UNDERSTANDING FINANCIAL ABUSE IN INTIMATE PARTNER RELATIONSHIPS

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By Morapedi Sibeko 

  • Financial abuse, often overlooked, emerges as a significant issue highlighted during the recent EmpowaMen Summit in Johannesburg, underscoring its destructive impact on individuals’ lives.
  • Dr Frank Magwegwe, from Nedbank, delved into the dynamics of financial abuse, framing it within the context of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), stressing its gendered nature and prevalence among women and children.
  • Despite its subtlety, financial abuse wields considerable power, manifesting through strategies like gaslighting and coercive control, necessitating a shift in societal understanding to encompass all forms of abuse beyond physical violence.

Financial abuse wreaks silent damage on numerous lives behind closed doors, inflicting scars that are frequently unseen by human sight. Financial abuse is a broad and destructive spectrum that affects people from various walks of life and backgrounds, ranging from gently manipulating to completely controlling. 

During the EmpowaMen Summit held recently in Johannesburg, among the many thematic areas covered, one challenge that emerged was the reality of financial abuse, which is frequently disregarded.

Dr Frank Magwegwe, Executive for Financial Wellness and Advisory at Nedbank, using the lens of the article published in the Journal of Community Medicine & Primary Health, took the conversation further through an analysis of the dynamics associated with the emerging notion of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV).

He explained that financial abuse is a type of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) in which one partner restricts the other’s ability to get, manage, and spend money. IPV is an indisputable social issue that affects a large number of women and children. As such, it is a gendered problem.  

“When speaking about Gender-Based Violence and Femicide (GBVF), our thoughts frequently turn to physical abuse. However, violence occurs in various shapes, and financial abuse is a few of the most cunning yet least recognised,” said Dr Magwegwe.

In the context of relationships, Dr Magwegwe continued and highlighted that financial discussions are frequently placed on the back burner in favour of the more sentimental facets of love and trust. 

“Due to the profound emotional impact that money issues can have on people, talking about money as a couple frequently involves talking about emotions as well.  In a relationship, the balance of power can be influenced by money. Talking about income might make one feel insecure, in charge, or dependent, depending on how each spouse contributes financially and in what way.”

He further added, “Financial abuse is destructive even when it’s subtle. The strategies employed by abusers, which might range from gaslighting to secrecy and coercive control, often leave invisible but equally harmful wounds. The story around money needs to shift from serving as a source of conflict to one that encourages development and comprehension. Partners need to be completely present for one another, respecting one another’s differences and coordinating their financial objectives.”

“As individuals, we must change the way we think. We must acknowledge that GBVF is about more than simply bumps on the body; it’s also about control and power, as well as the subversion of one’s sense of independence and self-worth. It’s crucial that, while discussing GBVF, we move beyond physical abuse and adopt a more comprehensive view of abuse,” concluded Magwegwe.

 

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