Your safety
Only take the actions below if it is safe to do so. You are the best judge of whether making any changes might lead to further harm. In an emergency, call 999.

How the police can help

If a current or former partner has interfered with your money or other economic resources in some way to limit your choices, this information is for you. It outlines how the police can support you if you have experienced economic abuse. 

The police are there to keep you safe. If you are in immediate danger, they should be your first port of call by dialling 999

“I refuse to be told that nothing can be done and I want change for other victims. I know first-hand how devasting the effects of economic abuse can be.”

The role of the police 

 Approaching the police if you are experiencing abuse can be daunting. You may wonder what the police can do to help, and may feel nervous about reporting the abuse. 

There is a lot that the police can do to help, and they will prioritise the safety of you and your children. Keeping the public safe is one of the key responsibilities of the police. 

Reporting abuse is the first step towards accessing justice. It may be useful to understand how economic abuse relates to the law, as the police can only act if the abuser’s behaviour is criminal. 

Economic abuse and the law 

Although there is no criminal offence of domestic abuse, many specific forms of abusive behaviour are criminal offences. This includes threats to kill, assault and rape. 

Some of the ways that an abuser might restrict how you acquire, use and maintain money and other economic resources1 (such as accommodation, food and clothing) can be criminal offences. 

These include: 

  • blackmail 
  • criminal damage, e.g., destroying or damaging property 
  • harassment, e.g., in the workplace 
  • theft 
  • threats to destroy or damage property 
  • false imprisonment, e.g., preventing someone from leaving the house and going to work 

Controlling or coercive behaviour is also now a criminal offence. It was introduced by the Serious Crime Act 2015. Economic abuse is a form of controlling or coercive behaviour and often overlaps with other controlling tactics such as: 

  • physical assault (e.g., using physical force to take money) 
  • sexual assault (e.g., making a partner perform sexual acts for money) 
  • threats (e.g., of physical abuse if bank account details are not shared) 
  • humiliation (e.g., restricting money needed for essential items, such as sanitary products) 
  • intimidation (e.g., destroying property) 
  • isolation (e.g., being prevented from working or not having access to transport) 

Our research shows that six in ten successful prosecution of the controlling or coercive behaviour offence include economic abuse.2 

The abuser may make you feel like you cannot seek help from the police. Some possible tactics include: 

  • telling you that you will lose your job 
  • telling you that the police won’t do anything 
  • insisting that you won’t be believed 
  • having or claiming to have friends in the police force 

It may take a number of attempts to get the right response from the police. However, many police forces have been trained on how challenging it can be for you to report domestic or economic abuse. They have a responsibility to believe you and keep you safe. 

Reporting a crime 

If any of the above circumstances apply, you can report the abuser to the police. If you are not in immediate danger, the number for your local police is 101, regardless of where you live. You can also report in person at your local police station.  

If you are in immediate danger, you can call 999. If you cannot speak to the operator on the 999 call, you can press 55 to let them know your call is genuine. This will not let the police know where you are, however. If you can say anything, tell them your location. 

If you are experiencing domestic abuse, the police should speak to you separately from the abuser. You can also ask to speak to a female police officer, if you would prefer to. 

Usually, the police will investigate and, if there are sufficient grounds, they may arrest the abuser. This does not necessarily mean that the abuser will be charged. Usually the police pass the case on to the Crown Prosecution Service, who will decide whether to pursue charges. 

The police do not need to see the offence happen. They do not need a warrant to make an arrest if they suspect the abuser is going to commit an offence. 

They will try to gather evidence, such as photographs of damage or injuries, so that the case is not solely based on your statement. If the abuser has committed an ‘arrestable offence’, the police will not need your permission to make an arrest. 

If you report the abuser to the police, seek support from a local domestic abuse or legal service. You can search for a local domestic abuse service on the Women’s Aid website

If the police take action against the abuser, you can ask for a crime reference number, which may be helpful if you seek further support. 


The police may ask you for evidence, as well as gather evidence for themselves. Evidence of economic abuse and controlling or coercive behaviour can include: 

  • bank records 
  • medical records 
  • a diary of events, if you keep one 
  • evidence on the internet, such as emails and social media records 
  • text messages and phone records 
  • photographic evidence of lifestyle and the state of the household 
  • witness testimony, which may include talking to your friends and family about the abuser’s behaviour  

What else the police can do 

The police can also support you with: 

  • Specialist help and support: The police can help you to access domestic abuse support services local to you. 
  • Transport to a safe place: If you have to flee your home, the police can help arrange transport to take you to a safe place. 
  • Support to return to your property safely: If you are afraid of returning home to collect any items you may need, you can request a police escort to help you do so safely. 
  • An order to protect you from abuse: The police can, in some circumstances, issue a Domestic Violence Protection Notice (DVPN). This means that a Magistrates’ Court will hear the case and may decide to put a Domestic Violence Protection Order (DVPO) in place. This would remove your partner from your home for up to 28 days. 

If you are not happy with the police response 

If you are unhappy with the response from your local police force, they should each have a domestic abuse policy, strategy or guidelines for you to check. 

If their response does not match these guidelines, you may wish to make a formal complaint. Women’s Aid has a directory of local services that can help you do this. 

Last updated September 2020

Further support 

If you are experiencing economic abuse, you are not alone. We have more information that can support you to take steps towards safety and begin to regain control of your finances.


  1. Adams, A. E., Sullivan, C. M., Bybee D., and Greeson, M. R. (2008). Development of the Scale of Economic Abuse. Violence Against Women. 
  2. Sharp-Jeffs, N. with Learmonth, S. (2017). Into Plain Sight: How economic abuse is reflected in successful prosecutions of controlling or coercive behavior. London: Surviving Economic Abuse.