Financial dependence is one of the most common tactics that abusers use to obtain power and control. Financial abuse can take many forms, which can be subtle or conspicuous. They include tactics such as limiting the victim’s access to family assets, concealing information, or reducing accessibility to family finances. These behaviours are meant to intentionally threaten, intimidate, and manipulate the victim so that they can remain trapped in the relationship.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), 85% of women who quit an abusive relationship go back because of the financial dependence on their abusers. The abusers even go as far as ruining their victim’s credit and even stalking and harassing them at the workplace until they get fired. In some instances, financial abuse is there throughout the relationship, while in other cases, it comes later on when the victim is trying to leave or has already left the relationship.
If you (or someone close to you) are trying to leave an abusive relationship, ensuring you can access and control your own finances is a very important step towards independence. Here are the steps to take to achieve this:
Secure your Bank Account
The first step to financial independence is making sure you open a bank account in your name—and secure it. Ask your bank about the requirements needed by a family member to have access to your account. This way you will have a rough idea of how hard or easy it can be for your abuser to take over your finances. For many banks, this process requires one to produce a letter of attorney or death certificate, which is difficult to get or forge. It will also help if you can flag your account as “high risk” raising the hurdle for anyone trying to take over your account.
Secure your Financial Reports
The key documents here include your credit card or bank account information, birth certificate, passport, insurance policies, and drivers license among others. Keep these documents in a safety deposit box in the bank. You can also leave them with a trustworthy friend or family member. Ensure you change your debit card and ATM pin codes, and your online banking details and email passwords.
It is especially important to close all joint credit card and bank accounts before you quit, in case your abuser decides to accumulate large amounts of charges that can then harm your credit. Remember, both parties are responsible for paying any outstanding charge on a joint account.
Use cash and other forms of bearer assets
There are a few ways in which you can achieve financial autonomy without necessarily using your bank account. Though it can be difficult to store, using cash will help you spend money in secret without alerting those around you. Putting away $10 every other week may not raise any suspicion, but it can accumulate to a sizable amount that you can use in times of emergencies.
Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin enable you to use money online almost anonymously. Unlike cash though, Bitcoin can be stored online safely, where it is difficult to be stolen and easier to hide.
Gold is another option, especially for those looking for long-term savings. Unlike paper cash, gold takes up very little space and does not reduce value over time. Gold can also be incorporated into daily objects such as jewellery and watches, which makes it easier to assign ownership, for instance in court.
Financial abuse is one of the most powerful tools that abusers use to trap a victim in an abusive relationship. Research on survivors showed that the inability to meet their financial needs was one of the main reasons for their staying in or going back to an abusive partner. Having control over your finances will help you start a new life. Follow the above steps to gain your financial independence and have a fresh start.