Financial Abuse: Understanding It and How to Protect Yourself

financial abuse
woman recognizes financial abuse

Financial abuse, a distressing form of domestic abuse, entails the exertion of control or manipulation over a victim's finances by their abuser. This insidious behavior can occur in relationships of any class, gender, or sexual orientation, often remaining undetected as it lacks physical violence.

In this post, let's delve into the intricate aspects of financial abuse. We'll explore its definition, take a closer look at recognizing the signs, and provide actionable steps to help you safeguard yourself against this harmful manipulation. By shedding light on this issue, we aim to empower individuals to break free from the chains of financial abuse and reclaim their autonomy. We understand the challenges you may face, and we're here to support you every step of the way.

What is Financial Abuse?

Financial abuse is a deeply manipulative tactic employed by abusers to exert control and gain power over their victims, leaving long-lasting repercussions on the victim's financial stability, independence, and overall well-being. It encompasses a range of insidious actions, such as manipulating, exploiting, or controlling the victim's financial resources, including their income, savings, credit, and property.

Financial abuse can manifest in various ways that further strip away the victim's control and agency. For instance, abusers may exert control over economic resources, coerce the victim to quit their job or prevent them from working, or even engage in unauthorized use of the victim's credit. Additionally, they may force the victim to take out loans or credit in their name, compel them to sign over property or assets, or resort to stealing money or property from the victim.

Furthermore, the abuser may refuse to contribute to household expenses or burden the victim with sole responsibility, sabotaging their credit score or financial standing. In some cases, threats, intimidation, or physical violence may be utilized to maintain control over the victim's finances, while others may involve concealing assets to further restrict the victim's access to financial resources.

It is crucial to raise awareness about this grave issue and support those affected by financial abuse in reclaiming their financial independence and security.

Recognizing Financial Abuse

Financial abuse, a form of manipulation, can be a challenging concept to grasp as it typically unfolds gradually and inconspicuously. Over time, victims may unknowingly fall prey to this insidious behavior, only realizing the extent of their dire circumstances when it's already too late. It is crucial to raise awareness about the subtle nature of financial abuse to empower individuals to identify and break free from its destructive grip.

Here are some warning signs of financial abuse to look out for:

  • Having limited access to money or resources
  • Not having access to family bank accounts
  • Requiring a person to ask permission to get access to their own money or resources
  • Not having the opportunity to review or sign one's tax returns
  • A person's credit score suddenly drops, and they don't know why
  • An individual is prevented from working or forced to quit their job
  • A person is forced to take out loans or credit in their name
  • A person is not permitted to make any independent financial decisions
  • Property or assets are taken without consent
  • An individual is threatened or intimidated to give their abuser money or financial resources
  • An individual is solely responsible for all household expenses, even if their abuser is capable of contributing
  • A person is forced to sign over financial assets or property
  • An individual is afraid to leave their abuser because they fear financial instability or retaliation

If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these warning signs of financial abuse, such as controlling access to money, excessive monitoring of expenses, or forced financial dependence, it is crucial to take immediate action to protect yourself from the abusive relationship and prioritize your well-being.

Don't hesitate to reach out for support and guidance from trusted friends, family, or healthcare professionals who can provide assistance and resources tailored to your situation. Remember, your health and happiness matter, and seeking help is a sign of strength and resilience in overcoming financial abuse.

Protecting Yourself

If you suspect you are being financially abused, there are steps you can take to protect yourself:

Educate yourself and empower your financial well-being:

Taking the time to understand the signs and tactics of financial abuse is not only crucial but also the first step towards safeguarding yourself from potential harm. By equipping yourself with this knowledge, you can confidently navigate the intricate landscape of personal finance and make informed decisions that will positively impact your financial future.

Build a support system

If you find yourself experiencing financial abuse, don't hesitate to reach out to your friends, family, or even a local domestic violence organization for the support you need. They can offer guidance, resources, and a listening ear to help you navigate through this challenging time. Remember, you are not alone, and there are people who care and want to help you.

Document your finances: 

It is highly recommended to maintain detailed records of all your financial transactions. This includes keeping track of the statements for your bank accounts, credit card statements, bills, and receipts. By diligently organizing and archiving these important documents, you can ensure accurate financial management and have a clear overview of your monetary activities. This practice will not only assist you in budgeting effectively but also provide you with a solid foundation for making informed financial decisions.

Establish financial independence: 

To take control of your financial future, consider opening a bank account and applying for a credit card in your name. This will allow you to start building a solid financial foundation while having the means to save money for both short-term and long-term goals. By establishing these financial tools, you'll have the opportunity to manage your expenses, track your spending, and develop healthy financial habits that can lead to a more secure and prosperous future.


Create a safety plan: 

If you're planning to leave your abuser, it's crucial to create a comprehensive safety plan that encompasses various aspects. Start by ensuring the security of your finances, which may involve opening a separate bank account or gathering important financial documents. Additionally, make arrangements to have a safe place to go, such as staying with a trusted friend or family member, or exploring resources provided by local shelters or organizations that support survivors of abuse. Remember, taking these proactive steps can help you navigate this challenging situation with more confidence and resilience.

Seek legal assistance: 

If you find yourself in a precarious situation where the security of your financial assets is at stake, it is worth considering the option of obtaining a restraining order or seeking professional legal assistance. These proactive steps can provide you with the necessary protection and peace of mind, ensuring that your hard-earned assets remain secure from any potential threats or unauthorized access. By taking these measures, you are taking a proactive approach to safeguarding your financial well-being and ensuring that your assets are shielded from harm.

Get professional financial help:

A skilled financial counselor can provide valuable assistance in various aspects of your financial life. They can help you create a well-structured budget tailored to your specific needs, guide you in effectively managing your finances, and empower you to make informed decisions for a secure and prosperous financial future. With their expertise and guidance, you can gain a deeper understanding of financial matters and develop strategies to achieve your long-term goals.


Remember, financial abuse is domestic abuse. It's a serious issue, and no one deserves to be a victim. If you're experiencing any type of domestic abuse, know that you're not alone, and there are resources available to help you. The National Domestic Violence Hotline can provide you with information and support, including resources on how to safely leave an abusive relationship.

Economic abuse can have a lasting impact on a victim's financial and emotional well-being. It's important to recognize the signs of financial abuse and take action to protect yourself. By educating yourself, building a support system, establishing financial independence, and seeking professional help, you can take steps toward a brighter financial future free from abuse.

We also offer free resources and training in our private Watch Her Thrive Facebook Group.


Additional blog posts related to financial abuse:

How to Protect Yourself Financially When Divorcing a Narcissist

Establishing a Solid Financial Foundation When Leaving an Abusive Relationship

How Does Family Law Protect Victims of Domestic Violence?


Resources for those experiencing domestic violence:

National Domestic Violence Hotline

The National Defense Center for Criminalized Survivors

The Divorce Coalition


Divorce Coalition 

As a member of the Divorce Coalition, we believe in the mission to transform the narrative around domestic abuse through collaboration, education, and advocacy. We bring together leading voices from the worlds of podcasting, domestic violence intervention, legal professionals, and divorce support to shift the paradigm from silence to empowerment, armed with knowledge and understanding.

Our goal is to foster change by engaging with divorce and legal professionals, family and criminal courts, legislators, and other key stakeholders. We are dedicated to altering the landscape of domestic abuse, aiming to improve the process for victims and their families.

In partnership with organizations that support victims and survivors of domestic violence, we strive to amplify our collective impact. Our commitment is to ensure that domestic abuse is no longer overlooked or trivialized due to silence or lack of awareness.

This is just the beginning of our journey. Together, we are committed to breaking the silence, challenging stigma, and driving meaningful change. We believe in a future where the process supports, not overlooks or misunderstands, the victim. Join us in this crucial fight and learn more at


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