Financial Abuse: 10 Signs and Ways to Protect Yourself


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Men believe that it is their ‘God-given right’ to control women and their money.  

We live in a society where women are ruled by men so any change we attempt to make is a blood-soaked battle. This misconstrued belief by men continues to lag our society behind as they hang on to their ‘God-given rights’ in control women and what is worse use their money to contribute to their abuse. This is what we refer to as financial abuse.

Financial abuse is one of the invisible weapons used due to its insidious nature and the fact that it can easily be masked in what may appear to be a normal relationship. Financial abuse is where a victim is prevented from acquiring, using and maintaining any financial resources.

Financial abuse has been characterized as the paramount reason that women stay in abusive relationships and why many chose to go back. Additionally, research has revealed that in 99% of abusive relationships, financial abuse is a factor as it completely leaves the victim completely dependent on their partner as a form of control.

What Are the Indicators of Financial Abuse?

Financial abuse is a usually under-recognized as a form of family violence due to its subtle nature. However, it is not difficult to discern whether or not you are a victim of financial abuse. Knowledge is power. And knowing that you are falling into a trap that will leave you completely dependent on your spouse until one day you realize you have no money, maybe in debt and with no understanding of finances – will help you put in place the necessary measures that can save you later on.

Here are a few indicators of financial abuse:

  • Handing over any money you make and being denied any access to it.
  • Having no access to money and bank accounts
  • Having no access to bank statements or financial documents – simply hiding assets.
  • Being forced to leave your job or directing your career choices i.e. making you stay at home or work for his family business.
  • Being coerced into signing bank loans and other financial documents – using your money and credit by being threatened into giving permission.
  • Withholding money and controlling your spending – he would ask for receipts or give an allowance.
  • Threatening to leave or deny you any financial support.
  • Not making any financial contributions, working or paying bills, yet and still controlling all the finances.
  • Spending money on himself (probably with his friends or mistresses) but not letting you do the same
  • Belittling you about your knowledge of money, ability to earn or financial contribution to the family.

What Do You Do Next if You Are a Victim?

Society generally views women as less mathematically capable, so don’t let that be your narrative. This will make it even more difficult for you to leave an abusive relationship. Teach yourself where you can as it is most often dangerous when you know nothing. Hence, as you try to leave ensure that you can do so permanently.

Here are some of the things you can do once you make that decision to leave:

  • Reach out to your family, friends, church or any support group you have.
  • Open a bank account in your name and keep it a secret.
  • Put away some money. Take any wages you earn, grocery money or allowance and put away every shilling you can so that you may have some money to get started once you leave. If you cannot open a bank account, save the money in a place he would never look.
  • Have a plan – there is much at risk, therefore always plan. Plan where you will stay and how much you will need.
  • And finally, leave him. If he has not already physically abused you, there is a very good chance it will lead to physical abuse.

Leaving an Abuse Relationship:

The most dangerous time is when a victim decides to leave an abusive relationship and hence safety key. No one else but you knows his capabilities and to what extent he would go to further enforce his control over you.  It is important to note that financial abuse often leaves victims homeless and in poverty. Therefore, it is important to ask for help. There are many people and organizations that are more than willing to help you leave your current predicament.

For the rest of us who have not experienced financial abuse, what can we do to put an end to financial abuse?

The most powerful tool we have is our voice. We have to raise our voices and raise awareness of financial abuse by telling our daughters, relatives, and friends. Additionally, take the time learn from those who have undergone financial abuse. And if you are one of the millions of women who have been in an abusive relationship, please do not be ashamed to speak up about it. Be proud that you had the strength to survive and the courage to leave; use your voice and your story to inspire and save others.

You can right-click on the following links to read more on financial planning:


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Irene Makanga
Irene has an MBA in Finance and is an avid businesswoman, passionate about financial literacy.


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