'I had nothing in my name': An investigation into aspects of financial abuse

News 3 investigates financial abuse
Posted at 4:18 PM, Jun 18, 2021

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - Domestic abuse is happening in homes throughout Hampton Roads, and the COVID-19 pandemic has put a strain on people stuck in those situations.

News 3 took a deeper look at the problem and investigated aspects of the abuse as well as reasons why people stay in abusive situations.

Experts say money, religion and technology can play a role in abusive relationships.

We look into the different aspects of abuse including financial abuse.

Looking back, CJ Meyer said she can see red flags in her prior relationship, like when she tried to hang up her high school and associate degree diplomas on the wall of her home. She said her partner requested that she not hang up her accomplishments because he didn’t have anything to hang on the wall.

Meyer said at the time she didn’t want to upset him but looking back, she believes that was a sign of control. She said the verbal, emotional and financial abuse got worse over the years.

Meyer said her partner wasn’t physically assaulting her, so she didn’t perceive the relationship as abusive.

For years, she said she wasn’t allowed to work, go back to school or be involved in any of the family finances.

“I had nothing in my name. I couldn’t go rent an apartment. I didn’t have a magazine subscription in my name - nothing,” said Meyer. “My sense of self slowly eroded.”

She said every purchase had to be accounted for with a receipt.

“Abuse doesn’t happen with one thing; it’s generally a combination of things, and all of it is geared towards control."

Meyer desperately wanted to go back to school, but said her partner constantly brought up different reasons why it was not a good idea.

When she finally got all of his concerns met and researched scholarships, she said she confronted him about continuing her education and said he got very upset with her.

“He took off his ring and threw it at my face,” said Meyer, “and said that when I’m done to see if he is still around.”

While Meyer said there wasn’t regular physical violence, many victims of financial abuse are suffering in a physically abusive situation.

Neisha Himes is the founder of the G.R.O.W. Foundation and regularly helps survivors who deal with financial abuse.

“Domestic violence often starts off as control, manipulation, isolation and it goes into the emotional and verbal abuse and eventually the physical abuse,” said Himes.

One group from the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that 99% of domestic violence victims in their study also suffered financial abuse. Experts say financial abuse is less commonly understood and one of the most powerful ways to keep a survivor trapped.

“It’s often not discussed or unheard of because people don’t recognize it because there are not bruises or anything associated with it,” said Himes.

There are warning signs to look out for and different forms of it.

According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline financial abuse can take many forms and may include:

  • Providing an allowance and closely monitoring how you spend it, including demanding receipts for purchases.
  • Depositing your paycheck into an account you can’t access.
  • Preventing you from viewing or accessing bank accounts.
  • Preventing you from working, limiting the hours that you can work, getting you fired or forcing you to work certain types of jobs.
  • Maxing out your credit cards without permission, not paying credit card bills, or otherwise harming your credit score.
  • Stealing money from you, your family or your friends.
  • Withdrawing money from children’s savings accounts without your permission.
  • Living in your home but refusing to work or contribute to the household.
  • Forcing you to provide them with your tax returns or confiscating joint tax returns.
  • Refusing to provide money for necessary or shared expenses like food, clothing, transportation, medical care or medicine.

“If you have to get permission to spend money; if you have to turn over your paycheck; if they’re causing scenes at your job so you can’t go to work or you can’t go to school to better yourself - those are all red flags of financial abuse,” said Himes.

Meyer said she was able to end the relationship and entered the workforce at 34 years old.

“It was almost overnight that I felt that sense of accomplishment and pride coming back."

She also wrote a book called, “Dear Broken Woman: Trials to Triumph."

“I would encourage all survivors to speak up. Decide what you want for yourself if you’re not getting it from that person," said Meyer. "I would definitely encourage them to love themselves enough to leave.”

If you are in an abusive relationship and need help, here are some resources: