Financial Abuse

A form of abuse I feel is extremely underrepresented and not spoken about, but, I am yet to find a domestic violence victim who was not financially abused. In fact, one of the main reason why your transport to a Refuge is paid for is because they know you will unlikely have access to a bank account, money and withdrawing money could put you at serious risk. How do they know that? Because of the experience of thousands of victims who have been put in this awful situation. I meet many sex workers who became sex workers due to such situations, relationships and being left financially destitute. It is worth noting, financial abuse comes in many forms and not just by relationship partners but your brothers, sisters, children and whoever else.

What is it?

When people think of financial abuse, they think of someone simply controlling the money of the house but it is much more than that; it is stopping your partner from getting a promotion; constantly getting them pregnant so they have to stay at home; causing drama at their work in the hope they get sacked; talking them down your career or education aspirations and taking out loans in your name, unwillingly. Some people enjoy having financial control over people, and giving them money makes them feel, quite literally, in their pocket. We all feel that guilt, pressure and tip-toeing around when we owe someone money, and they thrive off that. Money talks, and money makes the world go round, so if they have the control over that then you’re fucked.

There are many ways to identity financial abuse and here is a few:
– trying to gain access over your assets
– forcing you to take out debt in your name, and also not paying you back
– having double standards with spending
– demanding that you hand over all passwords and bank PINs
– guilting you into bailing them out financially
– deciding where you can work and what hours
– giving you an allowance, which is also likely unrealistlic
– making large financial decisions without your consideration
– having to ask for permission before spending money

There is a longer list and many signs, but here is a more comprehensive guide:
https://www.verywellmind.com/financial-abuse-4155224

The problems

The reason this is so damaging is because money is fundamental to freedom, and they know that. If you have no money, you can’t leave the relationship, and especially if you have children. It stunts your entire life, education and career and worst of all, if they decide to leave, they can very quickly leave your homeless, unemployed with no qualifications and many children. This is exactly what happened to my Mum, although she decided to leave him, she took a great risk because she had nothing. It is very hard to get a job when you’re in your 40s and haven’t been allowed to work for over 20 years, had no formal education and having to start over again with a financially manipulative person trying to take advantage of your situation.

My brother wanted a piano so asked my mum to buy it on finance in her name which she did, and then he never paid her a penny towards it. The end result was that my Mum ended up with a County Court Judgement in her name and it ruined her credit score. What happened then? She unable to buy anything for herself on finance, which is very difficult when it comes to buying things such as carpet, sofa, TV or a car, and especially when you’re a cleaner. For others, it may leave you in hostels, shelters and forever be perpetually poor as a result, and will likely be unable to retire as they can’t afford to. Unfortunately, some may have swindled your retirement and you’re truly on your own. The consequences also included impacting your physical and mental health too.

When my parents divorced, they had a large amount of joint debt and loans. However, my Dad rung up all the providers and got my aunty to pretend to my be mum and then signed himself off all the debts, leaving them entirely in her name. He then declared himself bankrupt so they could never be re-attached to him. A real dick move. The next 8 years meant ignoring final demand letters, removing yourself from the electoral roll and trying to make yourself invisible & we moved house several times. It also meant being unable to buy things unlike you bought it one go, so it came expensive to save up for the big items. The wasn’t the issue in 1910, but today’s society is not set up like this.

Not having money, as many of my reader audience who are sex workers will know, is crippling. It takes away so much from you, ruins your mental health and leaves you back at square one. Being in debt can destroy your mental health; drive you into desperate situations; leave you unable to work your way out of your situation, because you don’t have the access or resources to do so. It perpetuates the cycle of poverty and if you’ve never been given the opportunity to flourish, retrain, get a degree or even do a part time course, then you will struggle to move past entry-level or precarious jobs, especially if you are over 40.

Ulterior motives

We all like to help out when we can, and by and large, most people do so out of a place of kindness and genuine compassion. When things go wrong, we don’t mind helping out a friend in a tight spot. After all, life happens! Lending money to someone is something that is rising, particularly parents giving to their children who are disproportionately impacted by the current economic climate. However, what do you do if you don’t trust their intentions or you fear they may use it against you? What is if comes with emotionally taxing pre-conditions and pulling the strings of your life and relationships?

In my personal experience, one of the biggest red flags for someone with ulterior motives is that they offer to give you money without even asking for it. Money is enticing and you’re likely to say yes because why not? Especially if it’s a love one. You say yes because they seem like they’re being kind, genuine and just wanna help you out. They do not act manipulative and are actually in fact, quite charismatic. The likelihood is, they don’t demand the money back either and are not chasing you for it. Again, this feels like a win-win situation for you, but in many other ways, this isn’t the case.

When people hold money over you, they feel like they have greater say and control over yourself, decisions and finances. They will quickly pull out the card ‘why you buying that when you’ve got no money’ or will feel entitled to make decisions and comments about your life, because they gave you money. It’s coercive, and you wouldn’t put up with this is any other context, but they know you feel bad and won’t want to fall out with them because you owe them money, or they’ve ‘helped you’ out. If this wasn’t money and someone helped you moved house or with your mental health, you’d be saying ‘yeah they helped me move house, but it doesn’t mean they get to do this’.

People who want to help you out, do so without expectation and because they likely personally enjoy doing so as well. They don’t use it as a manipulative tool and if you argue, they shouldn’t throw it in your face. Although they may ask for their money back in fear of not getting it back due to falling out, they wouldn’t use it to guilt trip you, shame you and get personal about your life. If someone does this, it isn’t okay! Having a lack of money is caused by so many factors and it shouldn’t be something to feel ashamed of, and definitely something someone shouldn’t use against you.

I’d like to include in here the abuse that takes place by food banks and other ‘helpful’ services who push their motives in return for food. I have heard anecdotes of women being forced to pray before receiving a food parcel, or justifying themselves just to be able to eat. I have listened to people tell me that services were conditional on quitting sex work and they wouldn’t hand out food vouchers otherwise. This is unacceptable and is also a form of abuse laden with ulterior motives. Just because a service offers some form of resource, it does mean they are good and in fact, can do further damage. You should not have to beg, prey or justify yourself for basics, so they can soothe their soul with poverty porn at night.

Long-term impact

Although I can’t speak on behalf of my Mum’s thoughts and feelings after 20+ years of this, I can speak of how it has impacted me from the outside looking in. In addition, my Dad used money as a weapon over me when I went to University, and I watched him do it to my siblings, who have all become enmeshed due to this unusual dynamic, and it’s not healthy. I cut him off when I was 19 and my family was then flooded with rumours that I had taken £1000s of him and then turned my back on him, and that he was actually continuing to give me money despite not speaking to him. Neither of this is true because I closed my bank account so he couldn’t even try.

I grew up in a home which meant Mum stayed at home with the 8 children and Dad went to work, so there was no role for the woman in the workplace. When my Mum got a job, he sabotaged it and she was forced to leave, after lumping her with £10,000s of debt. People call this a brilliant and traditional upbringing, but it was the furthest thing from pleasantries for those involved. My Dad enjoys giving money out and I truly believe he does it because he feels if he doesn’t do so, then he will not feel wanted.

I remember telling my counsellor that it was years of watching and putting up with this that significantly contributed to me becoming a sex worker. Why? Because I couldn’t think of anything worse than someone controlling the purse strings of my life and stunting me as a result. At least with sex work, the money is mine, is not directly paid into bank unless I pay it, can be kept secret if needs be, and has helped me in horrifically desperate financial situations. She was shocked and said this was quite the statement, and was quite taken back. I didn’t see it that way, I saw it as a fierce way to have greater control over my life, finances and whatever else. I was in a bad place anyway, but the last thing I then needed is someone controlling me via money. I would rather be a sex worker than borrow money from family.

This has contributed to me being an unhappy hooker who hated accepting help from people on Twitter or perhaps even starting this blog. Even now, it makes em feel uncomfortable and almost accountable to people, and there have been times where people have come @ me for such. I quickly remind them that giving me £10 does not mean you have any say in my life, or how I live it because after all, it’s my bloody life! I live it 24/7, not you! It’s also why I fear getting a joint bank account, because the other person have leverage over your life. I know I will perhaps never trust a partner in a relationship because I am acutely aware of how quickly can turn, and leave you in such dire straits.

It was dire straits that made me a sex worker, and it will be the same dire straits that will keep me in sex work. My main goal is to transition away from sex work, so I would rather be a stubborn, untrusting person than live on edge and in fear of throwing myself full on back into sex work in 20 years time. I know by now this probably sounds irrational and that I am the last person you’d want to date but I can assure you, I will contribute happily, but you’re not having equal control and I will not have control over your income either. I wrote a blog about living in survival mode, and how hard it is to switch off. I will perhaps never switch it off, even if I manage to control it better. As a result, I will never intentionally put myself in a situation where I run the risk of going into survival overdrive again.

Financial abuse in sex work

Spongers! These are people who get into a relationship with a sex worker and get them to work to pay for their drugs. There is a fine line here between earning money to pay for drugs for both you and your partner, and your partner getting you to work to pay for drugs and I’ll be honest, the line is often blurred. I know a few women who are in these types of relationships and hate it dearly, but the overriding acceptance of drug use between them is integral to their relationship. Their partner would ring them up all night asking how much they had earned, asking when they were coming home and would occasionally wait in the car nearby for them. No reason other than to watch them.

It used to always annoy me that my boyfriend would earn exactly half of what I’d earned. Yet it was me sucking somebody’s cock, not him. That rankled in the back of mind, but when you’ve got a bag of heroin, you don’t want to ruin it by arguing… They’re not really boyfriends but because you’ve got a little bit of back up, got support, you think you’ve got love.

Millie, Hull: Untold Stories

One of the worst and saddest examples I’ve ever heard of this was women getting young and vulnerable women into heroin. They would give it to them for free, and keep supplying them until they were addicted. Once they were hooked, they tell them to go out and work because they ‘owe’ them and turn abusive.

Resources

If you are experiencing financial abuse and would like support, please contact the charity Surviving Economic Abuse: https://survivingeconomicabuse.org/resources/

Women’s Aid on Financial Abuse: https://www.womensaid.org.uk/information-support/what-is-domestic-abuse/financial-abuse/

Halifax Banking support on financial abuse: https://www.halifax.co.uk/helpcentre/financial-abuse-support.html

Martin Lewis, Money Saving Expert: https://blog.moneysavingexpert.com/2019/06/martin-lewis–financial-abuse–joint-accounts-and-managing-money/

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