What Is Financial Abuse?
Financial abuse is an aspect of ‘coercive control’ which is described as a pattern of controlling, threatening and degrading behavior that restricts a victims’ freedom.
It’s important to understand that financial abuse seldom happens in isolation: in most cases perpetrators use other abusive behaviors to threaten and reinforce the financial abuse.
Financial abuse involves a perpetrator controlling money in a way that limits and controls their 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 you with no money for basic essentials such as food and clothing. It can leave 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.
Women's Aid report that financial abuse is under reported and poorly recognized. 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 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’s 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 doesn’t 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.