SEA’s General Election Manifesto – Sarah’s story

The scale and devastating impact of economic abuse on women and children cannot be ignored. In the last year alone, 5.5 million UK women had their money and belongings controlled by a current or former partner. 

Perpetrators continue this form of abuse long after a victim-survivor has left, and the effects can last a lifetime. Many victim-survivors end up homeless and destitute, having lost their possessions, jobs and prospects, often left in debt with destroyed credit scores. Many are forced to start over from scratch and face huge challenges to achieving long-term economic stability, including difficulties finding or keeping a roof over their head. 

Sarah’s story  

Sarah joined the Experts by Experience General Election Group to influence policy change by sharing her experience of economic abuse. Sarah fled her abusive ex-husband while three months pregnant, her arm in a plaster due to the abuser physically assaulting her, and with three children under the age of five to care for. Over a decade later, Sarah remains trapped in the ‘home’ where she endured so much abuse, with insurmountable mortgage arrears and a destroyed credit rating because of the abuser’s control over the joint mortgage, which he remains named on to this day.   

When Sarah fled the abuser, she wanted to sell the property and use her share of the proceeds to make a fresh start for her and her children. The abuser refused to sell the property and immediately stopped paying towards the joint mortgage while also withholding child maintenance in order to make it impossible for Sarah to make the monthly mortgage repayment or meet her children’s basic needs. The abuser also used his position as joint mortgage holder to refuse Sarah’s request to make interest only repayments in order to prevent arrears, while also taking out multiple unpaid debts against the joint property.   

Despite Sarah’s sacrifices to make the monthly mortgage repayments, including going without heating in winter and relying on food banks for herself and her children, the abuser still managed to cause mountains of arrears and debts against the property, which soon went into negative equity and her credit rating was destroyed. When the divorce finally went through three years later, Sarah was told by her mortgage lender that even with a court order in place awarding her the property, she could not afford the mortgage and the abuser must remain a joint mortgage holder.   

Now, over a decade later, her ex-husband still economically controls her through the joint mortgage and refuses to pay child maintenance. When he does pay the Child Maintenance, he does so when and how he wants to, and uses abusive payment references to continue to control and intimidate her.   

For years, Sarah has faced a future of economic and housing insecurity, with a credit rating so destroyed she has no hope of getting another mortgage or being approved to privately rent. After years of waiting, Sarah has finally been given access to social housing. Despite this positive development, Sarah sees no end in sight for her ties to the abuser and said, “even now he manages to pull more or less all the same strings”. 

About our Manifesto 

Perpetrators of economic abuse are destroying the lives of millions of women at a huge cost to society. We need all politicians to listen and act – by supporting victim-survivors, disrupting perpetrators, and educating the next generation to prevent economic abuse.  

The General Election is a golden opportunity to deliver lasting change for victim-survivors and stop economic abuse forever. Our Manifesto provides a blueprint of innovative and practical solutions, based on victim-survivors’ experiences. 

Read more about the calls set out in our General Election Manifesto.