The actress Kerry Washington just released a PSA in conjunction with AllState (ALL) concerning financial abuse, and it highlights a little-talked about but increasingly common form of control prevalent in dysfunctional relationships.
What is Financial Abuse?
It’s a misconception to believe that all abuse is of the overt variety. That is, that abuse means hitting and yelling and other forms of direct violence. Abuse often comes in the quitter, subtler, and ultimately more sinister forms – like controlling your partner’s finances to ultimately control their lives.
Financial abuse entails taking charge over another person’s financial means as a means of limiting their freedom to do as they please. This can encompass several tactics, all designed to force the person suffering the abuse to remain financially dependent on the abuser.
In speaking to the Huffington Post on the matter, Washington described some common financial abuse tactics, like “destroying that person’s credit, jeopardizing their job, controlling their finances, making a person feeling disempowered so that they feel like they can’t walk away from an abusive situation.”
How Does Financial Abuse Perpetuate?
What makes financial abuse so hard to root out is that it is not always obvious to the outside world, even to the person suffering from it. Financial abuse doesn’t leave visible bruises, financial abuse doesn’t leave scars. But that’s part of what makes it so potentially devastating.
It can start slowly and innocuously — a partner asking to take charge of paying all the bills, for instance. And then that partner might start taking control of all the financial aspects of the relationship. Then they might ask to have access to their partner’s bank account to “make things easier.” All of a sudden the person being abused has given access to their money to their abuser. And if that person chooses to leave the abusive situation their own money is unsafe, and leaving it will be incredibly difficult.
Like a lot of abuse, financial abuse tends to creep up, making it seem normal when it is anything but. Like physical or sexual abuse, financial abuse usual starts with small events before it gets out of control. That’s why it is important for people to recognize financial abuse, and realize that if they’re suffering from it that they can get help.
Financial abuse isn't inherently violent, but it's used by abusers like any other method: to assert control over another person. Limting a person's access to their own finances keeps them dependent and trapped, and perpetutates a cycle that can be hard to break out of. But it's not impossible.
Watch Kerry Washington’s PSA on financial abuse below: