Financial abuse is a form of family violence where one person restricts or exploits their partner’s, or family member's, money to exert control over them. It can include coercing someone into debt and controlling when and how they spend money. Economic abuse is broader: It includes financial abuse as well as behaviour that restricts, exploits or sabotages other resources like housing, food, transport, study and employment.

Economic abuse “involves behaviours that control a [person’s] ability to acquire, use and maintain economic resources, thus threatening her [or his] economic security and potential for self-sufficiency.” (Adams et al, 2008)

Economic abuse can include a range of behaviours such as:

  • controlling a victim’s access to cash and bank accounts
  • keeping a person from having money needed to buy food, clothes or other necessities
  • demanding receipts for every dollar spent or otherwise unreasonably monitoring spending
  • sabotaging study and/or employment
  • not contributing to household bills or putting all bills in the victim’s name, leaving them to pay them
  • forcing or pressuring a person to hand over their income or savings
  • stealing, damaging or destroying another person’s belongings
  • forcing a partner to take out debt they didn’t want
  • taking out loans, or buying something on credit, in your partner’s name without their knowledge
  • hiding financial information and assets
  • forcing a person to claim government payments they’re not entitled to
  • demanding further or exorbitant dowry payments
  • making a person work in the family business without pay or legal employment conditions
  • making a person sign business documents they don’t want to, or misrepresenting documents to gain their signature
  • manipulating finances to avoid or reduce child support payments.

Source: Adams, A. et al (2008). Development of the Scale of Economic Abuse. Violence Against Women, 14, 563-588.

You can watch videos about financial abuse on the 1800RESPECT website.

The Centre for Women's Economic Safety publishes a checklist of Steps to Financial Safety. Read WIRE's booklet 'Money Problems With Your Partner' Read about Elder Abuse and where to get help.