Financial Abuse Isn't Talked About Enough, So Here's What You Should Know
"Financial abusers use money as a weapon."
So I corresponded with Shannon Thomas, trauma therapist and author of Healing from Hidden Abuse, to learn more about what financial abuse is and what warning signs to watch out for.
And to find some real-world examples of what financial abuse can look like, I dug into this Reddit thread where people shared their personal experiences and looked at resources from One Love, VeryWellMind, and Forbes.
In a nutshell, financial abuse is when someone else uses abusive tactics to control your financial situation for their benefit.
Sometimes financial abuse can involve someone exploiting your hard-earned cash for themselves.
This redditor's story really encapsulates how damaging this kind of abuse can be.
"I worked 40+ hours a week while in school. He refused to hold down a job. Any cash tips that I made routinely went missing from the box I kept them in. He tried to tell me I 'must have misplaced it,' until I walked in on him taking my cash out of my bedroom. By the end of that relationship, I'd paid for both his cars, all their modifications, [and] all his gas and groceries. I was so strapped for cash that I couldn't afford shoes for work. I couldn't afford to have impacted wisdom teeth removed. He told me I was 'being dramatic.'
I kept cash because he got a hold of my debit card and wiped out my account, so I closed it."
Or a financial abuser might try to get you fired from your job or destroy your livelihood.
It could look like what happened to this redditor, where the abuse wore them down until they felt so hopeless that they quit their job:
"He started by stealing cash from me. A little at a time, gaslighting me to believe I lost it.
Then he used my 'only for emergencies credit card' my mother paid for, so that was relinquished.
Then he emptied my bank account.
When we got married, the bank account was in his name only. I had no access to it. No checks, no debit card.
When I worked, he confiscated my paycheck, so I stopped working because what was the point?
Then he put accounts in my name and didn't pay the bills, so not only was I penniless, but thousands of dollars in debt.
When I left, I just had a suitcase of clothes to my name."
Or financial abuse could involve someone trying to control every little detail of your budget.
In this story from Reddit, the abuser cut off the victim's access to their own bank account:
"When I was very young and in one of my first relationships, I had a very giving spirit and at first was very open to 'what's yours is mine.' Unfortunately, someone very manipulative and abusive (my ex-boyfriend) took advantage of that. He first began stealing my debit card out of my wallet when I was sleeping or showering and would go take care of his needs with my money while he was unemployed. When he did find a job, he was even more abusive at this point and kept my debit card from me and didn't allow me to have any access to my money at all, despite having his own bank account. The worst it ever got was him spending all my money, being unemployed, and not having any money for his rent. I was young, stupid, and devalued by abuse, so I showed my breasts for money for him to cover his rent. Fast forward years: He's unemployed again and sponging off of me. This time after taking a hiatus in the relationship and realizing how fucked it was, I ended it. He tried to emotionally manipulate me into letting him come back, but it didn't happen."
Parents and family members can also be financially abusive.
This redditor's story really drives home how devastating familial financial abuse can be:
"I had worked for three years at a retail job and my mom would put the money in an account I had no access to. I'm visually impaired so I couldn't drive, and I didn't have a state ID at the time so I didn't have a checking account. Every time I brought up that I felt I should get a cut of my paycheck, my mom would start gaslighting me and talk about how selfish I am and how she should be charging me rent. Later on, I owed money to my college and asked about that account because I never took money out and neither of my parents told me about any activity. My mom said it was all gone and was 'used to pay my college,' which was absolutely untrue because I saw my annual income as well as the costs per semester for both my community college semesters as well as my public college. No one had asked for my consent while spending that money, but my mom was fine not asking me whether I had plans if work called and asked if I wanted extra hours.
Yeah, I'm currently [in] NC with my parents. The sad thing is that there are so many worse situations than this that drove me towards that decision."