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Financial Abuse and Debt

Sad woman next to a bed.

During lockdown, domestic abuse has been on the rise, with the UN describing the worldwide increase in abuse as a 'shadow pandemic' alongside the COVID-19 crisis.

Within domestic abuse can lie a range of manipulative and violent methods of control and humiliation, one being financial and economic abuse

Women's Aid defines financial abuse as an aspect of ‘coercive control’ – a pattern of controlling, threatening and degrading behaviour that restricts a victims’ freedom.

This, in turn, can leave sufferers with little or no financial freedom, debts built up in their name by the abuser, and no access to independent income. Unfortunately - this can often appear to be preventative method to stop domestic abuse victims leaving.

What are the signs of financial abuse?

Financial abuse, sadly, is not usually performed on its own - and other abusive behaviours are often used to reinforce the financial abuse.

However, some tell-tale signs of financial abuse as a victim might include:

  • Credit cards being used without permission.

  • Contractual obligations or debts being put in your name.

  • Personal or family assets being used to gamble with.

  • Removed access to personal bank or shared accounts.

  • Any independent income being controlled.

  • Having to justify or account for everything you spend.

Financial abuse and debt

Due to the nature of financial abuse, and the lack of financial control experienced by victims, financial abuse and debt are closely linked, and often, victims can be left with overwhelming amounts of debt in their name as a result of a financially abusive relationship.

The burden of debt created by someone other than yourself can feel frightening, and paying it back - depending on the amount - can often feel hopeless.

The Freeze Debt Advice and Solutions app is a free service designed to offer advice around suitable debt solutions based on your personal circumstances, and works through an in-app chat function that allows you to speak confidentially to non-judgemental, expert debt advisors.

Download the app to find out more about the debt solutions available to you.

How can I help a victim of financial abuse?

Potential warning signs that someone else might be suffering could include:

  • Their partner limits employment or education options.

  • Any purchases they make are closely monitored, including receipt checking.

  • Money is hidden or stolen from them.

  • Not being ‘allowed’ to open a bank account.

  • Struggling to get access to basic living products such as food or medication.

The above could be displayed through behaviour such a declining invitations to social occasions, staying in a job they don't enjoy for no apparent reason, asking to borrow money, nervousness or withdrawal when discussing their abuser and/or finances.

Like other types of domestic abuse, sufferers can often feel ashamed, embarrassed or fearful - all of which can prevent them from seeking help or telling someone what they are going through.

One of the best ways to support those you believe may be suffering is by being available to listen, patient, and knowing where they can receive the professional help they need.

What to do if you’re suffering…

Financial and economic abuse often makes it difficult to escape dangerous situations due to the lack of control over your own finances - but there are people that can help.

Some services that offer support to those suffering from financial abuse include:

  • Refuge (Women and Children) - the charity offers a free 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline that can be reached on 0808 2000 247. It also offers an online chat service from 3-6pm on weekdays, or the ability to send a message. The website contains plenty of online resources that will help you to understand the support available to you.

  • Women’s Aid (Women and Children) - the website offers a live chat from 10am-4pm on weekdays and 10am-12pm on weekends, or can be reached by emailing helpline@womensaid.org.uk. The website contains plenty of online resources that will help you to understand the support available to you.

  • Victim Support - the website offers a wide range of free resources that can provide the support and guidance you need to deal with your situation.

You're not alone.

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