The holidays are an exciting time of year! The anticipation of spending quality time with loved ones, the mouth watering food, delicious desserts, and presents! The long standing tradition of giving family and friends a gift should be a process one enters with joy, however if you are a sufferer from financial abuse the process can be excruciating. Do you know the signs of financial abuse? Financial abuse is real and often a very powerful form of keeping the victim trapped in an abusive relationship. So this Christmas when you receive an otherwise “awkward” gift, perhaps half the Bath and Body kit is missing, or it looks regifted, or perhaps even second hand, please keep the following in mind…
Financial abuse – along with emotional, physical, and sexual abuse – includes behaviors to intentionally manipulate, intimidate, and threaten the victim in order to entrap that person in the relationship. In some cases, financial abuse is present throughout the relationship and in other cases financial abuse becomes present when the survivor is attempting to leave or has left the relationship.
For some, financial abuse starts off slowly with one partner or spouse telling the other how money will be spent, often coming across as responsible. Over time the victim receives little if any money & has to account for every penny, meanwhile the abuser has double standards and manipulates and justifies why they receive more money, example, “you stay at home all day with the kids, what do you do? I work hard all day, I need to blow off steam and have a beer”. Financial abuse often goes hand-in-hand with emotional abuse.
Though financial abuse occurs in 99% of domestic violence cases, a 2014 study showed that 78% of Americans did not recognize financial abuse as a form of domestic violence.
How exactly does a spouse or partner get into this situation? The abusers’ reasoning is often rationalized by the victim because there is a half truth. It’s a frog being slowly boiled in water scenarios (for those not familiar with the analogy…when a frog is placed in a pot of water that is slowly heated up to a boil they remain in the water and die, however if the frog was initially placed in the boiling hot water it would jump out immediately). Thus, looking back on the abuse the victim will see red flags, but when living the abuse the victim is often unaware. The abuser is very clever with their tactics. For example, they might indicate that bank statements, phone plan statements, credit card statements, etc. will no longer come in the mail in order to save money because they’re now changing fees for paper statements. Sounds like a good idea. Who doesn’t like to save money? However when the victim asks for the passwords to the online statements the abuser never has the time, expresses they will tell them at a later date, ultimately they’re just gaslighting the victim. Now the victim has no idea how much their abuser is actually spending, charging to credit cards, or who they are talking to, etc. Why would someone need to hide credit card statements and phone records from their spouse?
Abusers will often make large financial decisions without discussing them with their spouse. These past few years were really tough for many victims because for the first time ever they saw hope, hope in the form of stimulus checks. For the first time, many victims were going to have their own money, and a significant amount, most victims have never imagined having! That is until, for some, it was deposited into their joint accounts and the abuser used it as they pleased. Again you’re probably asking how? How does this happen and why do they stay? Most victims are empaths and they really don’t want to believe that someone they love so much would hurt them so badly and not have a problem doing so, in fact when confronted the abuser will often say that the victim deserved it…that the victim is “bad with money”, “doesn’t work hard enough to deserve the money”, “is irresponsible with finances and shouldn’t be allowed access at all”…and when the victim asks too many questions or becomes irate the abuser often pushes back more. Some do the unthinkable and remove ALL money from any and all joint funds leaving the victim with NO MONEY at ALL!!! Can you imagine, after being married for almost 18 years and having a joint savings and checking account the entire time and then suddenly your spouse removes ALL funds from your accounts and places them into their own private account? Thus, finally having total financial control over the victim!
What’s the victim to do? They feel isolated, degraded, alone, stupid, trapped, extremely embarrassed…how could they let this happen? And it’s important to note that financial abuse doesn’t discriminate, it doesn’t care what race, social status, religion, etc. you are. Victims often put on brave faces due to embarrassment. It’s so important that they know that they are not at fault! Especially after hearing years of emotionally abusive comments from their spouse.
Since the victim has no money of their own anymore and sadly this scenario can occur very easily when there is one spouse that stays home with the children, the other can begin the manipulation and abuse early on. Though it’s important to note that the spouse who’s hard at work in the home and raising the children is literally making the other spouse’s career and life possible, a spouse working outside the home, can’t travel, and socialize and party with friends unless there’s someone being devoted to the needs of the children and household at home. Thus, after the spouse at home has devoted much of their life together toward their family and made huge sacrifices and has had to deal with the abuse for years, now they have no money at all, so they get a job, and that should be the end of the abuse, right? Wrong.
Here’s the jaw dropper! After the victim has had to put up with the financial abuse for so long, has had to account for every penny, then been denied access to where there partner is charging thing to/for, and for how much (how far indebt are they? She has no idea!), who they are talking to, had no access to any of the financial statements, no access to their own money, they go out and get a job. Ya know, so she can finally get her hair done, have a few dollar for herself. And you know what the abuser does? Demands that the victim pay the bills with the little money (often a measly fraction of what the abuser makes) they’re making!
In conclusion, this Christmas if you receive a present from a loved one or a friend that appears to have come from a secondhand store, is an unusual gift to give, or seems to be missing parts or pieces please be kind. You have no idea what kind of verbal, financial or physical abuse that individual might have received in order to get you a simple gift. (It’s all about the control, the manipulation, the intimidation…and an abuser will see any and every financial opportunity to make their victim feel small) And remember the best gift we can give one another is our time. Perhaps pull your family member, friend, coworker aside and ask them to coffee and then delve a little deeper, remember financial abuse can be extremely embarrassing for most victims…often because looking back they see the red flags, which only makes them feel stupid. And to others who haven’t experienced it it can seem like something someone should just be able to leave, get out of, but there are often complicated reasons why it’s not so easy.
If you are being abused or think you know of someone being abused, no words need to be exchanged, simply share this post.