Off The Beaten Track

Financial abuse is real. Learn how to spot it.


We always hear of horrific stories of domestic abuse when it involves a brutal murder or a very public outing of a perpetrator on social media – but seldom do we consider the impact of emotional and financial abuse.

When it comes to domestic abuse, many think that it’s only about physical battery. We seldom talk about the emotional and financial implications of being in an abusive relationship – which are just as violent and destructive as physical abuse.

We sometimes question why victims don’t just leave — without considering the financial implications of doing so, as well as other harm that may befall them.

Often abusers will use emotional-control tactics, such as isolating their partner and creating a dependency to trap them.

One of the ways to deny a person autonomy and independence is to take over their finances.

Abusers might not be overt in their approach. They’ll perhaps start by dictating how the person spends money. They’ll try to take the financial reins under the guise of protecting their victim against themselves.

To achieve this, they might offer to take over the household finances — suggesting that income is pooled and the victim gets an allowance. This won’t go both ways: one person will get an allowance while the other spends as and when they please.

Once they have control of the finances, they’ll usually make executive decisions without consulting their partner.

The smallest purchase on the victim’s side will become an issue of contention, however. Any spending done for the victim’s benefit — such as a trip to the salon — and the abuser will lose their temper.

Sometimes victims of financial abuse are well off at face value, but the abuser will have full control of finances and use guilt and other forms of manipulation to ensure that their victim has very little or no say in financial decisions.

Abusers also tend to drive their victims into debt.

Serena Williams in an ad talking about the signs of financial abuse


They may ask the partner to take out a loan in their name for them to splurge on a big flashy item. They’ll promise to pay, but the moment the victim asks for repayment, they’ll lose their temper and bring up the many ways they assist. They will accuse the victim of being unfair.

Financial abusers can also shut their partners out of important decisions, especially related to financial and estate planning. They may reassure their partner that all is well, while they’re only making provisions for themselves.

Abusers can also be dishonest about their assets and income when they get married, to avoid having to fully disclose their wealth should the marriage dissolve.

Abusers may try to limit their partner’s desire to progress academically or in their career. They’ll be critical of any attempts to further their education, perhaps commenting that it’ll be wasted on the victim because they won’t get far anyway. Or they’ll claim there’s no money for education, then turn around and buy something extravagant and unnecessary just to reinforce their power.

If you identify with one or more of these scenarios, then you may be a victim of financial abuse.

As with all forms abuse, getting out of the situation might not be easy, especially if it’s compounded by other forms of abuse.

For help in getting out of an abusive situation, you can contact LifeLine on 080-015-0150


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