Watch out for financial abuse

With the rise of unemployment in South Africa, women are more likely to experience financial distress and hardship over  their lifetime than men. And because of this, many women in their lifetime will experience financial abuse while being in intimate relationships. .

So what is financial abuse? 

Just like other abuses, financial abuse is a way for an abuser to control the abused and and exercise power over her, making her feel powerless in managing her finances or even obtaining financial freedom outside of the abuser.

Many women who experience financial abuse are not necessarily experiencing physical abuse. And that is why most women don't even know that they are experiencing financial abuse because it is so subtle. It comes through as "concern" for the woman's financial well being.

And the stereotyped gender roles and attitudes to money have also normalised many women into believing that they don't need to take charge of their finances, and therefore they need to hand over the control of it to their partners.

Not only can financial abuse be a means of exerting control over another person, but the aftermath of
this form of abuse can often lead to financial difficulty and debt.

According to Wire, the financially abusers fall into three broad types: the controllers, who use a combination of abusive behaviours to exert their power over their family; the exploiters, who eschew all responsibility but also use a variety of forms of abuse to financially exploit their partner for their own financial needs; and the schemers, the men who had a specific plan to systematically steal the woman’s financial resources and leave.

Financial abuse, just like any type of abuse has terrible consequence on women. Women abused women are often trapped in cycle of poverty and isolation because the abuser makes sure that they are dependent on them alone. With no money of her own, it is very hard for most women to leave the abusive relationship.

Here are some examples of financially abusive behavior
  • Stopping you from getting or keeping a job. 
  • Controlling your bank account and spending habits
  • Your partner keeps all bank cards, check books and statements.
  • Keeping you from seeing shared bank accounts or records.
  • Spending money on themselves but not allowing you to do the same.
  • Exclude you from or ignores your opinion on major financial decisions
  • Your name is not on the property you both own.
  • Gets angry when you purchase something for yourself.
  • They insist that you show them a receipt of all your spending
  • Being told that you are not ‘good with money’ and so it is in your best interests to allow the partner to take control.
If you are married and identify with some of these abusive behaviours: 

1. Remember that the abuse is not your fault. It will never be your fault.
2. You have the right to be treated respectfully and to make decisions about your money and
3. Your partner is lying when he claims that you can't manage finances. You are as capable as he is.
4. Develop a plan that will keep you and your children safe.
5. Gain information about your assets and finances as much as possible.
6. Seek the help of a domestic lawyer for additional guidance and instruction as you prepare for personal and financial independence is also important.

If you are not married and thinking about ending a relationship, you may find that you aren’t covered by laws that pertain to married couples.

Here is what you need to do: 

1. Make a list of items that you brought into the relationship. Be sure to gather any documents or receipts you can use to prove ownership.
2. Document joint financial matters, including loans, insurance policies, retirement plans and debt.
3. If you rent property, determine whose name is on the lease. Whoever is named on the lease is legally responsible for the rent payments.
4. Are you or your partner named as a beneficiary on one another’s life insurance policy or retirement account? If your living arrangement ends, remember to remove your partner’s name as beneficiary. Also, be aware that your name may also be removed as your partner’s beneficiary.

There are many organisations out there that can help you plan, discuss your options or simply listen. Abusive relationships rarely end on their own and they usually become worse over time. If you think you, or someone you are close with, are being taken advantage of financially, please ask for help.
Abusive relationships are never your fault.