Economic Abuse and Its Role in Domestic Violence

Abuse isn’t always physical. Domestic abuse can take many forms, including verbal, emotional, and financial. Economic abuse isn’t often discussed when we address domestic violence, but about 98% of abuse victims report experiencing some kind of financial abuse. Economic abuse is never okay. If you or someone you know is experiencing the kinds of actions we talk about here, please get help.

To learn more about reporting domestic violence safely, click here.

The Warning Signs of Economic Abuse

Economic abuse occurs when an abuser extends their control to financial matters. In doing so, the abuse victim has less access to money, control over the money, and less say in how money is spent.

Warning signs of economic abuse might include:

  • Giving a strict allowance and keeping track of all spending.
  • Refusing to give you access to money you earned or have rights to.
  • Preventing you from viewing or accessing your bank accounts.
  • Stealing money from you, your family, or your friends.
  • Taking out credit cards or other loans in your name, without your permission.
  • Not paying credit card statements or other bills or otherwise ruining your credit score.
  • Preventing you from working, limiting the hours you work, or forcing you to become the sole breadwinner, but refusing to give you access to the money you earn.
  • The abuser refuses to work or financially contribute to necessary expenses like rent, food, medical care, etc.

Financial Barriers to Leaving an Abuser

As the abuser gains more control over a financial situation, the abuse victim has fewer financial resources to create an independent life. Without adequate savings, a victim cannot put down a deposit for an apartment, move to a new location, or afford basic necessities.

This lack of financial security is the main reason many victims report staying with an abuser. Long-term economic abuse can severely damage credit scores, diminish savings, and even lead to bankruptcy or other financial problems. Therefore, many who experience abuse have no means to leave the abuser.

Even if a victim does leave the relationship, economic abuse often continues. Because financial control can happen despite physical distance, many abusers continue to control finances, open unauthorized accounts, and withhold money, even after their partner leaves the relationship.

In fact, 57% of cities say domestic violence – often including economic abuse – is the top cause of homelessness for women and children.

How to Get Help

If you suspect economic abuse in your relationship, or if you are concerned that someone you love may be experiencing economic abuse, get help. Visit Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (DAIS) or the National Domestic Violence Hotline to find support and make a plan to regain control of your money – and your life.


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