Financial abuse: signs and examples

Financial abuse has recently been legally defined as a form of domestic abuse by the UK government, but what is it and what are the signs and examples to look out for?

Knowing about financial abuse

What is financial abuse? Well, financial abuse – sometimes called economic abuse – is a form of domestic abuse in which a person is the victim of degrading, controlling and threatening behaviour that restricts their financial freedom. Abusers often impose restrictions on their victim’s finances in order to gain power and control over the latter’s current and future freedom and ability to do things. It can even affect people after they have managed to escape their abuser because of the long-term impact it can have on a person’s financial situation.

Often, financial abuse is experienced alongside other forms of domestic abuse such as physical abuse, but it is not always as easy to spot because financial abuse can be kept secret for the most part. In fact, in 99 percent of domestic abuse cases, the victim experiences financial abuse as well as other forms of abuse.

Signs and examples of financial abuse

Financial abuse can happen to anyone whether they are in a short-term relationship or have been married for years. It is as important to be aware of what the signs and examples of financial abuse are as it is to recognise physical or emotional abuse, because it can have as much of an impact on a victim’s life.

The common financial abuse signs and examples are:

  • Controlling how their partner’s money is spent
  • Giving their partner an “allowance”
  • Denying their partner access to their own or joint bank accounts
  • Withholding money for basic necessities such as clothes, food and medicine
  • Forbidding their partner to work
  • Running up debts on joint accounts
  • Applying for credit accounts or cards using their victim’s name and information

Other forms of domestic abuse to look out for

As mentioned above, the signs of financial abuse often come hand in hand with signs of other types of abuse, such as:

  • Physical abuse – often victims will try and hide the fact they are being physically abused. They may attempt to conceal bruises and other wounds or lie about how an injury happened. It is often hard to determine whether injuries have been caused by an abuser, however if you suspect they have, and you feel comfortable doing so, then attempt to approach the subject with the victim
  • Psychological/emotional abuse – this type of abuse can be harder to spot unless you witness it happen firsthand, however some of the signs include; insulting, criticising, ridiculing, shaming, intimidating, lying, belittling, name-calling and ignoring. You may notice a change in mood and behaviour in the victim over time, for example they may appear anxious and/or distant
  • Harassment and stalking – regular unwanted gifts, unwanted communication, damaged property, following and spying, and threats are all considered to be harassment and stalking. Essentially, any patterns of persistent and unwanted attention that frighten and upset the victim can be considered as such
  • Coercive control – this type of abuse is very similar to and often goes alongside emotional abuse. It includes a pattern of threats, humiliation, intimidation and assault that is used to harm, punish or frighten the victim. The end ideal of coercive control is to make the victim dependent by isolating them from support, so it can be hard to help victims. However, as with emotional abuse you may notice anxious, fearful or distant behaviour

Experiencing any form of domestic abuse is dangerous, so it is important to know the types and their signs so you can help the victim when they need it most. It is possible to seek legal advice from specialist domestic abuse solicitors if you or the victim has exhausted all attempts at trying to resolve issues. This is sometimes the best action to take, especially if the abuse has been going on for a long time.