Domestic abuse and money

Controlling your money is a form of abuse. It can feel impossible to break away from someone who is controlling your finances, but help is available.

man with wallet

Controlling your money is a way of controlling you

People often only think of the physical side of domestic abuse, but abusive behaviour isn’t always violent; using money to control another’s actions can be just as problematic for the victim.

“Financial abuse is often part of a bigger picture of power and control in abusive relationships,” says Steve Connor of the National Centre for Domestic Violence. “Victims are left feeling unable to escape.” Figures from a survey conducted by the domestic abuse charity Refuge show 89% of women in abusive relationships have suffered from some form of economic control.

What is financial abuse?

There are several types of financial abuse, including:

  • Preventing someone from attending work or college
  • Making it difficult for a person to keep a job
  • Demanding money earned by a person is handed over
  • Holding on to credit cards, debit cards or cheque books
  • Controlling bank accounts, telephone or computer access
  • Running up debts in a person’s name
  • Keeping Child Benefit or money allocated for bills and groceries for personal use
  • Giving gifts, but expecting things in return
  • Making a person account for every penny they spend

“Using money to threaten or manipulate another person is always financial abuse,” says Fiona Dwyer, National Children and Young People Officer at Women’s Aid. “And if you’re a younger person you probably don’t have much money in the first place, making you more vulnerable to this kind of controlling behaviour.”

Escaping financial abuse

It’s important for any victim to remember it is possible to leave the abusive relationship and to regain control of their finances. If you’re in this situation think about:

  • Starting to save – This may seem impossible, but try to put aside very small amounts and ask a family member or friend to look after it for you.
  • Setting up your own bank account – To keep yourself safe use a different bank to the one your partner uses. Bank online, using a computer at work, college or in a public library, and tell the bank not to send anything to your home address. You can receive your statements online and pick up other items, such as cards, from your nearest branch.
  • Emergency support: If you don’t have enough money to pay for the essentials, like rent and bills, you may be able to apply for emergency funds depending on your situation and whether you’re on benefits.
  • A civil court injunction – It’s possible to obtain an injunction against your abuser through the civil courts. You can also request not to be contacted by your abuser and demand the return of any financial documents, credit or debit cards. This is speedier than using the criminal courts and your abuser need not know the process is taking place. Contact the National Centre for Domestic Violence for free advice about this.

Use our relationship tool to understand your relationship dynamic, and what you can do if it’s not as healthy as it should be.

Next Steps

  • Women's aid protects women from domestic violence. Call their 24-hour helpline on 0808 2000 247.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

By Anna Fielding

Updated on 29-Sep-2015

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.