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Five Questions About Financial and Economic Abuse

13 October 2022

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Domestic abuse can take many forms, but there are often misconceptions about what it actually is and how it affects people. The cost-of-living crisis has brought financial and economic abuse under the spotlight, but many people may not know what it is. We have answered five related questions to help understand this.

1. Isn’t domestic abuse usually physical?

Domestic abuse can take many forms and is not limited to just physical abuse. It can be any form of physical, sexual, psychological, controlling or financial abuse. Perpetrators look to control their partner, chipping away at their confidence and independence, making them reliant on them. This is often reinforced by threats of violence or by physical abuse, if they do not comply with the perpetrator’s wishes.

2. What is financial and economic abuse?

Women’s Aid describes financial abuse as, “A perpetrator using or misusing money which limits and controls their partner’s current and future actions and their freedom of choice.”

Economic abuse covers a wider spectrum and can involve restricting access to resources (food, clothing, transport) or denying someone the chance to earn money.

They both have a significant impact and can cause a victim to become heavily dependent on the perpetrator, reducing their independence and creating barriers to leaving the relationship.

3. How might this play out in a real-life scenario?

It can take various forms, but the aim is always to control their partner and limit their independence. It could involve controlling what they spend their money on, taking loans out in their partner’s name, or spending large quantities of money on themselves and leaving a minimal amount for their partner. Some perpetrators also prevent their partner from working, limiting their financial independence and making them heavily dependent on them. These are a few examples, but it is not an exhaustive list and financial abuse may present itself in other ways.

4. Why do people experiencing financial and/or economic abuse not come forward for support?

There are often many barriers to accessing support, as is the case with other forms of domestic abuse. Some may fear that they won’t be believed or may fear the consequences of leaving the perpetrator. Many experiencing financial abuse may feel that they are unable to leave as they do not have the financial capacity to support themselves – particularly if the perpetrator has accumulated debts in the victims’ name or spent their savings. The cost-of-living crisis has contributed to this too, which we have detailed in previous blog posts.

5. How can family and friends look out for someone experiencing it?

Keep any eye out for any changes in behaviour in friends and family members. You may notice a pattern occurring – maybe they constantly cancel plans, frequently say they have no money, or often wear clothes that are old/worn because they are not allowed to buy new clothes. Maybe someone who was previously career driven or enjoyed work has suddenly and unexpectedly given up work. Ask them if they are alright and if things are ok at home and be supportive of them. Be sure to listen to them and let them know that there is specialist support that can help them.

We all have a role to play in tackling domestic abuse and that includes looking out for others. Leeway’s support can be accessed by: