Fifth of adults suffer financial abuse at hands of partner

11th December 2015


A fifth of UK adults have suffered ‘financial abuse’, where a partner controls or exploits their partner’s financial situation.


A survey by the Co-operative and domestic violence charity Refuge, shows 18% of people had been a victim of financial abuse in a current or former relationship and a third had kept the abuse quiet.


As part of the abuse, half said a partner had made big financial decisions without consulting them or even forced them to ask permission to spent money or require them to show evidence of the money they have spent.


Six in 10 of those who have been abused were female and it started at important life stages. A total of 71% of women said it happened when they moved in with a partner, 75% said it started when they got married and 30% when they had children. Among the men, the figures were 28%, 25% and 30% respectively.


Refuge said it had seen cases of financial abuse where victims were forced to live off small allowances that did not cover the cost of food for them and their children, with one victim saying they had been ‘utterly entrapped, financially trapped’.


The Co-op Bank said victims of financial abuse found it difficult to open bank accounts when trying to escape abusive partners because they may not have the right ID and the paper-based account management process puts people at risk of being found out.


Sandra Horley, chief executive of Refuge, said: ‘For women who report that they have experienced financial abuse, money can be a matter of life and death. It can mean the difference between being trapped with a violent and dangerous abuser, or escaping to a place of safety.


‘Financial abuse is a form of domestic violence and the consequences of this type of abuse can be both devastating and long-lasting.’


Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said financial abuse was something the government needed to address.


‘Financial abuse traps its victims in a day to day reality of control and fear. Abusers may rack up huge debts in the name of their victim or ensure they alone can spend their victim’s income. Yet only 2 in 5 people are aware that domestic abuse can have a financial side.


‘Putting in place the right guidance for banks and creditors dealing with victims of financial abuse could make a big difference. The government can also help tackle financial abuse by reviewing how abusers exploit payment of benefits and tax credits, ahead of the introduction of the universal credit single household payment.’

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