Financial abuse

A really good way to control a person is with financial abuse, and this can take many forms. In the old days a male would take charge of the family’s finances. Because of his education (whatever level that might have been) he was deemed to know all about money matters. The little woman didn’t know anything, and was totally in the dark as far as the family finances were concerned. She may not have even known how much her husband earned (or spent). She got what she was given.

Contrast that with some of the women from a similar period who were handed the weekly pay- check and expertly controlled the finances. The man didn’t want to know about it. Parents can control kids by withholding their pocket money until they do their chores, or whatever else the parent thinks they should be doing. The person holding the purse strings has the power.

Abusers usually control the finances. The victim doesn’t know how much money is earned, whether there are investments and if so what they may be. If a business is owned no details of income, outgoings or business matters are revealed to the victim, who is either given barely enough to manage on, or who has everything bought for them, and handles no money. The bank account is his, and if she works, he takes her pay. Money is often siphoned off into his secret bank accounts. She does not receive any gifts (as a rule), and cannot buy any special clothing – or escape.

Usually an abuser does not allow his wife to work because of the freedom that brings. If she has a credit card it may be used without her permission. He drives the car and keeps the keys. The fact that she is penniless, and has children makes it difficult or impossible to leave and make a new life. As she has been separated from her family they are unable to help also, and if they are interstate or overseas he will object to her ringing them because of the expense.

As with other abuse it begins gradually and is subtle, escalating until it is overtly aggressive or violent if the woman protests.

If a woman manages to escape and attempts to get a divorce through the Family Court it is not uncommon for the male to suddenly become out of work and penniless. Or he may get a job with cash in hand, and the secrecy about money continues, and the woman finds it difficult to claim a share for herself and the children. It is his house, and his money according to him.

Fortunately lawyers and judges are beginning to “read the same book” as the abuser, and can see his tactics and work towards justice for the woman and her children.

© Kathleen Crawford