It can be difficult to leave an abusive relationship. A major problem is the fact that abusers often control money access, making it difficult for victims to pay for legal aid, new housing, therapy, and other resources. Victims of abuse are more likely to stay even if they are emotionally ready to leave.
Katie Ray-Jones is the CEO of the National Domestic Violence Hotline. She says, “We often discuss the emotional abuse. Physical abuse, and sexual abuse.” Ray-Jones says that financial abuse occurs almost 98% of all abusive relationships.
Financial abuse is possible, but there are signs and behaviors you can look out for:
You may not have access to the money you need. It could start with your partner offering to manage the household finances. However, this can quickly escalate. Even if you have your paycheck deposited into the accounts, they may refuse to allow you access to shared bank account accounts. You may be denied access to shared bank accounts by your partner. They might even ask you where the money is going. Kris Godinez, a certified professional counselor in Gilbert, Arizona, says, “If your spouse makes you account every penny spent, then I can guarantee that that is financial abuse.”
It is discouraged that you work for income. You may be convinced by your partner to stay at home parent. They may try to sabotage your job by visiting your workplace and making a scene. Or they might call your employer and tell them something that will make you lose your job.
Poor financial decisions can be made by your partner. They might stay at low-paying jobs, or get fired for good reasons. This could lead to financial difficulties in your family. They might demand a bonus from their employer if they earn it. Godinez states, “It literally is an insult to the spouse and children.”
You could be in danger if you attempt to gain financial independence by performing seemingly simple tasks, such opening a bank account or credit card. Abusers are known to closely monitor their victims. Their behavior may escalate if you are showing signs that you are preparing to leave.
These are the steps you can take to help protect your financial situation and plan for the future.
1. Protect your tracks
You might search online for resources, a bank account, or a credit score card as you think about your exit strategy. Your abuser will be able to see what you are doing without taking proper precautions. Godinez states that there are many spyware programs that victims of abuse don’t know about. Experts recommend the following:
Make sure your computer is safe. Every computer that enters your home is a risk. You can have your partner set up keyloggers to track all keys you type. You can use a friend’s computer, but don’t take their laptop home.
Protect your phone with a password Your phone should be set to lock when it is not being used. Also, choose a password that your partner will never be able to guess. When you are away from your device, don’t forget to check it.
Securely send mail and emails by setting up secure methods. If your partner knows passwords, or if they share accounts with you, leave any active email addresses. You can create a secret email account to use for credit card applications or other communications that you want to keep private. Establish a Post Office. You can have your mail delivered to your home or work by setting up a P.O.
Godinez shared stories about people who learned that their abusers had placed tracking devices inside their cars. She said, “You cannot assume that the soon to be-ex or abuser doesn’t know where your are.” If you are going to somewhere secret like a bank or a restaurant, tell your partner. This will let them know that you are going to a friend’s home. Someone they can approve of, but who is actually trying to help you. You can leave your car and your phone at home with your friend and borrow their car to go to the bank.
2. Ask for help from family, friends, or colleagues
Abusers will tend to isolate their victims from their loved ones. However, many people in your circle will be willing to help. Be careful who you choose to be your friends. Your trust could be compromised by someone who is a friend of your partner or yourself. You might be advised by a loved one to remain with your partner if they are morally opposed to divorce. Others might dismiss your relationship as “not that terrible.”
You need to reach out to people who understand that your situation could be serious and potentially life-threatening. They will support you in any way they can. These people are your lifeline.
3. Save money and important documents
It’s difficult to save enough money to move when you have limited household income. Experts recommend the following:
You can stash small amounts of extra cash. Your partner won’t find it, so make sure you choose a safe place to store your money.
Keep your bonuses and raises to yourself. If your income rises, you might not want to inform your partner. You can often split your paycheck into multiple accounts if your employer allows direct deposit. You can transfer the bonus or increased amount to your secret account. All deposits to your shared account will be unchanged. This can be problematic during tax season, when income documents such as W-2s or 1099s are sent to your home. You can speak to HR if you are comfortable about how you can get those documents sent to you by email or to a post office box. Box). Ray-Jones states that employers are becoming more aware of domestic violence.
Move important documents outside your home.
4. Get professional assistance
If an abuser has control over the money, they will be able to afford a top-notch lawyer much easier. Ray-Jones cautions you that this could work against your case, particularly if there is a custody dispute over the children. You can strengthen your case by documenting the behavior of your partner and getting your own lawyer as soon as possible. Godinez states that the best way to deal with this is to hire a competent attorney who understands how financial abusers operate.
Therapy can be very beneficial for both you and your children. These are some ways you can access therapy even if you don’t have the funds.
5. Before you leave, plan as well as possible
You may need to plan carefully for months or even years before you can feel comfortable about your decision to move. Ray-Jones warns that once you have left, it is dangerous to return to the place you lived in to retrieve anything you may have forgotten. Research helpful resources and save money to plan your next steps before the situation becomes so dire that you have to leave.
Godinez states, “It’s not going to be easy. I’m going to lie to it.” It’s going to be scary, but it’s worth the effort .”
National Domestic Violence Hotline provides 24/7 support via chat, phone, or text. They can connect you with local organizations and help you create a personal safety plan.
An interactive online course, The Allstate Foundation Moving Ahead Curriculum teaches you how to avoid financial abuse and ways to improve your finances.
FreeFrom provides cash assistance for victims of intimate partner violence.
Domesticshelters.org will help you locate shelters for domestic violence in your local area.