Financial abuse in dysfunctional families is a common tactic to gain power and control within the family.
I was reminded about this fact when reading an article in the British Telegraph today about a large divorce settlement between the long time spousal owners of Laura Ashley. One of the daughters of the family was asked why such a wealthy family would undergo such a long bitter divorce proceeding, and she responded that it was not about the money, but was really about control. She related how her father was absent throughout much of her life and manipulated the family through financial control.
This financial abuse is one of the most powerful methods of keeping family members to toe the line or risk financial disinheritance or worse. Research indicates that financial abuse is experienced in 98% of abusive relationships. The victims indicate that their lack of ability to provide financially for themselves was the main reason for staying in our returning to such a battering relationship.
Financial control/abuse occurs across all socio-economic, educational, ethnic and racial groups. It applies to both elder and domestic abuse.
As with other forms of abuse, financial abuse may begin subtly and progress over time. The manipulation is often hidden amongst the family while the abuser publicly appears charming and the epitome of a good family provider.
Typically what ultimately results is the concept of an “allowance” for good behavior and deprivation of monies for perceived bad behavior.
The adult child in the Laura Ashley family for example, was disowned by the financially abusive father for marrying someone she loved, but whom the father did not approve. One can easily understand the untenable position that the daughter was put in between having to choose between marrying the person she loved or being disowned by her wealthy father.
Common examples of financial control or abuse are:
- Forbidding family members to work or have their own funds;
- controlling how money is spent
- hiding assets
- forcing family members to work in a family business without pay
- withholding funds for basic needs and care
- withholding money or giving meager allowances
- the abuser spending money lavishly on him or herself while depriving the family
- refusing to pay child or spousal support or manipulating court proceedings by hiding or not disclosing assets
- threatening family members with homelessness and other forms of insecurity
- denying education or employment opportunities
- intentionally squandering or misusing family resources
- controlling telephone, vehicle, and other forms of isolation
- blaming the victim for inability to manage money
- destruction of personal property belonging to the victim
- forging signatures for financial transactions