Here in the UK, one in six women – as well as one in seven men – experience financial abuse within a relationship, or following separation. However, the actual figures for financial abuse are believed to be much higher, with this sort of behaviour not only being exhibited within relationships, but with families and friendship groups, too. And today, one of the most common forms of financial abuse is called financial control.
What Does ‘Financial Control’ Mean?
When thinking about ‘financial abuse’, it’s easy to think about the type of abuse that causes direct financial harm. For example, one person may steal money from another, take out a credit card in another person’s name resulting in the victim being in debt, or destroying high value items such as a computer or smartphone.
But there’s another form of financial abuse that is less well talked about: financial control. This isn’t always as obvious as the above, making it much more difficult to realise when it’s happening. Financial control involves a person putting themselves in charge of another person’s finances, without permission. It’s a form of coercive control that limits an individual’s freedom to make them dependent on their abuser.
Examples of financial control may include someone:
- Preventing a person from accessing their bank account
- Interfering with any benefits received
- Demanding to see bank statements
- Forcing a person to maintain a record of spending
- Refusing access to funds for education, food, bills, and other essentials
Unfortunately, financial control can be exerted over anyone, and it can happen at any time. It can occur following the breakdown of a relationship, for example, within families, between friends, and even in relation to children. During a separation or divorce, it is sadly not unheard of for some parents to use financial control abuse to make the child more dependent on them in a bid to alienate the other parent.
Why is Financial Control Used?
Financial control is a way of controlling and manipulating another person, taking away their freedom, and making them dependent on the abuser.
Everyone needs to be able to utilise their own resources in a way that best supports their needs and their goals in life. Money is power. And to have this power taken away, forcefully and without permission, can have a significant impact on a person’s confidence and ability to live and grow.
Of course, sometimes not everyone is in a strong financial position. However, there is a big difference in psychological impact between losing financial power through an event such as a job loss and having this power ripped away by someone wishing to exert control over a life that is not theirs. Financial control can contribute to a decline in mental health, creating long lasting harm and damage to an individual.
Signs of Financial Control
Financial control can be difficult to recognise because there’s a fine line between care and harm. Some family members, for example, may be keen to advise their loved ones about how best to spend their money or how to look after their money wisely.
We all want to look after and help those we care about. Therefore, it’s important to know the difference between someone simply looking out for another, and a person who is setting out to forcefully take financial control from another.
Financial control may be being exerted if there is a repeatable pattern of:
- Being unusually interested in another person’s finances
- Asking to keep a record of spending
- Asking to see statements for an account that isn’t theirs
- Preventing access to a bank account
- Requesting adding their name to an account
- Limiting spending on essentials such as groceries and bills
- Threatening to remove access to funds due to behaviour
Financial control may accompany other forms of coercive control, such as controlling what a person wears, where they go, and who they socialise with.
How to protect yourself from Financial Control Abuse
There are several steps that can be taken to reduce the risk and maintain financial independence:
- If opening a joint account, keep a personal account too with emergency funds
- Don’t share your PIN with anyone
- Open your own mail, and have statements sent to your own email address
- Keep bank cards in a safe and secure place
- Review bank statements to check for any irregularities
We’re Here to Help
Under changes to the Domestic Abuse Act, coercive control is now considered a criminal offence, and at National Legal Service, we’re here to help you regain financial control and boost your confidence following a period of financial abuse. Get in touch to speak with a friendly member of our team.