Financial Literacy versus Financial Abuse Essay

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Financial literacy is commonly defined as skills and knowledge that enable individuals to manage their finances, reach financial goals, build assets, and engage the mainstream economy. Financial education is an important tool that sets individuals on the path toward economic security and financial independence.

The power of financial education when coupled with comprehensive advocacy support can serve as a solid foundation for domestic violence survivors who are seeking safety and autonomy. Access to economic resources that help meet basic human needs is a safety predicator for many who experience abuse.

The financial impact of domestic violence is far reaching and devastating. Financial abuse is a tactic commonly used by abusive partners for controlling relationships by preventing their victims from accessing money, financial resources, or any means of financial security (such as employment). Financial abuse occurs in relationships marred by inequality, verbal abuse, emotional manipulation, violence, rape, and fear. Many people in abusive relationships have been denied access to resources, skills development, practical experience, or any encouragement to stand on their own and live financially independent lives. Whether they remain in or leave an abusive relationship many survivors are challenged by dire circumstances, including homelessness, unemployment, years of financial debt, and sometimes bankruptcy.

Across the country, local community programs and coalitions have adopted financial literacy education programs to economically empower survivors while advocating to eliminate economic barriers survivors encounter when struggling to be safe. Financial literacy is a tool that can be used to help domestic violence survivors move toward long-term financial stability. Many survivor-centered financial education programs are attached to initiatives that focus on helping survivors with budgeting, saving, building credit, managing debt, purchasing a vehicle, preparing to purchase a home, or starting their own businesses. Survivor-centered financial education programs focus not only on financial abuse that occurs within the larger context of an abusive relationship, but they also provide key strategies for helping survivors manage or end financial responsibilities shared with an abusive partner.

When approaching financial education with a domestic violence survivor, it is important to adopt a philosophical acknowledgment that many political, social, and cultural beliefs influence views about how money is discussed, used, and valued, and these beliefs may define “financial security” for each individual. This framework also recognizes that financial education is not the only predictor of financial security or success.

Financial literacy and resource access must also be considered within the context of oppression. The financial impact of oppression continues to result in denied accessibility of resources for many individuals within this country. Domestic violence survivors who are gaining additional information, skills, and resources to engage with the economic mainstream also need to be prepared to navigate oppressive barriers and discrimination.

Domestic violence programs are serving as a resource for learning personal financial management, but without the assumption that all survivors of violence lack the information or skills they need to make informed decisions about their financial lives or safety.


  1. Correria, A. (2000). Strategies to expand battered women’s economic opportunities. Washington, DC: National Resource Center on Domestic Violence.

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