What does financial abuse look like?

Economic or Financial abuse is a common tactic of many abusers. It affects 8.7 million people across the UK and for 3% of all UK cases, economic abuse started during the first lockdown.

Financial abuse is the power-play and control across all aspects of finance. Abusing financially can mean controlling what another person purchases. It can also mean taking advantage of someone’s funds by ruining their credit, racking up debt in their name, withholding child support, or stealing their money. This type of abuse ensures that the victim depends almost entirely on the abuser for survival, making it very difficult for the victim to leave.

Economic abuse can be difficult to identify. It can develop slowly and could begin with behaviour that at first seems protective or caring, for example, offering to take care of all the finances or encouraging you not to work so that you can look after the children.

“Money doesn’t make you happy but without money, there’s nowhere to go. That’s why, for me, economic abuse is the greatest form of control.” – survivor of economic abuse (SEA)

Over-spending, or building up debts in your name or joint names, can also develop slowly and may not be obvious at first. Some women may have lived with economic abuse for many years, and it can continue after leaving.

It is often just the start and all too frequently, the abuse will escalate to emotional, physical and even sexual abuse.

Some of the most common signs of economic abuse include:

  • Restriction of income. This can include taking control of both salaries, removing access to personal bank accounts or interfering with the ability to work.
  • Misuse of joint or personal funds. This includes making significant financial decisions without consent, such as buying a car or a home, theft of money, valuables or assets, or using bank cards without permission.
  • Controlling spending. This can mean controlling the ability to purchase anything beyond basic essentials such as food, placing a spending cap on bank accounts or demanding to monitor or track personal spending.
  • Incurring debts without consent or under duress. This includes putting a debt in someone else’s name under duress, or fraudulently, or applying for an overdraft in someone else’s name when they are afraid or unable to say no.
  • Other warning signs. These can include damaging a partner’s property, meaning she has to pay for replacements, using money as a tool to manipulate and control her psychologically, or forcing her to ask permission before making purchases.

If you are experiencing economic abuse, you are not alone. We have more information that can support you to take steps towards safety and begin to regain control of your finances.

For confidential support and advice, contact us or visit Surviving Economic Abuse for information including steps you can take towards economic safety, organisations that can help, grants, benefits and financial help.

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