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How Can I Overcome Financial Abuse?

Amanda Ann Gregory, LCPC, EMDR Certified

Financial abuse occurs more often than you think. If you’re unsure whether you’re experiencing financial abuse, please read my blog, “Are You Experiencing Financial Abuse?” If you’re experiencing financial abuse, it’s important to take steps to reestablish your financial safety. Every person’s situation is different, so please keep that in mind, as some of the suggestions here may not apply to you. 

Consider taking these actions in order to overcome financial abuse.  

Establish Personal Safety

Your safety is the top priority. If you’re experiencing financial abuse, you may be experiencing or be at risk for other types of abuse, as such physical, sexual, and emotional/verbal abuse. Also, abusers tend to intensify their efforts to maintain control once they perceive that they are losing it, which may lead to further unsafe situations. If you do not feel safe enough to enact some of the suggestions below, you should first focus on establishing your personal safety.

Gather All Financial Information and Important Documents

Before you take action, you should make sure that you have all of your financial and personal information (if you have access to it). This will help determine your current financial situation, aid in financial planning, and help protect you in the future. Consider collecting and securing the following:

  •       A recent credit report.
  •       Your birth certificate, social security card, passport, driver’s license, marriage licenses, titles and other ownership documents.
  •       All account numbers, balances, and passwords.

Establish Financial Boundaries

If your abuser is capable of changing their actions, you can try to establish specific financial boundaries designed to reestablish financial safety. You must identity the boundaries that you need in your specific situation. Here are a few suggestions:

  •       Increase supervision by requiring that you have all financial information and an ability to check all accounts often.
  •       Increase accountability by requiring that the co-owner of any accounts consult with you regarding all financial decisions.
  •       Request that your abuser to relinquish their credit cards or access to funds

All boundaries need to be agreed upon by both parties. If someone does not accept your boundaries, consider that this person may continue to engage in financial abuse.

Seek Social Support

Financial abuse occurs in isolation. Let someone you trust know what’s happening. You’ll need to make sure that this person is able to be supportive of you and not your abuser.  Being seen, heard, and understood by trustworthy and empathetic friends and family members will help you become less isolated and will therefore better equip you to protect yourself. Consider telling these trusted people what you need. Do you need help taking action? Do you need them to listen and understand your experience?

Secure Vulnerable Accounts

Vulnerable accounts are those that your abuser has access to. These can include checking, savings, retirement, investment, and credit card accounts. You should secure these accounts as soon as possible. You can close these accounts, freeze them, or withdraw your share of the funds in order to prevent further financial damage. Be aware that closing accounts may negatively impact your credit

Open Secure Accounts

Secure accounts are accounts over which you or a trusted co-owner have complete control. You may consider opening new secure accounts in order to deposit current or future funds. Be sure not to give your account information to anyone who is not trustworthy.  

Seek Financial Independence

If someone prevents you from working or earning your own money if you are capable and willing to so, this could be financial abuse. Consider gaining employment and/or funding opportunities and controlling your own funds. Utilize your support system and community resources for additional help. 

Participate in Therapy

There are many types of therapy that can help you overcome financial abuse. Individual therapy can help you identify financial abuse, process your thoughts and emotions, address trauma, and discover how to prevent abusive circumstances from recurring. Couples and/or family therapy can assist you and your abuser in reestablishing financial safety and trust in the relationship. Financial therapy is provided for individuals or for any relationship in which money is involved, and should be considered if you’ve experienced financial abuse.

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