Financial abuse can be so scary and can cost you a fortune!

This November, we celebrate a month dedicated to preventing women abuse and further spread awareness about the things often pushed under the rug, in a dark room, with the door completely shut. It’s a topic that moves most people but is also a topic that people shy away from. Is it because it’s too unsettling to talk about? Or is it too small of a topic, that it gets masked by other things happening in the world? November is a voice for the victims in that dark closed off room. November is women abuse prevention month.

Financial abuse to women, more specifically, is abuse that happens when “an abuser takes control of finances to prevent the other person from leaving and to maintain power in a relationship. An abuser may take control of all the money, withhold it, and conceal financial information from the victim. Financial abuse happens often in physically abusive relationships. Financial abuse can also happen in elder abuse when a relative, friend, or caregiver steals money from an older person” (

A friend of mine has a Greek mother. She is all the things you want in a mom and that was the case for as long as she could remember. She was loving, hardworking, and always there when someone was ever in need. She had a long-term significant other who she spent 16 years with. They never married, but they lived, grew, and owned businesses together. You could say her life was on the track for a happy retirement with a love to share it with. After being lovers and business partners for 12 years, he started to feel pain in his shoulder. Come to find out, he had clavicle cancer. However, due to a previous heart attack, he was not able to undergo chemotherapy. Instead, the family researched other ways to treat his illness. They tried everything from common household remedies like marijuana of course, to completely unconventional ways like consuming the blood of a particular animal. Before they knew it, the cancer was consuming him. It began to affect his body for the worst and ended up eating all his organs. It was discovered that when it came down to all the legalities of his death that he had contacted his lawyer to put everything they owned such as money and all the businesses under his son’s name. Sounds reasonable, but what about her mother? The other children in the family? The son was always abrasive to my friend’s side of the family. Maybe it had to do with resentment toward the fact that his father had a new family, or maybe he was just a person swayed by the power of greed. Whatever the reason, he told her Greek mother that she was no longer welcome in any of the businesses. 16 years of dedicating her time, physical abilities, and love to a man and their businesses together just to be left with nothing. My friend still wonders to this day, what happened or why her mother’s lover for 16 years left her in the dark without an explanation. Its mysteries like this that make you think about your life after a death, that people don’t usually think about until after its happened or after they see someone else go through it.

This next story paints the same picture but with a few surprising crimson stains. It might even get you to think about your finances and how they are secured today!

My famous grandmother was very career oriented and she worked on two television shows in the 1960’s. Right after her first divorce, she held two jobs to support her family. She was a teacher during the day and a realtor at night and on the weekends. My grandmother did what she had to do to get by, including showing up with her poodle to an audition for a children’s television show. She went on to become the host of that show (with her poodle as the co-host, of course.) The show was called Claire and Coco and ran for many years. The second show she hosted was a women’s talk show, called Women Talk. She would have celebrities on such as Sonny and Cher. It is impressive and highly respectable for a woman to have had such a tremendous career in the 1960’s. Claire was a beautiful and extremely charming woman, who had a wicked sense of humor. She was witty with a very high IQ, and went to Cornell at the age of 17, for goodness sake, which explains why my mother is so smart. The reason I’m telling you all about my grandmother is to explain that even someone as successful and intelligent as she was could get duped…and she was…by her ex-husband.

My mother was four when her parents divorced, and she remembers being asked by the judge who she wanted to live with. The judge decided my mother and her brothers would live with both parents during their childhood. Remember, my grandmother had a highly successful career, so my mother was raised more by nannies and housekeepers than by her own mother. Her life wasn’t perfect. She was bipolar and back then they didn’t know nearly as much as they do now. To manage her disorders, she would take diet pills during the week, which was basically speed back then, and sleeping pills on the weekend. Not the best mixture for someone who’s bipolar. Unfortunately, my grandmother was never able to find happiness in her life. She would always say, “If I could just have a bigger house, more money, or more clothes, then I would be happy.” Or my favorite quote of hers: “You can be miserable poor or miserable rich, and I’d rather be miserable rich!” A few years after the divorce, my grandmother remarried a Washington, D.C. lawyer named Fred. They were living in Maryland at the time they started dating and then got married. My grandmother retired to the Outer Banks in North Carolina while Fred continued to work in D.C. and visit her only a few times a year. It seems as if they’d married one another for the money and financial security since they were both successful. They each had their own motives, I guess.

Fred was an alcoholic and told us he had been sober many times. It was always interesting to see his large glass of “water,” oops, I mean vodka, beside him. He wasn’t fooling any of us when he would say how thirsty he was for water. He loved to tell us he was going to Alcoholic Anonymous conventions throughout the year to speak; what a great guy, right? Even as a young girl, I knew something was off when he would fall flat on his face while playing catch on the beach. He’d even cheat when he’d play me and my brother in poker. He’d seriously cheat a 6 and 8-year-old at cards while knowing my father could see his antics the whole time. Even with his faults and her faults, too, the marriage seemed to work for them. They’d only see each other a few times a year, usually when the entire family had gathered.

34 years into their marriage my grandmother got the legendary call from the ER because of her husband’s stroke. My mother and grandmother found out that Fred was a cross-dressing, alcoholic lawyer in D.C., with two mistresses on the side that he was putting through college, and whose rents he was paying. He had also bought a Mercedes for each of them. One received a $5,000 Gucci bag! We were all extremely confused since he’d always been very cheap with us. One of the mistresses is the one who left him at the hospital and the one who told my grandmother, “He is your problem now.” When my mother and grandmother went to his apartment during the time he was recovering from the stroke, they found his whole other life. Those alcoholic conventions were in fact, cross-dressing conventions and boy did he have a fabulous wardrobe. I’m talking ball gowns, wigs, bags, accessories, and probably the most horrifying red leather bustier and matching skin-tight pants. Fred would dress up as a woman at the conventions, and his mistresses would dress as men. He spent a lot of money on his wardrobe and other life, but I guess that’s the bonus of living hours away from your wife and having separate credit cards. He was a sneaky and savvy lawyer, too. They also found out he had put my grandmother’s two houses in his name, and he had even taken out a second mortgage on one house, so he could put the money toward his fabulous life. Needless to say, my grandmother immediately filed for a divorce. She also canceled their joint credit cards and took him off her bank accounts. Three attorneys fought for him in the divorce and spent a ridiculous amount of my grandmother’s money. My grandmother got her share back in the divorce including the houses and their equity, but the divorce put a drain on both her finances and emotions. There’s a lot more to this story, such as Fred pushing my grandmother on a cruise ship and breaking her neck. And the fact that he then called my mother to say he was leaving Claire at a hospital in France. In the end, blood is thicker than water…

WOW! Talk about family drama! Although blood may be thicker than water, money can buy both and can be the cause of abuse and turmoil in any family. After such eventful experiences it may be easy to think its all over and question whether you can save yourself from the financial grave. How can I recover from this abuse?

The answer is quite simple although usually easier said than done. However, you are not defined by the things that happen to you. It is how you handle these situations that reveal who you are! It’s never too late to take back your life. The most important thing is to take action! Make a plan to leave the abuser. Once you are away from that person, you can take steps to repair your credit and become financially independent.

  • Protect your credit. By freezing your credit accounts or having a credit bureau issue a fraud alert, you can make it harder for someone to open accounts in your name.
  • Talk to a financial expert. You can get the financial education and advice you need about dealing with debt, mortgage, or credit issues from an expert. They can help you make a step-by-step plan to repair your credit and rebuild your finances.
  • Use available resources. Most states have assistance programs to help survivors of domestic violence.
  • Know your job rights. Many states have laws that protect your right to take time off from a job to go to court for violence and abuse issues. Many states also have laws to protect you against discrimination on the job if you have experienced domestic violence or sexual assault.
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