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What Is Financial Abuse?

Financial abuse is a form of domestic abuse that often goes unnoticed because it doesn't leave visible bruises or scars. It's about power and control. In this type of abuse one person uses money as a weapon to manipulate and dominate their partner or a family member such as a parent or sibling.

This control extends far beyond simply managing finances - it seeps into every aspect of the victim's life.

Recognizing The Signs

Abusers may insist on controlling every financial detail, even down to the last dollar. They monitor all aspects of the victim's financial situation. They often demand access to bank accounts, credit cards and paycheques.

This level of control leaves the victim feeling trapped and helpless. One of the most Insidious aspects of financial abuse is the abuser's efforts to strip the victim of any financial Independence they might have. This can include discouraging or even physically stopping the victim from working or pursuing higher education goals. This ensures complete dependence on the abuser.

Abusers may intentionally damage the victim's credit by taking out loans in their name or obtaining and using supplemental credit cards. This not only creates financial chaos but also makes it harder for the victim to leave the abusive relationship.

Financial abusers often resort to threats and intimidation to maintain control. They might threaten to withhold money, kick the victim out of the family home or even physically harm the victim. These threats instill fear and dependency, making it difficult for the victim to break free of the abuse and the abuser.

Abusers also frequently isolate their victims from friends and family. This isolation makes it challenging for the victim to seek help or escape an abusive situation.

The Impact of Financial Abuse

This constant manipulation and control take a severe toll on a victim's mental health. They often experience emotional distress, anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem because of the abuse. Victims of financial abuse can lose everything they've worked for, including their savings, their homes and their possessions.

One of the worst results of financial abuse is the effect it can have on the victim’s personal finances. Financial abuse can result in significant debt being accumulated in the victim's name. This debt can be overwhelming and long lasting and can make it challenging to rebuild financially after leaving the abuser.

Being denied opportunities for education and employment are other long-term consequences of this type of abuse. Victims may find it difficult to regain their financial footing and achieve their goals.

Seeking Help & Support

The first step in breaking free from financial abuse is talking to someone you trust. This could be a good friend, a family member or a counselor who specializes in domestic abuse.

It's also crucial to ensure you have access to essential documents such as identification, birth certificates, social insurance, bank account information and financial records. Store these in a safe and secure location that the abuser cannot access, such as a safety deposit box you arrange at a new bank.

You may also wish to consult with a lawyer or reach out to Legal Aid - they can help you understand your legal rights and options.

Step By Step

Regaining control over your finances is a gradual process. Start by opening a personal bank account in your name only at a new bank. Begin to build up your credit history to establish financial independence from your abuser. if you feel physically or emotionally threatened, consider moving to a local shelter and joining a support group for survivors of abuse. These organizations can provide a haven and connect you with resources like financial counseling, housing assistance and legal support.

Financial abuse is a devastating form of domestic abuse that affects individuals across all walks of life. Recognizing the signs, seeking help, and gradually regaining financial Independence are crucial steps toward breaking Free from this cycle of control and manipulation.

Some other examples of financial abuse are harder to identify. These can include pressuring, forcing, or tricking you into lending or giving away money, property, or possessions. Selling or removing you from your home, forcing you to change your will or power of attorney, or insisting you sign legal or financial documents that you don't understand.

Financial abuse can also be forcing you to work for little or no money, including caring for children or grandchildren when you don’t want to, making a purchase you don't want or need or providing food and shelter to others without being paid for it.

It's important to remember that there is help available and no one should have to endure financial abuse in silence. If you are reading this and know someone you feel is going through the pain of financial abuse, please try to reach out to them carefully and check out some resources provided at the end of this post.

And remember: Financial abuse can happen to anyone (young or old). In fact, senior citizens experience higher levels of financial abuse than many younger people.

Help is Available

If the abuse is directed towards a senior citizen, contact Elder Abuse Prevention Ontario at 1-866-299-1011. For non-seniors you can report financial frauds and scams to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Center 1-888-495-8501.


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