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Financial abuse

Legislation is the first essential step on the path to eradicating (economic abuse) and preventing future homicides.

Dr Nicola Sharp-Jeffs OBE, Founder & CEO, Surviving Economic Abuse 2021

  Knowing how to identify financial abuse is critical to the safety and security of the person on whom it is being perpetrated.  

A study by the U.S based Centre for Financial Security found that 99% of domestic violence cases also involved financial abuse.[1] Furthermore, financial abuse can frequently be the first indication of emergent intimate partner violence and domestic abuse. Its reality as a specific element of domestic abuse, with its appalling impacts on the victim and any dependents involved, is now starting to be delineated.  The victim is rendered not only controlled, but effectively immobilised, as resources are steadily removed which could have realised independence, safety and freedom from the relationship. Known about and skirted around for decades, its recognition in UK national legislation in the Domestic Abuse Bill currently before parliament, is paradigm shifting for the protection and interventions which courts and enforcement agencies will be able to secure for victims in the future.  The legislation will open up for the courts and protection agencies not only present abuse within relationships, but also the post-separation abuse, which is an insiduous form of coercive control and whose impact can continue for decades.

[1] (Adams AE. Measuring the Effects of Domestic Violence on Women’s Financial Well- Being. Center for Financial Security. University of Wisconsin-Madison. 2011).


Financial abuse involves controlling a victim’s ability to acquire, use, and maintain financial resources. Those who are victimised financially, may be prevented from working, and significantly the earliest indications of this occurring may well be presented to HR department personnel preparing exit interviews with, in particular, female employees.

Victims may also have their personal money, savings or income, restricted or even stolen by the abuser. In financial abuse cases it is rare to find the abused enjoying uninhibited access to money and other fiscal resources, which is an area which requires patient uncovering, as it is an area which can generate a profound sense of shame and be shrouded in intimidation. When victims do appear to have their own money, behind the scenes they are frequently being required to account for every penny they spend to their ‘partner’.

The form of financial abuse varies substantially from situation to situation. There is a great deal of subtlety often being deployed which is hard for those seeking to intervene to spot, whilst other abusers are more overt, demanding, and menacing. However, the end result is always the same, a zero-sum game play, to exert power and control in the relationship.