Research roundup: New study sheds light on post-separation economic abuse

A new research study* conducted in Finland has explored experiences of post-separation economic abuse among women experiencing Intimate Partner Violence (IPV).

Although it’s renowned for gender equality, survey data suggests that Finland has some of the highest rates of IPV among countries in the EU. Despite this, little data on the prevalence of economic abuse in Finland is available. This latest study aims to address this by highlighting and categorising a range of economically abusive behaviours experienced by victim-survivors after ending their relationship with the abuser. In doing so, researchers wanted to help develop a better understanding of this form of abuse.

Based on interviews with 11 women, researchers Anniina Kaittila, Mia Hakovirta, and Heini Kainulainen found four main categories of post-separation economic abuse: economic sabotage, withholding resources, financial harassment, and stealing.

Economic Sabotage

Here, abuse typically involved the destruction of property but also included behaviours designed to sabotage employment.

With the destruction of property, two main types of behaviour were identified: regarded and impulsive. Regarded destruction was often ongoing and done in the women’s absence, suggesting an element of monitoring was also taking place. Impulsive destruction was often in response to behaviour the abuser perceived as a provocation and would occur while the women were present or not.

Withholding resources

In this category, abusive behaviours typically involved inaction on the part of an abuser to withhold resources to control the women. This included tactics such as prolonging divorce and refusing to divide assets, refusing to pay their share of bills or purchases, denying access to the women’s property, and/or withholding child support payments.

Financial Harassment

Through financial harassment, an abuser may use financial matters (such as disputes over personal belongings) to maintain control and contact with a victim-survivor post-separation. Another common tactic highlighted in the interviews was the use of false accusations to both maintain contact and discredit the women within their social networks.


Through these behaviours, an abuser actively took or refused to return something that belonged to the women in an attempt to damage their financial resources and harm them emotionally.

“At SEA, we know how many victim-survivors experience economic abuse post-separation, which is why we successfully called for the offence of controlling or coercive behaviour in England and Wales to be extended to recognise this. During our global study [link] on economic abuse, we found evidence from all around the world showing that economic abuse does not end when the relationship ends and that perpetrators will continue to exploit, sabotage and restrict victim-survivor’s economic resources. This research, therefore, adds much-needed learning to our understandings of post-separation economic abuse.” Kathryn Royal, Research Officer, Surviving Economic Abuse

This study is open access and available to read in full here.

Find more research on Economic abuse (includes information on joining our international economic abuse research network)

*Kaittila, A., Hakovirta, M., & Kainulainen, H. (2022). Types of Economic Abuse in Postseparation Lives of Women Experiencing IPV: A Qualitative Study from Finland. Violence Against Women, 0(0).