We’re going to start off by exploring a couple of different hypothetical scenarios.
Maria is an ambitious young woman who just completed an advanced degree. She’s also engaged to the man of her dreams, who up until recently has been one of her strongest career advocates. She is aware of her fiancé’s family business, but has never shown any interest in participating. Despite this, Maria’s groom-to-be spends the ensuing weeks pressuring her to reconsider joining the family company, claiming that it would be “better for their marriage” and that her own career aspirations were “selfish.” Maria has suspicions about the state of her fiancé’s business, but doesn’t want to give up the job or the man that she has grown to love.
Lindsey, on the other hand, has been married to her husband for over 15 years. After a long period of mistreatment, she has decided that divorce would be the best option. The couple, however, have two young children together. Though Lindsey’s husband has a history of struggling with anger management, the mutual agreement they have regarding the state of their relationship gives her hope that he may not react harshly to the idea of divorce. Despite this, Lindsey’s husband explodes at her suggestion, attempting to bribe her into staying with him while threatening not to pay any child support should she choose to leave.
This not just controlling behavior; it is abuse. More specifically, it’s financial abuse.
Financial abuse is defined by womenshealth.gov as what “happens when an abuser takes control of finances to prevent the other person from leaving and to maintain power in a relationship.” It is an underreported yet, unfortunately, very common issue that follows victims even after they escape.
There are several methods utilized by financial abusers in an attempt to manipulate their victims. Some of these may include:
- Forcing the victim to work within a family business without compensation
- Denying child support
- Taking control of a divorce process
- Restricting access to important financial resources (such as assets, family documents, etc.)
- Offering an “allowance” to the victim; this is another extreme way of controlling the finances.
- Sabotaging employment opportunities
(“About Financial Abuse,” 2017).
This is only a short list of the many behaviors that indicate abuse is taking place. The long-term consequences are just as alarming; many victims face difficulties even after leaving. Some fear they won’t be able to be financially independent. Organizations such as The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence offer online classes to help women that have been in such situations learn the skills their abusers denied them (Thorpe, 2017).
While there are resources available to victims of financial abuse, there are also some practical steps everyone can follow should they find out a loved one is going through something similar. Bustle discusses some of the actions others can take, such as providing a safe place to store critical documents, saving money to aid the victim, and helping with the start of financial rehabilitation (Thorpe, 2017).
Being able to recognize abusive tendencies in a partner is just as vital. Some of the signs listed by Bustle include the withdrawing of a partner, discouragement in relation to pursuing independent financial endeavors, and bills that were not known by both parties (Thorpe, 2017).
Understanding this phenomenon is incredibly important. College students are at a ripe age for entering more mature relationships. Understanding what constitutes a healthy relationship will lead to stronger connections that benefit both partners.
While financial abuse is relatively unknown, when put into perspective it does make sense: 99 percent of all abusive relationships have some form of financial abuse involved (nnedv.org). The most jarring part of this is the fact that people experiencing this may simultaneously be verbally and physically harmed. All kinds of abuse appear to fall under the same general umbrella, which is a deeply rooted desire for control. Regardless of the method being used, abuse is dangerous; it takes the worst parts of a person and deflects them onto someone else in the form of manipulation. Coercion, stalking, insults, and hatred are the fault of no one but the individual using them.
As college students, we are all in the midst of establishing ourselves financially. On top of that, our morals are starting to become more defined; unfortunately, that could either be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on the effect these values have on others. My goal is to keep considering the consequences that my actions have on others. The best thing that each and every one of us can do is just that; people who abuse others strongly prioritize their own desires at the expense of others. The generation that fights back with actions can be the group that brings us closer to putting an end to abuse.
Maria’s and Lindsey’s situations are fictional; however, their stories likely resemble countless cases in the real world. It’s time for us -the rising generation- to be aware of these stories. Abuse in any form is a cry, and it’s up to those who care to respond.
Thorpe, JP. (2017). What Is Financial Abuse? This One Kind Of Domestic Violence Is Far More Common Than Physical Abuse. Retrieved from www.bustle.com.
Financial Abuse. Retrieved from www.womeneshealth.gov.
About Financial Abuse. (2017). Retrieved from www.nnedv.org.