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Spousal Abuse and Finance Equality
Few spouses or partners in a relationship oversee their finances equally.
One spouse invariably carries the heavy lifting in terms of managing investments, insurance, banking and so on. One partner might watch the budget and pay the bills. Perhaps one person safeguards the important documents and maintains the online accounts.
All that might be fine, but when one spouse or partner uses joint finances to control the other, that’s when serious problems can arise. Financial abuse, which can be tied in with physical violence, is a tool whereby one person in a relationship tries to subjugate the other through tactics to increase isolation and dependence.
One-quarter of all women will experience domestic violence over their lifetimes, said Vicky Dinges, a senior vice president at Allstate in suburban Chicago. Women are more likely to be victims than men. Financial-abuse tactics — such as stealing assets, withholding cash for basic needs, obsessive monitoring of the other person’s spending and even prohibiting his or her employment — occur in the vast majority of domestic-violence cases, Dinges said.
The Allstate Foundation supports a program called Purple Purse, which aims to raise awareness of financial and other types of abuse, while providing an online curriculum designed to empower victims. The curriculum and other information can be viewed at purplepurse.com.
Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or TTY 1-800-787-3224.
Shannon Evans, a Phoenix woman in her early 40s, said she encountered both domestic violence and financial abuse, losing her life savings, home and other assets that she brought into a relationship.
Evans, who previously worked in the hospitality industry, said she was inspired to attend and complete law school after leaving the relationship. In retrospect, she wished she would have protected her personal assets and feels it’s important to keep premarital and personal funds separate. Evans suggests both partners maintain control of joint money and have equal access to all shared accounts. Having some credit cards and accounts in each person’s name can help avoid problems if one person starts withholding joint funds from the other.
She also recommends looking out for signs or conduct that can lead to financial abuse. If your partner acts secretively or tends to be angry, be cautious. And she suggests seeking the feedback of impartial friends and family members who might be in a position to observe red flags regarding a partner’s behavior.