Economic Violence

"Over time as most people fail the survivor's exacting test of trustworthiness, she tends to withdraw from relationships. The isolation of the survivor thus persists even after she is free."  — Judith Lewis Herman (Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence - From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror)

Economic Violence


Perpetrators control survivors by controlling their access to all of the family resources: time, transportation, food, clothing, shelter, insurance, and money. It does not matter who the primary provider is or if both partners contribute. He may actively resist the survivor becoming financially self-sufficient as a way to maintain power and control. Conversely, he may refuse to work and insist that she support the family.


He may expect her to be the family “bookkeeper,” requiring that she keep all records and write all checks, or he may keep financial information away from her. In all instances he alone makes the decisions. Survivors are put in the position of having to get “permission” to spend money on basic family needs. When the survivor leaves the battering relationship, the perpetrator may use economics as a way to maintain control or force her to return: refusing to pay bills, instituting legal procedures costly to the survivor, destroying assets in which she has a share, or refusing to work “on the books” where there would be legal access to his income. All of these tactics may be used regardless of the economic class of the family. (Source: Strengthening Health System Responses to Gender-based Violence in Eastern Europe and Central Asia)

It is common for the victim to receive less money as the abuse continues. This also includes (but is not limited to) preventing the victim from finishing education or obtaining employment, or intentionally squandering or misusing communal resources.



The following are common economically abusive behaviors:


  • Preventing you from having or keeping a job


  • Interfering with your efforts to maintain a job by sabotaging childcare, transportation, or other arrangements.


  • Harassing you at work.


  • Refusing to work.


  • Not including you in family financial decisions.


  • Not allowing you access to the family finances.


  • Making you ask for money.


  • Taking your money.


  • Demanding an account of everything you buy.


  • Controlling your access to financial information.


  • Not allowing you to talk to others about money.


  • Not allowing your name to be on accounts, which would allow you to build credit.


  • Forcing you to put your name on accounts and then destroying your credit.


  • Making fun of your financial contribution and saying it is not worth anything.


  • Expecting you to behave in a certain way because you make less money or are not the “breadwinner”.


  • Forcing you to work “illegally” when you do not have a work permit.