Economic & Financial Abuse

This short video created by Surviving Economic Abuse describes one woman's experience of economic abuse

Impact of Economic or Financial Abuse

Limiting a partner’s economic resources undermines their ability to leave; meaning that the victim remains in the abusive relationship longer, impacting on the victim/survivor and any children.

If a victim does separate they are more likely to return to an abusive partner because of a lack of economic security and access to resources.

Financial abuse involves a perpetrator controlling money in a way that limits and controls a partner’s access to money and their freedom of choice. It can include using credit cards without permission, putting contractual obligations in their partner’s name and gambling with family assets.

Financial abuse can leave victims/survivors  with little or no money for basic essentials such as food and clothing. It can leave victims/survivors you without access to your own bank account, with no access to any independent income and with debts that have been built up by an abusive partner in your name.

Even when a survivor has left the home, financial control can still be exerted by the abuser with regard to child maintenance, tenancy agreements or mortgage payments.

The effect of economic abuse has a ripple effect on the victim at the time of leaving and post separation.

Women with children can be further impacted by a non resident parent not paying child maintenance.

Women's Aid report that economic abuse is under reported and poorly recognised. Financial abuse can affect victims in a range of different ways. Even those who may have a full-time salary or who share joint accounts with their partners are not safe from financial abuse.

Women's Aid surveyed 126 survivors and found:

  • 71 per cent went without essentials because they didn’t have enough money
  • 61 per cent were in debt because of financial abuse and 37 per cent had a bad credit rating as a result.
  • 52 per cent of those living with an abuser said they had no money so could not leave.

Why Is It Important To Address Economic & Financial Abuse?

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.

It is a barrier to leaving: lack of access to economic resources is a reason why many women feel that they have no choice but to stay with an abuser.
Increased risk for the survivor: economic barriers to leaving can result in women staying with abusive men for longer and experiencing greater danger, injuries and even homicide as a result.
A barrier to an independent life: economic abuse does not rely on physical proximity, so can continue after separation. Women are often left in debt and the lack of financial security impacts on their ability to rebuild their lives after leaving.

What is Economic Abuse?

Economic Abuse includes behaviours that prevent a person’s ‘ability to acquire, use and maintain economic resources.Economic abuse is more than controlling finances. Financial abuse is recognised as a ‘sub-category’ of economic abuse. Economic abuse is an aspect of ‘coercive control’ which is described as a pattern of controlling, threatening and degrading behaviour that restricts a victim's freedom.

Ability to acquire

  • Preventing victim attending school, college or university
  • Forbidding paid employment or limited work
  • Taking the victim’s pay
  • Refusing to allow victim to claim benefits
  • Preventing access to a bank account

Ability to use

  • Controlling how money is spent, providing a limited allowance, telling victim what should be bought, making victim keep a spending diary and having to justify every purchase and providing receipts
  • Controlling use of property e.g. car or phone
  • Insisting that all economic assets are in the name of the abuser

Ability to maintain

  • Stealing property and or money
  • Destroying property
  • Refusing to contribute to household costs
  • Making the victim have all economic liabilities in their name
  • Creating debt in the victim’s name through fraud or coercion

Support Available

UK charity Surviving Economic Abuse is the only organisation that raises awareness of economic/financial abuse and seeks to transform responses to it. Their website has information and  resources on supporting those impacted by economic/financial abuse. They have also compiled a Banking Support Directory which shows support offered by the major UK bank and building societies.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) provides guidance for domestic violence and abuse victims about the services and support they offer. This includes special conditions for:

  • Housing Benefit
  • Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Employment and Support Allowance
  • Universal Credit
  • The benefit cap
  • Removal of the spare room subsidy
  • Discretionary Housing Payments
  • Migrant partner support
  • Child maintenance


Our Relationships Shouldn't Hurt podcast has an episode on Domestic Abuse: Surviving Economic Abuse and transcript.