Don’t be a victim of financial abuse. (Artikel asal dalam Bahasa Melayu)
When we hear “abuse”, society often assumes physical abuse or emotional/mental abuse. However, the truth is that financial abuse also flourishes in unhealthy relationships, in particular aimed at women.
In a study by Michigan State University in 2019, 70% of women agreed that their partners have hidden financial information from them therefore leading to a higher risk of being victims of hidden debt. Meanwhile, 46% of them also had their credit scores disrupted by their partners. Bear in mind that these are among the early signs of domestic abuse.
Definition of Financial Abuse
Abusers in financially abusive relationships take over their victims’ ability to earn, use, and maintain a stable income source. Some abusers will even go out of their way to prevent their victims from earning an income.
Victims have been known to lose their life savings as well as access to any funds as the abuser strives to take over control of the victims’ financial independence.
Abusers in financially abusive relationships use all manner of tactics to manipulate. Whether with convincing sweet talk or with blatantly aggressive threats, their aim is to have total control over their victim by snatching their financial power from them.
You maybe think “What’s the big deal? At least they aren’t beating their partners.”. However, just like emotional abuse, financial abuse is an unseen terror wielded by abusers to trap their partners in an unhealthy relationship.
Abused partners who tend to be women are then left believing they cannot financially cope on their own without their abusers. They believe they need to rely on their abusers. Believing they have no other choice, these victims continue to stay with the relationship no matter how miserable the situation deteriorates into.
How Do Abusers Commit Financial Abuse?
Generally, financial abuse begins with an abuser isolating their victim from their source of income. The victim then begins to rely on the abuser for money. This reliance is then taken advantage of by the abuser and the victim is trapped in a situation where they believe they are completely financially helpless in the world.
For anyone in a relationship, in particular women, it is of utmost importance to recognize the signs of potential financial abuse before the situation deteriorates further.
Recognizing Signs of Financial Abuse
1. Taking Advantage of Partner’s Finances and Income Source
- Using their partner’s personal assets for their own use without permission.
- Blocking or limiting their partner’s access to bank accounts.
- Borrowing money from their partner without repaying.
- Feeling entitled or deserving to take advantage of partner’s money or assets.
- Demanding and making threats in order to obtain partner’s passwords to bank accounts or credit cards.
- Expecting partner to make all bill payments or pay for own needs
- Offering to take charge of budget and financial decisions; an excuse to take the opportunity to control partner’s money flow.
- Accessing partner’s bank statements without permission.
2. Disrespecting Their Partner’s Finances and Income Source
- Criticizing or insulting partner’s career choices
- Persuading partner to quit their job, maybe even using children as an excuse
- Setting up home in an area where partner is unable to find work
- Sabotaging partner’s work and work responsibilities
- Interrupting partner’s working hours with frequent calls, messages, and even dropping by partner’s workplace unannounced
- Disrupting partner’s ability to go to work by damaging vehicle, hiding keys, or even offering to care for children but then backing out at the last minute
3. Controlling Behavior Over Partner’s Finances
- Criticizing every financial decision made by partner, even down to little things such as buying a bottle of water
- Blocking partner’s financial planning and path to financial independence
- Reluctant or refusing to cooperate on financial matters
- Insists partner’s income should be shared, but refuses to share their own income
- Unfairness in spending by treating themselves lavishly yet expecting partner to live with basics
- Refusing to contribute towards or be involved in financial decisions regarding the children’s education and leaving partner to manage it
- Forcing partner to sign financial documents without clear explanations
What Can A Victim of Financial Abuse Do?
In the early stages, take charge over your finances. Talk to your spouse. Set firm boundaries that respect both parties.
Once abuse has thoroughly set in, the only safety is to exit from your abusive relationship. For your sake and for the sake of your children.
Before you make your move to exit, you are encouraged to have an emergency financial plan for yourself, separate from your abusive partner. This plan should include sufficient funds, direct deposits to a bank account of your own, important passwords, records of your financial history, and other important documents. Record-keeping of your financial history can be written or in the form of photographs. This may be used as evidence should your case be brought to court.
Among some of the important documents you should save:
- Identification documents for yourself and your children
- Driving license
- Your passport
- Bank statement
- Salary payslip or bonus payslip
- Tax-related documents
- Documents that prove asset ownership
- Any bills registered in your name
If you are unable to exit your abusive relationship no matter what reason, seek help. Here are options:
- Contact the Talian NUR / KASIH hotline at 15999, or contact the local office of the welfare department Jabatan Kebajikan Masyarakat Malaysia (JKMM) . Inform the relevant officials of your situation and that you seek an Emergency Protection Order (EPO) or Perintah Perlindungan Kecemasan. A police report is not required to apply for an EPO.
- Contact Women’s Aid Organization (WAO).
- WAO Hotline: +603 7956 3488 (Mon to Sat: 9am – 5pm. Extended hours on Tues, Wed & Fri: 7pm – 10pm)
- SMS/WhatsApp TINA: +6018 988 8058 (24 hours)
Gaining freedom from the clutches of an abuser is not easy but neither is it impossible. Do get the support you need to carry your plans out till the end, whether the support comes from family, friends, or authorities.
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- Money Talks Your Way to Create Healthy Finances and Lasting Marriage
- How Much Should I Save For Emergencies?
- AKPK Debt Management Programme
What other signs of financial abuse in a relationship are there?