Financial Abuse: Abusers use money efficiently to tie and silence you.
The sound echoed through the house. Yet not a single muscle in the whole family moved to help Shefali (name changed for privacy protection). The patriarch of house and holding the power to do what he wants was now Shefali’s husband. After all, it is the tradition, isn’t it? The man must keep the woman in the palm on his hands and the tradition included punishment for disobedience. Shefali’s crime: She bought two extra packets of milk for her family.
Unfortunately, news flashes and gossips with very similar stories can be found every now and then many times with more morbid outcomes.
Domestic abuse has rattled India for generations past. It has been a deep-rooted parasite in our society, enabled by toxic patriarchy. It lingers still, in the nooks and crannies of every household. The elderly, young adults and even men are affected by it, still, financial abuse is a facet of it that is rarely talked about!
Financial Entrapment: What is Financial Abuse?
When focusing on domestic abuse, the limelight always falls on sexual, emotional or physical abuse such as rape, gaslighting, threats, battery or even murder.
Sadly, the economic aspect is more often than not overlooked. Financial abuse is a form of coercive control that is deployed to heavily restrict the freedom of the victim.
The perpetrator deprives them of their money and property through obtaining or using their property, money or valuables usually through fraudulent methods.
Financial abuse restricts the victim from essential goods such as food and clothing, without access to their cards or income.
Abusers may also deny them means to obtain an income such as forcing them to leave their job, training or education.
Unsurprisingly, abusers in most cases apply other abusive behaviours to threaten and reinforce their power over the victim like beating, denying sustenance or threatening harm on them or their close ones and then gaslighting them to believe that everything was their fault.
In the end, it strips the sufferer of the material means for independence, resistance and escape.
Not only does it entrap the victim like a boa constrictor, but it also can be easily continued even after the victim is separated from the dangerous situation.
Fangs of Financial Abuse: Who are the Targets?
One of the most commonly heard ones is Shefali’s case. But women are not the only victims of financial abuse. In fact, any person with the lack of an independent source of income is a sitting duck for financial abuse. These include the elderly, young adults, women and men.
Financial abuse is a predator, silent and deadly. It is so invisible that it is almost impossible to see it until its too late.
Young adults due to their lack of experience are particularly vulnerable to this and may not even realise it until they are much older.
Starving old mothers, grandfathers beaten for inheritance, elderly longing to see their family again in old age homes is a tragic truth of our nation.
HelpAge, India an NGO working towards the welfare of the elderly of the country, half of India’s elderly have reported experiencing some form of abuse usually in a domestic setting.
The emphasis on respecting elders plays a vital role in our culture, yet cases, where a senior person is murdered for a piece of land, is hauntingly common.
Contrary to popular beliefs, men too suffer from financial abuse.
Since our society still perceives the man as the primary provider, this in many households is misused by their spouses and families.
Some may put unrealistic demands on them while denying them the ability to spend on themselves stating that the money is tight and that they must sacrifice for their family.
Spouses may also become the finance handlers of the family – including being in charge of the cards and may splurge on unnecessary thing unbeknownst to the man and end up putting too much pressure on them to earn more.
Though there are no laws in India that protects men from domestic abuse, it is necessary to acknowledge that it occurs and become more aware of it.
How to Protect Yourself and Others?
“Now that I think about it, the signs were always there but they were so subtle. I always thought that it was his way of loving me,” shared Shefali.
It is very necessary to make oneself aware of the signs to not only prepare themselves but also possibly helping others.
Controlling behaviour is not a showcase of love but sadly when someone hasn’t experienced a respectful and supportive relationship, it gets hard to differentiate.
However, being diligent in following a few tricks can save your hide.
Try to have an independent source of income, however small it may be. The biggest reason that Indian women fall in the trap of financial abuse is the lack of any income. Having money that solely you are responsible for gives you a say in how you use it. Even though you may have a joint account, make sure to also have an independent account for yourself. This allows you autonomy and your own cards.
Banks make sure that they constantly remind you about not sharing your passwords and pins and that includes your spouse, children and parents.
If anyone whom you know starts being too careful about spending money, cancel plans like parties or shopping, gets nervous talking about money or borrows money more frequently and in secret, do not take these signs lightly. Try talking to them and reach out to domestic abuse helplines in your city if you feel that they may be in danger.
This applies to you and anyone around you.
Financial abuse may be like a stalking entity waiting for the right moment to constrict you in its holds, but it is not entirely unavoidable.
Know the signs, read your rights and speak up even if it is by subtly making those that care about you aware about it.
this post was written by Moumita Debnath.