The Dangers of Financial Abuse

Financial abuse is one of the most common, yet forgotten, forms of abuse. It is particularly insidious because it leaves you dependent and vulnerable. Without agency over your finances, you are trapped in an abusive relationship and your ability to stay safe after leaving your abusive partner is essentially gone.

Research has shown that financial abuse occurs in 99% of domestic violence cases. One of the reasons people stay in that relationship is because they’re not able to provide financially for themselves or their children.

There are ways you may be able to prepare and protect your finances when leaving an abusive relationship:

    • When buying groceries with a debit card, ask for an extra $20 in cashback (double-check your bank statement, because some places do list the cashback as a separate line). If so – buy gift cards.
    • Try to find a cash-only job – babysitting, dog sitting, or a job that allows you to make cash tips.
    • If you are not in control of your finances, and are prohibited from getting a job, try to sell your used personal belongings (at thrift stores or pawn shows). If you have access to the internet, there are many online platforms.
    • Check your score to see if your abuser has opened any lines of credit under your name (if so, you may be able to dispute the error or sue for identity theft when it is safe).
    • Pay off any outstanding joint debt, then call the credit company and have your name removed from the account (this protects you from future debt).
    • Set up a personal checking and savings account only under your name.
    • Start putting any extra money you have into this account.
    • If you have a job that pays you through direct deposit, contact your HR department to transfer a portion of your salary to this account if your abuser does not know how much you get paid.
    • Make copies of any personal and financial documents (birth certificate, social security card, bank statements). A quick picture on your phone will be sufficient.
    • Store things with a safe person or on a cloud-based storage solution that only you have access to.
    • This should be done the day you plan to leave.
    • You want to make sure that your abuser does not have access to any of your personal or financial information.
    • Create a new email address that your abuser does not know about.
    • Whether it is an email account, social media account, or bank account, change every single one of your passwords.
    • Set up 2-step verification process so you are notified if anyone is trying to access one of your accounts.
    • The National Abuse Hotline is 800-799-7233.
    • Contact a local organization that advocate for domestic violence victims.

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