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

Approaching the police if you have experienced economic abuse can feel daunting. But the police are there to keep you safe and there is a lot that they can do to support you.

If you are in immediate danger, you can call 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 

Keeping the public safe is one of the key responsibilities of the police. But you may feel nervous about reporting the abuse or wonder how they police can help.  

There is a lot that the police can do to help. They can help you access a domestic abuse support service, or check someone’s background for previous abusive behaviour, among other things.  

Police responses may vary. However, many police forces have been trained on how challenging it can be for you to report domestic abuse, including economic abuse.  

Reporting abuse is the first step towards getting 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 abuse are criminal offences. This includes threats to kill, disclosure of private images, assault and rape.  

Some forms of economic abuse can be addressed through existing 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 now also a criminal offence and was introduced by the Serious Crime Act 2015. Economic abuse, including abuse that takes place after separation, is a form of controlling or coercive behaviour. It 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) 

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 
  • telling you that the police will ask the Home Office to deport you or cancel your visa 

Economic abuse, including post-separation abuse, is now recognised in law. We hope this changed status will help standardise the police response. 

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

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, or an officer with specialist knowledge of domestic abuse 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 prosecuted. 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 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, 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 leave 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. 
  • Sanctuary Schemes: The police can, in some circumstances, work with other agencies to improve the security of your home, making it safer to remain there. 
  • 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 

Economic abuse and post-separation abuse are recognised in law. It is your right to seek protection from and prosecution for criminal behaviour.  

Police responses to economic abuse can vary. We know that not all victim-survivors will experience a supportive response from their local force.  

Your local police force should have a domestic abuse policy, strategy or guidelines for you to check. Their response may not match these guidelines, or you may not be happy with the response or investigation.  

If this is the case, it is your right to give feedback or make a formal complaint to your local force. You can also raise a complaint if the abuser is connected with the police. 

For the most serious and sensitive matters that have the potential to affect public confidence in the police, your complaint may be referred to the IOPC (Independent Office for Police Conduct).  

If you would like support to make a formal complaint, Women’s Aid has a directory of local services that can help you do this.  

Last updated July 2023

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.