Financial Abuse – Training Outline

Trainer: Taimia Sarwar

What is Abuse?

Abuse can be defined as improper or unfair treatment of a thing or a person and the intent behind this treatment is most of the times to achieve some gain or advantage. Two primary types of abuse are physical and non-physical. Under these two broad categories, fall numerous types of abuses.

What is Financial Abuse?

Financial abuse means in simple words the unlawful use of one person’s money, property or other valuables by another person who has not been legally authorized by the first person to do so. Moreover, it can include fraudulent mechanisms such as obtaining the power of attorney or abusing the person’s will; the intent behind all of these is to favor oneself in an unlawful manner. This type of abuse is very common and is found in Western cultures as well as in Pakistani culture. The most common domains of this abuse are:
(i) abusing elders in order to exploit their finances
(ii) abusing other domestic relationships e.g. intimate relationships, in order to maintain control over the financial resources.

How is it related to Pakistani Culture?

It is very common in Pakistani culture. The denial of property rights to women (which is an overt violation of Muslim Family Laws Ordinance 1961), the manipulation of the will of elders, sister, or wife and the denial of the job rights of women stand out as the prominent examples of financial abuse in Pakistan.

Is Economic Abuse low-key Financial Abuse?

Economic abuse happens when one partner tends to control the economic resources available to other partner and also the opportunities for economic progress. Thus, in this type of abuse one partner is not only controlling the present of the other partner but also the future of the other partner i.e. as he is controlling the economic opportunities available to the other partner. Women are most likely to suffer from economic abuse in intimate relationships. This kind of abuse has been a point of global concerns and there are recent optimistic developments to curb this malpractice.

How to identify Financial Abuse?

One of the most important phases in tackling with this issue is to identify this kind of abuse. More than often, this kind of abuse is not very apparent and the onset is slow, so it becomes hard to identify that one is going through it. But, there are certain indicators which can indicate that financial abuse is happening. One of the most obvious is if someone is demanding or even urging you to quit your job or don’t invest or conduct any business which might result in financial gain. It means that the person wants to have a control over your access to economic resources. Another related symptom is when someone is making your life at work difficult i.e. someone is constantly teasing you at work or making it difficult for you to carry out your job. These actions discourage you from working.

Quick Observations:

  • if someone is refusing you to have an access to bank accounts, that is also an indicator
  • if someone keeps on teasing and questioning you about the purchases you make, this is also an indicator that things are not going in the positive direction
  • if someone only gives you a certain amount to spend, that is another indicator of financial control which can result in financial abuse
  • if someone is selling, making changes or dealing with the property or cash which belongs to you, without consulting you or even insisting to do so, it is a big sign of concern if someone is refusing you to have an access to bank accounts, that is also an indicator ( <– one of the most obvious signs)

How to fight Financial Abuse?

The onus lies on the person going through any of these circumstances or the people watching this happen to report this immediately. It is the only way through which ongoing abuse can be curtailed.

Now, after getting to know that financial abuse is taking place, one has to deal with it. One should keep the resources which belong to oneself e.g. the documents of property, credit cards etc. at a safe place and at a place which are not in the reach of the abuser. Moreover, one should become conscious in signing any document with or for the abuser i.e. as one is not sure that for which purpose those signatures would be used. One should also try to save some money; it can be a handy tool in case of emergency. Moreover, one should resist on one’s right to go at work and have a job. Most importantly, one should know the law and one should know that the law gives protection to a person suffering from these kinds of abuses. Another important thing is that one should make sure that none of these case go unreported. Reporting and sharing these cases is not only important for the victim but also for other people who are the potential target of such abuse. Therefore, a person sharing such cases is actually doing a service to humanity.

What to do if you’re stuck in such a relationship?

If a person is stuck in a financial abuse relationship, one should take safety measures first. One should know which law is going to protect him or her. It is recommended that one should consult a lawyer before leaving such a relationship. Moreover, one should try to gather evidences and as much documents as possible. For example, the documents of the properties belonging to him or her. These are not only important to ascertain the role of the abuser but also to strengthen one’s claim over these properties. To recover from the vicious cycle of financial abuse, one should immediately freeze all accounts or properties to which the abuser has an access. Moreover, one should try to become financially independent by having a job or using the domestic aid programs offered by the government.

Taimia Sarwar is an activist by heart and a psychologist by degree. She strongly believes that the Earth is worth saving!
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