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Even amongst loved ones, talking about money is still something we find difficult. As a result of this, some people can find themselves in difficult financial situations and have no one to turn to. However, financial hardship due to the coercion of an intimate partner is where most women suffer the most in silence. Studies have shown that, 1 in 5 adults living in the UK have experienced economic abuse by a current or former partner. Of these individuals, more than a third didn’t tell anyone the anguish that they were experiencing.

Economic abuse on women can be defined as controlling an individual’s ability to obtain, spend or sustain assets in a manner that reduces the victim’s capacity to support herself, or forces her into financial difficulties and leaves her to depend on her perpetrator financially. It can also involve controlling and monitoring how her money is spent. There are numerous examples of economic abuse such as:

  • Stopping a woman from working
  • Stopping her from partaking in anything she can do to boost her employability, including furthering her education
  • Taking on unwanted large debts in joint accounts or in her own personal accounts.

Economic abuse manifests in various ways and unfortunately, not many victims actually see themselves as being victims due to manipulation tactics that abusers use. It can appear at first, as a partner being protective or endearing, “being the head of the household” and taking on a lot of the responsibilities but in reality, it often reveals itself as something more sinister. Sadly, there are a lot of circumstances whereby such control is not just a one-off situation, as it’s woven into the foundations of the relationship to the point whereby it is considered as standard practice.

Several studies have shown that economic abuse does not often exist in isolation within a relationship. There is a strong likelihood that economic abuse occurs in the background, whilst a woman is subjected to other forms of domestic violence, such as physical and sexual. The figures prove it  –  according to a source at the Center for Financial security 99 percent of domestic violence victims are also being financially abused. Ultimately, limiting the survivors’ access to create or retain financial resources, creates a vicious circle whereby it becomes increasingly difficult to leave the relationship altogether. Women have to consider food, shelter, and the long-term safety for herself and her children. In such situations it is hard, to not only find the mental strength to leave, but to also figure out the logistics of life afterwards. Women leaving violent relationships are often in huge debt with repayments and owing large sums of money, after having had numerous bills and credit cards in their name without their prior knowledge or agreement. A study from the Surviving economic abuse website revealed that 60 percent of domestic violence survivors, often had associated debts which were a huge burden as they begun to rebuild a new life for themselves.

However, the impact of economic abuse is not only measured by debt. It can also have detrimental effects on the mental health of its victims. In a psychological study of Indian female survivors of domestic violence, there was a strong link between economic abuse and different mental health issues such as anxiety, depression and suicide ideation. Economic abuse is also linked to physical safety with women who experience it, are five times more likely to experience physical abuse and the increased risk of both homicide and suicide.

Sadly, Black women are disproportionately affected by intimate partner violence and for this reason, they are most likely to be affected by economic abuse. The implications of economic abuse are therefore much more severe, considering the socio-economic factors that can limit Black women living as abundantly as their white counterparts. For instance, black women are much more likely to find it difficult to find employment compared to a white woman, after leaving an economic abuse situation according to the healthy debate website.

It is an unspeakable shame that economic abuse is something that many women go through, often unknowingly or with no end in sight. Nonetheless, it is imperative that women are aware of how they can protect themselves from such situations. It is also important that we create a space for our family and friends to share their struggles so that women do not fall victim to economic abuse in the future.

If you are not in immediate danger but you are scared for your safety, you can contact the National Domestic Abuse helpline on 0808 2000 247, 24-hours a day it is a free confidential service run by Refuge. If you are in immediate danger, please call 999.


Urenna Ibeh

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