A guide family, friends, neighbours and colleagues
Current measures in place to control the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) mean that many people will be spending more time at home with an abusive partner and that their usual sources of support may no longer be available.
Measures necessary to control the spread of the virus, such as social distancing, isolation and working from home, can reinforce the power that an abuser may have over their victim.
This resource is designed to help you notice signs that someone you care about may be experiencing economic abuse at this time, and to know what you can do to support them.
On this page
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.
Abusers may control (through restriction, exploitation and sabotage) with their partner’s access to money and finances, as well as those things that money can buy (such as food, clothing, transportation and a place to live). This is economic abuse, and it is designed to limit someone’s freedom. This type of abuse can create economic instability and/or make one partner dependent on the other, which can prevent victims from leaving and rebuilding their lives.
An abuser may use the measures currently in place to reinforce the power they have by creating economic instability and isolating their victim further from support.
The measures that are currently in place to control the spread of the coronavirus mean you may not physically be able to see people that you care about. By keeping in touch by phone, email or text, you may still be able to notice warning signs that someone you know may be at risk at this time.
Look out for a family member, friend, neighbour or colleague who:
“If there were financial implications from him not being able to do all the ‘fun’ things he liked spending his money on, his mood would have been even worse than usual. He would claim that it was all my fault.”
Offering support to a family member, friend, neighbour or colleague that you are concerned about may be more difficult while you are not seeing them. Their devices may be monitored by the abuser, making it harder for them to reach out for and receive support. You may normally have been able to lend them some money or offer them a place to stay, where this is no longer possible with the current restrictions in place.
There may still be some ways that you can offer support at this time.
Keep in touch
While physical contact is limited, keeping in touch by phone, text or email is more important than ever. Someone experiencing abuse may find their devices are monitored by the abuser, especially at this time while they may be spending more time at home together. This may make keeping in touch difficult. If you are concerned about someone, could you find a ‘cover story’ to account for your need to call them, for example, a mutual friend or a colleague who needs help? If you are concerned about an employee, could you check in with them over a video call so that you can see them and check that they have the equipment you need to communicate?
Use code words
Could you set up a code word or phrase to use that the abuser will not understand? Code words could be a way that the person you care about can tell you they are concerned about the abuser’s behaviour.
Find a safe time to talk
If there is a time when the abuser may be leaving the house to get groceries or other essentials, try to be available at this time. Being overheard on the phone by the abuser could put the person you care about at risk of further harm.
Have information about domestic abuse services to hand
Someone experiencing economic abuse may not be able to safely access information about support that is available to them. It may help them if you can signpost them to helplines and local services that can offer support. See our resources ‘Economic abuse and the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak’ and ‘Organisations that can help’ for places someone can turn to for support. These include:
You can also search for local services on the Women’s Aid website.
If the person you care about is in immediate danger, they should call the police on 999.
While the abuser may have increased access to their devices, someone you are concerned about may find it helpful to know how to use their phone or computer more securely.
Last updated December 2020.
If someone you know is experiencing economic abuse, they are not alone. We have information that can support them to take steps towards safety and begin to regain control of their finances.
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