• Kristen Rocco

Financial Abuse is Abuse

*This article was updated on Jan. 16, 2022 from its original publish date.

Can You Truly Celebrate Independence Day When You're In An Abusive Relationship?

I want to open up a conversation about relationship oppression because not every relationship is rainbows and butterflies. In millions of relationships across the world, someone’s personal freedom is infringed upon every day because of abuse.

According to Allstate's domestic abuse program, 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime.

You may have questioned why these women just don’t leave, pick up their stuff, grab their kids, and get the heck out of there. Did you know that the number one reason domestic violence victims can’t ‘just leave’ is because they’re being abused financially?

What is financial abuse?

Financial abuse prevents victims from acquiring, using or maintaining financial resources. Financial abuse is just as effective in controlling a victim as a lock and key. Abusers employ isolating tactics such as preventing their spouse or partner from working or accessing a bank, credit card or transportation. They might tightly monitor and restrict their partner’s spending. Victims of financial abuse live a controlled life where they have been purposely put into a position of dependence, making it hard for the victim to break free. (Purple Purse)

In 99% of all domestic violence cases, financial abuse helps keep victims trapped in the abusive relationship. "It is an invisible weapon that traps victims in abusive relationships,” Purple Purse.

The Allstate Foundation Purple Purse is aimed at creating long-term safety and security for survivors through financial empowerment. It contains resources about domestic and financial abuse aimed to help victims become survivors. Visit PurplePurse.com to learn more.

What does financial abuse look like?

This is Michelle’s story… (read her entire personal account here)

It was raining when I left. I remember thinking how appropriate – even poetic – it was to be standing outside, getting soaked as I waited for my taxi back to my apartment. From there, I planned to go back to my hometown for a few days to recover from my breakup. I’d call up a few friends, watch some romance movies, and eat the stereotypical pint of ice cream.

But it wasn’t meant to be. As I swiped my card on the taxi driver’s payment system, it gave that horrible “declined” beep. I tried another debit card – then an emergency credit card. Nothing.

Later that night, I would learn that my ex-boyfriend – a man who had already held me against the wall by my neck when he thought I wasn’t listening properly, and who had shattered a window throwing a baseball at me – had taken all of my money and had somehow managed to add himself as a secondary user on my credit card.

It wasn’t the first time this happened. My ex – let’s call him Bill – had used my money to keep me from going out with my friends or going home to see my family. There was another time he had told me that my credit score (a number that I didn’t even know existed) was so low that, "No one but me would trust you with money."

I believed him and let this cycle continue for far too long. But this time, when I felt emotionally ready to move on, everything I’d worked for was gone.

According to attorney, author, and advocate Alexis Moore, signs of financial abuse may include, “Controlling the banking and financial aspects of the relationship, removing your name from accounts, taking deposits that are yours and making them theirs, controlling your ability to work and be fiscally successful.”

What You Can Do

If you know someone experiencing domestic abuse, I have looked up what you can do to help them. This is straight from The National Domestic Violence Hotline website.

  • If you are a person the victim knows and trusts, talk to the victim about what they want. Try to find a safe time and place to speak with them (away from the abusive partner) and ask how you can best support them. They may not be ready or able to discuss the abuse with you; if this is the case, just let them know that you are there to support them in any way you can. ​​

  • Every time you hear abuse happening, keep a journal about the events. Mark the day it happens, the time it happens and what you heard or witnessed. This record can provide evidence if the victim does choose to approach law enforcement.

  • Help the victim create a safety plan when you’re able to find a safe time and place to communicate. You can always contact one of our advocates to help you brainstorm.

  • If you live next to the person and hear abuse happening, you could knock on the door and ask to borrow an item as a way to interrupt what’s happening.

  • Reach out to a local or state domestic violence agency. Learn more about what abuse can look like, understand what the victim is going through and get more information on how you can offer support.

  • If you live in a community with communal areas, like a mail room or laundry room, posting a flyer from The Hotline with contact information could be a way to help a person experiencing abuse reach out for support.

If you need help, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or TTY 1-800-787-3224.

Let’s do our part to promote loving relationships and be the resource for our friends, family and neighbors when they need our help to get out of an abusive relationship.