Money is often used as a weapon in abusive relationships, new research shows
Money might not be the first word that springs to mind when we think about domestic violence, but a new report, compiled jointly by the Co-operative Bank and charity Refuge, shows that money is often used as a weapon when abuse is taking place.
Nearly one in five adults have been a victim of “financial abuse” while in a relationship with a partner - equating to 9.2 million people across the country - according to the report.
Some 18% of people surveyed said they had experienced some form of financial abuse in a past or current relationship.
Refuge says that financial abuse is a form of domestic violence, often taking place alongside other forms of physical, psychological and emotional abuse, and like those, it’s a way of trying to control someone.
People who carry out financial abuse aim to control someone else’s money or exploit or sabotage their finances.
Women are more likely to be victims of financial abuse than men the research suggests, although this is an issue that affects a significant number of men too.
In 60% of reported cases of financial abuse, the victims were women.
Financial abuse against women is more likely to start at key life stages, such as moving in with a partner, getting married or starting a family, according to the study of more than 4,000 adults.
Despite financial abuse being so widespread, around one in three victims suffers in silence, telling no one.
So what are the signs?
Refuge has a list of questions to help people recognise the warning signs.
It asks: Does a partner (or did they):
• Prevent you from working, or stop you from going to work?
• Prevent you from going to college or university?
• Ask you to account for every penny you spend?
• Check your receipts or bank statements so they can monitor how much you are spending?
• Keep the log-in details, bank cards or Pin numbers for your joint account so you cannot access it?
• Spend money allocated to bills on something else?
• Steal, damage or destroy your possessions?
• Spend whatever they want, but belittle you for spending any money?
• Insist on control of all financial matters?
• Insist that all the bills and loans are in your name?
• Make you ask permission before making any purchase, no matter how small?
• Make significant financial decisions without you (such as buying a new home or car)?
• Place debts in your name?
• Steal money from you, or use your bank card without permission?
If these situations sound familiar, Refuge says, you may be experiencing financial abuse, or it may have happened to you in the past.
The effects of such abuse on victims’ finances could take years to shake off.
People reported being left with a poor credit history or were struggling financially as a result of the abuse.
Women were also more likely to suffer financial abuse for a longer period. More than three-quarters (78%) of female victims said the abuse they suffered went on for more than five years, compared with 23% of male victims who said this.
Refuge says that if someone thinks they might be suffering from financial abuse, there are steps they can take - but they should remember their personal safety is paramount and they should only make changes if they think they can do so safely.
These steps could include asking for joint accounts to be frozen so that neither you nor your partner can take any more money out, changing any of your Pins or passwords that you think your partner might know and being clear what is in your name and what is not, such as credit cards, mortgages or bank accounts.
Refuge says that with personal safety being vital, someone may want to seek advice from a specialist domestic violence service before taking any action over their finances.