16 Days of Action – Financial Abuse

Throughout 16 Days of Action we will be sharing a selection of blog posts on different topics, this post will focus on financial abuse and the cost of living crisis.

What is financial abuse?

Financial abuse is a means of controlling someone through taking away control of finances and resources. Financial abuse is also known interchangeably as economic abuse and both are a form of coercive control. In the absence of resources, it can be extremely difficult to leave an abusive relationship and see a life beyond abuse. Financial abuse can be the control of liquid assets (e.g. your wages) or equity (e.g. your house). The manipulation of money and other economic resources is one of the most prominent forms of coercive control, depriving women of the material means needed for independence, resistance and escape.

While financial abuse is most frequently committed by a partner – a family member or other party known to the woman can use coercive control in this way.

Sometimes it can take a long time to realise you are being financially abused or for you to label what is happening as ‘abuse’. But if you feel uncomfortable about the way that someone you know is behaving with your money, they may be financially abusing you. This list can help you identify if that is what’s happening:

  • Forces you to take out money or get credit in your name.
  • Makes you hand over control of your accounts – this could include changing your login details.
  • Cashes in your pension or other cheques without your permission.
  • Adds their name to your account.
  • Pressures you to change your will in a way you’re not comfortable with.
  • Has offered to buy shopping or pay bills with your money, but takes it, and doesn’t use the money how you agreed.
  • Asks you prove what you’ve spent your money on.
  • Stops you accessing your bank, loan or credit card accounts.
  • Controls what you can and can’t spend your money on.
  • Sets up Direct Debits from your account to pay bills which aren’t yours or pay for goods and services which you haven’t bought.
  • Pressures you to arrange for your benefits to be paid into a bank account you don’t have access to.

Research from Women’s Aid shows that 20% of UK women experienced financial abuse in either a current or past relationship. Women’s Aid also reported in 2019 that just under half of survivors of abuse who have children said they did not have enough money to pay for essentials for the children.

If you think your perpetrator is monitoring your devices, try and access help on a computer or phone they don’t have access to at work, in a library or by borrowing a friend’s. We also have a blog post on tech abuse that gives detailed help and support on how to keep yourself and devises safe.

Many victims of physical, sexual and emotional abuse are likely to also be suffering financial abuse.

The cost of living crisis and the effects it can have on an abusive relationship.

The cost of living crisis is estimated to be affecting 46 million British people, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). While this is worrying for the average household, in homes where there is an abuser, the rising costs have their own terrifying consequences. Many women who face domestic abuse already experience economic control by their perpetrator. This financial disadvantage means these women face further barriers when trying to leave, recover and rebuild their lives after abuse. The soaring cost of living heightens this crisis, making it even harder for women to escape abuse.

According to new research from Women’s Aid the cost of living crisis is already stopping victims from leaving an abuser: 73% of women living with or who have financial links with the perpetrator said that the cost of living crisis had either prevented them from leaving, or made it harder for them to do so. “While living with the trauma of abuse” Women’s Aid reports “74 per cent are worried about paying bills and 61 per cent being able to afford food” Farah Nazeer, chief executive of Women’s Aid said: “The current cost of living crisis has been devastating for survivors of domestic abuse. The soaring energy and food costs, coupled with stagnant wages, will leave many women more vulnerable.”

Women’s Aid and Surviving Economic Abuse (SEA) are calling on the Government for an Emergency Domestic Abuse Fund to support survivors with energy bills and essential items, reduced bills for refuges, and better access to legal aid for victims and survivors.


How to get help…

Everyone has the right to financial independence. If your partner or someone else you know is running up debts in your name, it’s financial abuse. There’s no need to struggle alone.

There are many National support groups available to give you advice and guidance.

Surviving Economic Abuse (SEA), the UK’s only charity specifically dedicated to supporting people experiencing economic and financial abuse, contact the free Financial Support Line, call 0808 1968845

Women can call the National Domestic Abuse Freephone helpline on 0808 2000 247

Scottish Women’s Aid and LGBT domestic abuse in Scotland are excellent support group websites.

StepChange is a debt charity, where you can receive free debt advice.

Women’s Aid Orkney are here to help and our support workers can help support any woman experiencing financial abuse.

If you or your children are in immediate danger, call the police on 999. If you can’t talk, call 999 followed by 55 to indicate you need help, but can’t talk.

For anyone who has concerns regarding the cost of living crisis, Martin Lewis has some great advice and support on his website, including a cost of living help guide. https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/