their lifetime, and 19% currently (in the last 12 months).
26% of women experienced physical violence from a husband and 13% of women experienced sexual violence from a husband during their lifetime.
Whether subtle or overt, there are common methods that abusers use to gain financial control over their partner. These include:
- Forbidding the victim to work.
- Sabotaging work or employment opportunities by stalking or harassing the victim at the workplace or causing the victim to lose her/his job by physically battering prior to important meetings or interviews.
- Forbidding the victim from attending job training or advancement opportunities.
- Controlling how all of the money is spent.
- Not including the victim in investment or banking decisions.
- 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 or contribute to the family income.
- Withholding funds for the victim or children to obtain basic needs such as food and medicine.
- Hiding assets.
- Stealing the victim’s identity, property, or inheritance.
- Forcing the victim to work in a family business without pay.
- Refusing to pay bills and ruining the victims’ credit score.
- Forcing the victim to turn over public benefits or threatening to turn the victim in for “cheating or misusing benefits.”
- Filing false insurance claims.
- Refusing to pay or evading child support or manipulating the divorce process by drawing it out by hiding or not disclosing assets.