What is Financial Abuse?

 If someone forcibly controls another person’s money or other assets, it is financial abuse – and it occurs in almost all abusive relationships. It is usually part of a larger pattern of domestic violence aimed at getting and staying in a  power position in a relationship and creating dependence on the abuser.

There are different methods an abuser can use to control their partner’s finances. This is especially true for those who apply for things like joint bank or credit accounts.


The first method is to exert control:

  • An abuser will try to deny access to money, thereby stripping the person of any financial independence.
  • Demanding the victim turns over their bank and credit cards, even their salary
  • The abuser will keep track of any money being used
  • They will not share any financial responsibility,
  • The victim will need to ask for money
  • The abuser may even hinder the victim from gaining any further education or employment.
  • Threatening to cut the victim off financially

The second method is through exploitation:


  • The abuser may destroy or damage any property or belongings of the victim
  • Building up debt that then falls under the victim’s name, by not paying bill’s on time, or even using credit cards without knowledge and permission.

Lastly, the abuser can use tactics like sabotage, which is mainly aimed at a person’s employment:


  • Abusers somehow manipulate their victims, preventing them from going to work
  • An abuser might even show up at work and cause a scene
  • Or just plain threaten their victim, force them to leave their place of work. (source: Safe House Stellenbosch)
    This type of abuse is not only for couples, but it can also extend to other relatives like parents. Economic abuse of an older parent, where their parent then has minimal access to their finances, under the guise of helping. Wherever there is a situation where somebody is denying you access to your financial information, it is time to seek help.

Note about Financial Abuse

Financial abuse is not limited to couples in a marriage or relationship. It extends into other relationships like child and eldery parent or grandparent. The abuser might simply start by helping manage finances but slowly starts to control accounts by limiting access to funds and pocketing the money themselves and convinces the eldery to sign legal but detrimental financial documents. Alarm bells should be sounding and professional help should be called in.

If you are experiencing abuse and would like to explore the option of leaving your abuser you can read more about an action plan by clicking on the button below.