New research published by Citizen’s Advice (‘On the receiving end: how post can enable domestic abuse’) illustrates how survivors of abuse from intimate partners/family members have their post intercepted. It outlines how this facilitates economic abuse, through:
Disrupting access to information related to employment, benefits and finances so that survivors miss important information.
Examples include survivors missing:
Perpetrators having access to information they find in survivors’ letters to control their finances. Two in five survivors who had their post intercepted said the perpetrator did this; and Citizen’s Advice estimates that survivors have lost £7.1 billion in the last 10 years as a result of perpetrators intercepting their post.
Economic abuse through the interception of post also overlapped with other controlling tactics such as checking a survivor’s movements via bank statements; and seeing when and where survivors spend money on petrol.
Economic abuse via the interception of post was found to make it harder for victim-survivors to leave. They might have lost out on benefits, had little or no access to funds, been left in thousands of pounds of debt and have a poor credit rating, leaving them at risk of homelessness/struggling to rent privately. They might also struggle to manage their own finances, having never been allowed to do so.
Dr Nicola Sharp-Jeffs, CEO of SEA, said:
‘Many of these findings chime with what victim-survivors of economic abuse tell us. We have worked with banks to ensure that post can be accessed at no additional cost so we are supportive of the recommendation that government should invest in an ‘Address and Collect’ service, provided at post offices.
It is vital that we close down all the mechanisms through which abusers are able to control, exploit and sabotage a victim’s ability to acquire, use and maintain economic resources. As this research demonstrates, economic stability underpins physical safety.’
SEA is piloting a Domestic Violence Debt Advocate (DVDA) role within domestic abuse services in partnership with Money Advice Plus (MAP). The partnership is advocating that this model is adopted across the country and recognised as a vital part of specialist responses to domestic abuse.
The SEA/MAP Domestic Violence Debt Advocate (DVDA) provided support to a woman in a case that involved the perpetrator hiding, destroying and otherwise withholding post and other important documents when she lived with him. After she left the abuser broke into her property on several occasion and stole post. Things hit crisis point when she received notification that she was going to be made bankrupt (by creditors from a debt she was forced by him to take out). She had not received any earlier correspondence about this, so it was very likely that this had been taken by him. Because of the short notice, the DVDA had to work over the weekend and prepare a statement for the woman to take to court and negotiate with the creditor’s solicitors in order to get them to withdraw the bankruptcy claim.
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