16 Days of Activism | How to get help if you are in a financially abusive relationship

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It is not just people in sexual relationships who can suffer financial abuse, but the elderly too are often financially abused by their children or grandchildren.
It is not just people in sexual relationships who can suffer financial abuse, but the elderly too are often financially abused by their children or grandchildren.
PeopleImages/Getty Images

It’s one of the types of abuse that aren’t often spoken about.

But we often see it in the dominating behaviour of one partner who controls all the finances of the other.

The salary goes straight into the abusive partner’s account, he or she decides what the monthly budget looks like, and when they find themselves in a jam, it’s the other partner who must get into debt to save them.

It sounds like the plot of a Tinder Swindler-esque documentary, but it’s the reality for many people who suffer in silence, too ashamed to admit they have no control of their finances.

“The woman is often the primary breadwinner, however, her partner demands to control the finances, leading her to believe that the partner is being supportive,” explains Charnel Collins.

“Unfortunately, this can lead to further emotional and mental abuse. The woman becomes financially dependent on their partner and unable to exit the relationship.” 

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In other instances, women don’t have access to their bank accounts due to their partners controlling on it, which means that their credit agreements are limited, adds the National Debt Advisors (NDA) chief executive.

“This can be detrimental to their credit records as they have someone else who is spend their money and could also potentially incur debt in their name.”

As the world marks 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children, the SA government encourages those who are victims or know of people in danger to make use of the resources available to help sufferers escape.

SAPS Crime Stop

Tel: 08600 10111

Gender -Based Violence Command Centre

Tel: 0800 428 428

Tel: 0800 GBV GBV

Stop Gender Violence Helpline

Tel: 0800 150 150

SMS *120*7867# from any cell phone

Family and Marriage Society of South Africa (FAMSA)

Tel: (011) 975 7107

Childline

Tel: 08000 55 555

National Crisis Line

Tel: 086 132 2322

SA National Council for Child Welfare

Tel: 011 339 5741

Additionally, adds Charnel, there is a 24/7 gender-based violence (GBV) hot-line facility where you can report abuse.

Emergency number: 0800 428 428

USSD number: *120*7867#

Skype: "Helpme GBV"

SMS number: "Help" to 31531

“Women have been found to have a significantly larger amount of unsecured debt, such as credit card debt, student loans, and personal loans,” says Charnel, and, often, they don’t even realise that they’re in a financially abusive relationship. 

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If you are, or know of someone who, is in a financially abusive relationship, the financial expert advises you follow these steps:

  • “Ensure you have or start gathering physical and electronic documents for any credit agreements that are in your name.
  • “Make sure that the contact details (phone, email etc.) on any agreements are yours, and that correspondence comes directly to you. You have the right to request this from your creditors and service providers, for any agreements linked to your name and identity number. No one else may give instruction or receive information on your bank accounts or credit agreements, other than you – unless they have legal power of attorney.
  • “Draw a credit report and find out exactly what your debt exposure and credit-worthiness looks like. You are entitled to one free credit report, from every credit bureau, once a year. 
  • “Empower yourself and become financially informed. Visit sites which can financially educate and empower you about financial literacy and your rights.
  • “You are not alone in this. Find someone who you can trust and talk to.”

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