What is economic abuse?

Domestic abuse takes many forms. Some abusers repeatedly dictate their partner’s choices and control their everyday actions, becoming violent or threatening to become violent if their demands are refused. An abuser may restrict how their partner acquires, uses and maintains money and economic resources, such as accommodation, food, clothing and transportation. This behaviour is known as economic abuse.

An abuser might do any of the following:

Control how their partner acquires money and economic resources, such as:

  • preventing their partner from being in education or employment
  • limiting their working hours
  • taking their pay
  • refusing to let them claim benefits
  • refusing to let them access a bank account.

Limit how their partner uses money and economic resources, such as:

  • controlling when and how money is spent
  • dictating what their partner can buy
  • making their partner ask for money or providing an allowance
  • checking their receipts
  • making their partner keep a spending diary
  • making them justify every purchase made
  • controlling the use of property, such as a mobile phone or car
  • insisting all economic assets (e.g. savings, house) are in their name
  • keeping financial information secret.

Sabotage their partner’s ability to maintain economic resources, such as:

  • steal their money or property
  • causing damage to their property
  • refusing to contribute to household costs
  • spending money needed for household items and bills
  • insisting all bills, credit cards and loans are in their partner’s name and make their partner pay them
  • build up debt in their partner’s name, sometimes without their knowledge.

The impact of economic abuse

In the context of coercive control, economic abuse is almost always perpetrated by a male abuser against a female victim.

Economic abuse reinforces or creates economic instability. In this way, it limits women’s choices and ability to access safety. Lack of access to economic resources can result in women staying with an abusive partner for longer than they would like and experiencing more harm as a result. Economic stability is therefore linked to physical safety.

The impact of economic abuse makes rebuilding lives challenging. Many women leave with nothing – having no money even for essentials – and have to start again from scratch.

Support is available

If you are experiencing economic abuse, you are not alone.

Contact the National Domestic Violence Helpline, run by Refuge, on 0808 2000 247 or the Men’s Advice Line on 0808 801 0327. If you are in immediate danger, call the police on 999.

Visit our resources page to learn more about economic abuse. We have resources that can support you to survive and thrive.

If you are worried that someone you know may be experiencing economic abuse, we have information that can support you to spot the signs of economic abuse.

If you are a professional working with a victim-survivor, we have resources that can help you support them.

Survivor stories

Annie

Stacey

Sophie & Stella