Financial abuse is a pretty dark subject, and not one that’s really spoken about a lot.
The rise of the #MeToo movement saw many start speaking out, often for the first time about their experiences with physical, sexual and domestic abuse, yet all these often go hand in hand with financial abuse.
Perhaps the stand out case that has most caught the media’s eye would be that of Britney Spears and her years spent under a Conservatorship, having every move controlled.
To cast a spotlight on financial abuse, next week on November 26 marks the inaugural Economic Abuse Awareness Day.
So, just what is financial or economic abuse, and why is it worth mentioning?
Economic abuse is a form of abuse when one intimate partner has control over the other partner’s access to economic resources, which diminishes the victim’s capacity to support him/herself and forces him/her to depend on the perpetrator financially.
It is related to, or also known as, financial abuse, which is the illegal or unauthorized use of a person’s property, money, pension book or other valuables (including changing the person’s will to name the abuser as heir), often fraudulently obtaining power of attorney, followed by deprivation of money or other property, or by eviction from own home.
A key distinction between economic abuse and financial abuse is that economic abuse also includes the control of someone’s present or future earning potential by preventing them from obtaining a job or education. – Wikipedia
So how can you tell if you’re being financially abused? What are the signs to look out for?
The symptoms can be many and varied but are likely to include:
- Limiting employment options or forbidding certain types of career choices – or working altogether
- Extreme monitoring of purchases and spending patterns via receipt and account checking
- Severely restricting spending and not allowing some purchases at all i.e., period poverty (not allowing the purchase of sanitary items to force women to stay at home during menstruation.)
- Breadwinner threatening to leave or cutting off financial support to the family if the dependent partner doesn’t meet their demands – from sexual, domestic, emotional, physical and financial
- Money or assets are being hidden from you
- Not allowing of private bank accounts, own funds, or personal expenditure choices
- Elder Abuse – theft of funds, unauthorized withdrawals, stealing of personal items such as jewelry or art, abuse of Power of Attorney duties
- Running up debts in your name or pressure to take out loans you don’t want
Often, this insidious form of abuse goes unreported as it’s perpetrated by our loved ones, spouses & intimate partners, family, neighbours, and carers. Many feel fear, shame and embarrassment about finding themselves the victims of abuse at the hands of a trusted person.
So, what can you do and where can you go if you think you’re a victim of abuse?
It is worth knowing the laws in your state, as around the world, coercive control is being outlawed. In Tasmania, Australia, it is now a crime, and more states are set to follow. In other states, it is only punishable if there is a domestic violence application order violation. Often, Financial Abuse is a form of domestic abuse and it’s important to remember that abuse is a crime, and it’s not your fault.
If you really don’t know where to go and don’t have access to research the information, try reaching out to a trusted family member or friend who can assist. Lifeline (131 114), the Women’s Crisis Line (1800 811 811) and 1800 Respect (1800 737 732) can all help and point you in the right direction. Other specialists include financial counsellors or family lawyers.
To prevent financial abuse, stay in touch with people you trust and don’t allow your partner to isolate you. Read up and learn to recognise financial scams. Regularly check your bank account to ensure there are no unauthorized transactions and open your own mail.
Ensure your passwords are stored securely and don’t sign documents you don’t understand. Find someone you can trust to check that the person who manages your money is doing it in your best interests.
Financy helps women become financially fearless and while we’re at it, we ensure that our members – individuals and organisations – are part of the solution to gender financial equality. Subscribe for FREE to our newsletter or dial things up a notch with a Financy Membership