Financial Abuse is a Big Part of Domestic Violence, but You Can Protect Yourself!

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

By Kim Scouller

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. One in four women will experience domestic violence at some point in her life and 99% of victims will also suffer financial abuse. In fact, it’s for financial reasons that many women stay in abusive relationships. They become consumed with thoughts like, “If I leave I won’t be able to make ends meet,” “This might not be an ideal situation but he supports me financially,” and, “If I walkaway my credit will be destroyed forever.”

It’s important that all women understand one very important fact: You should never stay in an abusive relationship or continue to be the victim of domestic violence because of money reasons. You can recover financially, and you can learn to make it on your own. Even if you feel overwhelmed, don’t know where to begin or can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, you just need to get out.

How can you help avoid becoming the victim of financial abuse? I’ve worked with hundreds of clients over the years and here are my best tips.

Be involved with the finances

I meet with many couples and one of the biggest mistakes I see time and again is one person knows everything about the financial picture while the other person in the relationship is totally in the dark. Even in the healthiest relationships, it is imperative that both parties know exactly what is going on. At the very least, know the basics like how much money is coming in each month, where it is being spent, how much is in savings and investments, if the credit cards are being paid off, have access to and review the bank account, etc. This also helps protect you from becoming a victim of financial abuse if things ever take a turn for the worst.

Look for the red flags

Common signs of financial abuse include: the abuser drains the bank account, denies or limits access to money and information about money, hides assets, demands a detailed accounting of how money is spent, criticizes financial decisions, threatens to withhold money, forces the victim to miss or be late for work, belittles the victim’s accomplishments, and physically injures the victim to prevent her from going to work or school.

Talk about the problem

It’s understandable for women to want to stay quiet and not let others find out about what they are going through. This makes things worse, not better. Women need to come together and speak out because your story and the steps you took to regain your financial footing could be exactly what can help another woman during this difficult time in her life. This is not something that anybody should have to go through alone. When women come together and support one another, we are stronger.

Learning how money works

Unfortunately, we aren’t taught basic financial principles in school, and sadly, many women stay in abusive relationship because of money. You don’t have to be a financial professional to learn how to become financially free, build a savings, learn about basic investment strategies or how to make your money grow. There are many books and online resources that can help you get started.

Putting a personal financial safety plan in place

Almost every aspect of leaving an abusive situation involves money. Even after they leave, many victims carry the burden of bad credit, judgement liens, bankruptcies and back taxes for years. This is why it is crucial to have an individual financial safety plan in place that can carry you at least six months and help pay bills, rent, insurance and other expenses.

The takeaway

As we recognize Domestic Violence Awareness Month, please make sure to take care of yourself. If you are in a dangerous situation, get help immediately.

If you need help with your finances, find a financial professional who can help, or at the very least, talk to someone who can help you get on the right track. Self-education is another great way to go and there are many wonderful financial resources available to you. Whatever you do, remember you are not alone and there is plenty of help available out there.

Kim Scouller is a WealthWave financial professional, financial literacy advocate and attorney. To learn more, visit

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