When people think of domestic abuse, more often than not the first things that come to mind are physical and emotional violence. However, abuse can reach further and affect another aspect of victims’ lives: their financial security. Research found that financial abuse occurs in 99% of domestic violence cases (Adams, 2011). Financial abuse tends to be overlooked, but it is a very serious form of domestic violence.

Financial abuse includes behaviors that intend to manipulate and intimidate a partner into staying in a relationship and is a very powerful form of domestic violence. Some examples of financial abuse include forbidding a partner from working, sabotaging employment opportunities, controlling how money is spent, excluding a partner from banking decisions, stealing a partner’s identity, forcing a partner to forge checks, and overspending on joint accounts. There are many other forms of financial abuse, but at the end of the day it revolves around controlling the power of money over your partner.

Financial abuse has a serious impact on victims’ mental health. Their feeling of security and daily survival are ultimately in their abuser’s hands. Fears of homelessness and poverty are very real and can seriously affect victims’ mental wellbeing.

If you think someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, pay attention to the way they talk about their financial decisions. Unequal decision making is a red flag when it comes to financial relationships between partners. You can ask your friends and family if they feel safe and secure or if they feel like an equal in their relationship’s financial decisions.

If they (or you) are in a financially abusive relationship, we’ve included some suggestions to better protect their safety. They should change passwords and enable 2 factor, open new bank accounts and send the mail to another address, look into IRS programs like Innocent Spouse Relief, Injured Spouse Relief, Separation of Liability Relief and Equitable Relief, join a support group (Meetup, DivorceCare), and make copies of important documents and leave them at another safe location. It is also important to create a plan in case a victim needs to leave immediately. Think of safe places to go and trusted individuals who can be called to rely on for support.

Remember, financial abuse is real and has devastating effects on the victim. If you or someone you know needs immediate help, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 800-799-7233.

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