With the release of my second book in the Healing from Hidden Abuse series, Exposing Financial Abuse: When Money is a Weapon, I’ve received many questions about what exactly qualifies as economic exploitation and abuse. Little is written and even less is published on the specific topic of financial abuse, so I understand the confusion that currently exists.
Where is the line between normal struggles with money within a marriage or family, and when does it become exploitative and abusive? Why is addressing financial abuse an important topic to highlight? Why haven’t more authors tackled this subject sooner and shed light on behaviors that impact so many people around the world on a daily basis?
Why does there seem to be an almost apathetic attitude about financial abuse, as if it’s just a norm that can’t be fixed within an unhealthy relationship?
These are questions that we need to address head-on so that the individuals and families being harmed by a financial abuser can get the help they need and deserve. A new path is being forged in this area and defining exactly how economic control works is at the heart of why I wrote Exposing Financial Abuse.
It’s very important to remember that there’s a wide range of behaviors that should be considered toxic when it comes to money and how it’s used within relationships. As the understanding around financial abuse increases, so will the conversations about it. For now, I want to highlight three key components of economic harm.
Family Court Fraud
Does your ex-spouse suddenly stop paying child support as a means of furthering their abuse and control over your life? Did your ex-spouse hide his or her income from being included in the calculations for child and/or spousal support? Does your ex-spouse use the family court system as a tool of threats and further harassment?
Within the family court system, lies are being accepted without any consequences. Toxic ex-spouses are able to hide money, lie about their actions related to the couple’s joint money, and use the court system as a means of control against the victim spouse.
Rarely does a financial abuser within the family court system receive legal or economic punishment for not following the Court’s orders related to money. Abusers go on and on with their toxic agendas and drag the victim spouse along for the very expensive ride.
Why is exposing financial abuse important? Ask anyone who has been the target of family court fraud how it impacted not only their financial stability, but their emotional and physical health as well. As a trauma therapist, I can tell you that some of the most devastated clients I’ve worked with have been those who endured an intense legal battle with an economic abuser.
Do you carry the full burden of making enough money for your household because your partner refuses to maintain steady employment? Are you blamed for creating financial stress but are not the one who overspends? Were or are your finances impacted by someone who used hidden ways to sabotage your financial stability?
Covert control is one of the most surprising ways financial exploitation takes place.
Most people who have read Exposing Financial Abuse have shared that they were shocked by how many different ways someone can cause hidden harm to household finances. Passive control looks like someone intentionally causing debt to keep the family budget so tight, the victim partner doesn’t have enough money to leave the toxic relationship. Hidden abuse in the form of economic control happens when a spouse hops from job to job and it’s always someone else’s fault. They take no responsibility for being chronically unemployed or under-employed for what’s needed to meet the family budget. Sabotage is often at the heart of a covert economic abuser. They try to ensure that their victim can’t gain financial stability. Their actions may be hard at first to pinpoint as abusive, but over time, the pattern can clearly be seen and is usually the financial wreckage they leave behind.
Were lines of credit taken out in your name without your consent? Has your partner moved money from your joint account to a secret individual account without your prior knowledge or consent? Were or are you denied access to bank accounts by your abusive partner?
The aggressive financial abuser is what we’ve come to think of as the stereotype – the person who holds all the access to the family money and decides how it’s spent. Overt control can include withholding normal items like clothing for children that fit properly or basic needs even though the family budget is more than enough to cover these things.
Dominance in the form of controlling money creates a very unhappy world for the target, which is precisely the goal of most overt economic abusers.
They want to be the ones who pull the strings as the puppet-master to those closest to them. We don’t have to understand why they find entertainment out of this power, we just have to recognize it to be true. A smirk or an ugly laugh often gives their abusive intentions away.
We’re on the cusp of a breakthrough in knowledge and exposure surrounding the hidden world of economic control and abuse. Please join me in writing about this topic, speaking up if you’ve been a victim of this form of abuse, share quotes on social media, and talk to your co-workers about financial abuse and how it impacts its victims. Do what you can in your circle of influence to expand the awareness of this hidden world and help break down the apathy that currently keeps its victims in the shadows.
Keep dreaming big!
I am very excited to share the second book in the Healing from Hidden Abuse series has been released!
Exposing Financial Abuse: When Money is a Weapon is now available on Amazon (paperback, Kindle, and Audio Book).
Within the pages of Exposing Financial Abuse: When Money is a Weapon, you will be given the opportunity to pull the curtain back and see into the lives of those who have been financially harmed by someone close to them. Being able to take a closer look at this hidden world is a unique gift that cannot be taken lightly or without honor for those who have chosen to allow us to peek into the most personal aspects of their lives.
Test yourself. How would you describe financial abuse? It is quietly happening all around us and is hidden within our neighborhoods and communities. You probably know someone who lives within a financially abusive household and you don’t even know it.
What is financial abuse?
Has your spouse or parent taken out lines of credit in your name without your consent?
Does your ex-spouse suddenly stop paying child support as a means of furthering their abuse and control over your life?
Has your partner moved money from your joint account to a secret individual account without your prior knowledge or consent?
Do your parents use financial gifts as an open door to demand future compliance on your part?
Are you blamed for creating financial stress, but are not the one who overspends?
Did your ex-spouse hide his or her income from being included in the calculations for child and/or spousal support?
Have your religious leaders said that you must give to the church first, even if that means you cannot provide for your household’s basic needs?
Do you carry the full burden of making enough money for your household because your partner refuses to maintain steady employment?
To order: Amazon
“Daily Mom Pressures, It’s Never Too Late & The Power to Change”
I had a fantastic time laughing with It Takes A Village host, Ashley Carroll, about the challenges of motherhood, finding our way through jealousy and becoming comfortable in who we are as women – Shannon
To the show: http://theashcarroll.com/podcasts/065
With the release of the second book in the Healing from Hidden Abuse series, Exposing Financial Abuse: When Money is a Weapon, I have innocently been asked why this an important topic to cover. It’s a good question but one that, honestly, took me by surprise a little bit each time I was asked.
Why wouldn’t any discussions of calling out abuse be significant and why does this specific one need a qualifier of why it’s important?
After I had been asked this question several times and heard my own reply, I realized that the topic of financial exploitation and abuse really does have a long way to go before it is seen as a “legitimate” form of domestic violence and doesn’t require an explanation of why someone would write a book about it. I am beginning to realize why very few books are currently published on the topic of financial abuse within personal relationships. Sure, there are books on elder abuse and ponzi schemes. but I have found very little research or published works on this particular genre. Part of my motivation for writing Exposing Financial Abuse was to fill the gap in published information.
We would never ask authors who write about physical abuse why it is an important topic to cover. It would actually be an offensive question. Financial abuse should be no different. The lasting impact on the survivor and society as a whole are enormous. How? Let’s take a look and maybe people will no longer have a reason to ask why financial abuse is an important topic to cover, and see it in the same dangerous light as physical harm perpetrated by an abuser.
I live in a world of therapy and recovery where harm done to others is enough reason to educate oneself on the topic. The devastation itself doesn’t have to walk up to our own front door and barge in to make it something that is concerning to me and my colleagues in the field of trauma-informed care. However, the larger world around us needs to know why financial abuse happening to someone else should be of importance to them personally. If we don’t experience it, sometimes we have a hard time caring that others do.
Financial abuse leads to poverty
Within the pages of Exposing Financial Abuse, raw and unedited survivor stories are the main focus and serve as the foundation of the book. During the research prep stage, I read close to 2000 individual experiences of financial abuse, and then protection and restoration. That’s a lot of data on this topic and I learned so much.
One common theme among the survivors who participated in the research project was the complete financial devastation that took place when an abuser overtly or covertly gained control over the victim’s finances. This often leads to living at or below what would be considered the poverty level. When basic needs become scarce, survivors do what they must to take care of themselves and their children. That often includes needing temporary government assistance, the help of local community food banks, loans from family members, and the use of payday loans that have spiked interest rates. In the Chapter titled Basic Needs, I cover story after story of exactly how financial abuse leads to living at poverty levels; even when the family income does not warrant it.
Financial abuse leads to debt accumulation
Targets of financial exploitation have had their names and personal data used to open accounts where the debt balance was run up and the abuser disappeared when the bill arrived. On the other side of the coin, survivors of economic exploitation sometimes will turn to their credit cards to help fill the gap financially where the abuser left a damaging hole. Personal debt to income ratios not only impact the individual but unpaid debt that must be taken at a loss by the company can have a snowball impact on the economy as a whole.
Financial abuse often includes criminal behaviors
Within Exposing Financial Abuse, a whole chapter is devoted to the illegal and fraudulent activities perpetrated by abusers who use money as a weapon. If financial abuse happening to someone else really isn’t of interest to some people, I certainly hope crimes being committed within our neighborhoods and among friend groups is enough to get the attention of many people.
A society that looks the other way regarding personal financial crimes runs the risk of becoming numb to other crimes. This is a very dangerous path to be headed down.
Financial abuse is rampant within the Family Court system and kids are suffering because of it.
Right now, today, some parents are hiding their true income and assets so that it will not be included in the calculations for child support payments and they can pay the least amount each month. That is disgraceful and should not be tolerated within our communities. When deadbeat parents refuse to pay their legal, ethical share to the care and support of their children, it leads to the responsible parent having the full financial burden. Often, it is more than one person can manage and debt begins to accumulate and families inch closer to the poverty line. This takes place even when the responsible parent is working full-time. It is very expensive to just maintain adequate food, clothing, shelter, transportation, and medical care. Those are basics needs to raise children. Never mind any added wants or desires.
I have barely tipped the iceberg of why relational financial abuse is an important topic to cover. I hope others with greater specialized education will pick the ball up and run with it. We need a collective approach to addressing this hidden abuse that has devastating consequences for us all; even if our lives have never been directly touched by this form of harm. It does frame how we function as a society.
Keep Dreaming Big!
“Shannon Thomas discusses her important book about something ugly, hidden, and difficult to describe. Psychological abuse. How is it possible that one person can gain so much power to destroy another person’s sense of worth, safety, and sanity? Shannon tells you how, but more importantly, she gives you a roadmap that helps you wake up, break free, heal, and rebuild what feels like your shattered life.”