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Guest blog: financial abuse 'counts' as domestic abuse

(59 Posts)
KateMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 09-May-13 12:41:11

In today's guest blog Polly Neate, Chief Executive of Women's Aid, writes about the impact of financial abuse on survivors of domestic violence - and argues that the introduction of Universal Credit will leave more women vulnerable.

Let us know what you think - and if you blog about this, don't forget to leave your URL on the thread.

"Many people don't realise that financial abuse 'counts' as a form of domestic violence. But it's very common - and can be one of the first types of domestic violence experienced, as the abuser begins to control his partner.

Financial abuse is a way of gaining the power and control which underpins all domestic violence, and can lead to other types of abuse. But the loss of financial independence can make a woman feel unable to leave her relationship, precisely because she lacks the financial means to do so.

It tends to unfold over time, and can take many different forms, such as:

* Not 'allowing' the woman to work or have an independent income.

* Giving a woman who is forced to stay at home or is a stay-at-home mother a very strict allowance, making her account for everything she has spent, and ask every time she needs money.

* The woman being forced to work - with the abuser perhaps taking her to and from work, and keeping her income, with all household funds going into his account.

* Forcing the woman to take out loans and credit cards that she can't afford to pay back.

* Forcing a woman to obtain money by illegal means.

In circumstances where the abused woman has been forced to take out loans in her name for her abusive partner, this can lead to very serious debt. If a woman is pressurised into stealing and other criminal acts to get money for the abusive partner, obviously the consequences can be very serious - and the threat of discovery can be another reason not to leave. But in all cases, the erosion of self esteem and independence is deeply damaging.

The abuse can begin under the guise of being looked after - 'I'll look after that, you don't need to worry'. Sometimes, to younger women or those who feel vulnerable, already have financial worries or lack confidence in managing money, this can be an attractive prospect. But as things develop, they start to feel trapped and desperate.

Women's Aid is currently particularly concerned about the introduction of Universal Credit, which will mean one monthly payment per family to one person. The government's intention is for victims of domestic abuse to be exempt - but 'split payments', where the payment is divided between partners, can only be granted as an exception. In Women's Aid's experience of working with domestic violence, just asking for a split payment could put a woman at increased risk of abuse from a violent and abusive partner. There is a serious risk that an unintended consequence of Universal Credit will be to make financial abuse easier for the perpetrator.

But financial abuse is by no means limited to those who are claiming benefits - it's just as likely to happen to women who are professionals, or stay-at-home mothers with a high household income. For example, a stay-at-home mother's money could be closely monitored and her spending decisions judged, even if they have no financial difficulties. If she's the breadwinner, she may be forced to put all her money into an account which her partner can access, and which may be spent on high value items, gambling or alcohol/drugs - while she is permitted to spend little of her own money. She may also be threatened that if she ever leaves him, he will empty their savings and she will be left with nothing.

Women's Aid has produced materials with finance professionals at moneyadviceplus called DAME (Domestic Abuse Money Education) to help women deal with the financial difficulties in which they can find themselves after the abuse, including identifying whether any offences have been committed or what their means of reparation might be. But very often, there will be none.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, go to Women's Aid to receive support and information from our free Survivor's Handbook, which has sections on all elements of domestic violence including financial abuse, and how to make a safety plan if you are thinking of leaving."

JeeanieYuss Fri 10-May-13 09:30:39

Freddie you are so missing the point!
Unbelievable....
Great article

NiniLegsInTheAir Fri 10-May-13 09:40:06

It is also possible to be financially abused where one partner witholds their money under the guise of 'if you want that so badly, you pay for it'. This was happening to me when I was on maternity leave, I ended up with a large amount on credit cards and up to my limit on my large overdraft as 'D'H wouldn't contribute towards essential items such as baby milk and nappies. We had separate bank accounts as I wanted to keep my independence (he is also very financially controlling and used to give me lectures if he caught me spending money on anything, even furniture).

Anyway, thanks to Mumsnet I realised my financial situation and am now taking steps to reduce my debt. It reached the point where I am currently unable to leave him (so am financially dependant on him) as I simply cannot afford it. At the moment I wouldn't even be able to afford rent if I left.

Financial abuse takes many forms and IMO is as debilitating as emotional and physial abuse (and I have suffered both at his hands).

GettingStrong Fri 10-May-13 10:34:30

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Hello gettingstrong smile

One thing that worries me about the universal credit, is that rent, council tax benefit and everything, is going to be made in one payment per month, direct to the recipient (as I understand it).

Now I am very good at budgeting. But many people aren't. I have had friends in the past who would have blown the whole lot at the start of the month and then complained that they don't have enough for the rent when the landlord wants to be paid.

It would be easy for an abuser to spend all the rent money etc and then leave his family facing eviction.

I agree absolutely that the people most likely to NEED a split payment are the ones who will be unable to discuss this with their partners.
I was one of them. When you are with an abuser you just cannot CANNOT discuss anything like this with them and whoever decided on this universal credit obviously has no idea of the implications to those in financially abusive relationships. THey all probably sit in their offices saying 'oh if anyone hit me I would leave immediately' and many many of us on the boards know that's not how abuse works.

asuwere Fri 10-May-13 10:52:54

I have to say,my first thought when reading this was 'why no mention of men being victims?'
If it had been about the stress men suffer as breadwinners, there would have been outcry that women could easily be the main breadwinner... mention abuse and sexism is acceptable though...

Anyway, universal credits - will it be any different financially than it is now? The main difference is that it will be just 1 payment rather than a few but if there is financial abuse, would it matter how many sources of income there are? I'm not sure it will.

asuwere Fri 10-May-13 10:55:13

x-post Flipperty just answered my 1 payment thing.. guess the monthly payment could be the key point. surely it would mean the abuser could be evicted too though?

Yes but that is in the control of the abuser isn't it. If you are the not-working mother of his children then the thought of eviction caused by your partner spending the rent would be terrible.

Also the UC is payable monthly when most of the benefits are currently weekly/fortnightly/paid direct to the landlord.

To switch some people from weekly to monthly.... can you imaging the budgeting probs some of them might have?

DOes anyone remember a programme about poundland on a while back? Saying that the items in there were not cheaper than the same branded items at say asda, because of the specially made sizes for poundland.

THe4

I am coming back to this thread to apologise if anyone thinks I am in any way negative about the point of the blog.

I am not, and if that is the impression I have given then I am sorry.

Whoops posted early.

The presenter on the programme was telling people that they should go and pay the say £1.50 for 200g of whatever, at a different shop, because it worked out cheaper in the long run than the £1 for 100g at poundland.

But to a lot of people who don't know how to budget or who are skint for the last 2 days of every week till they get their benefits, they will only see the extra 50p that the item costs in asda, and say 'I can't afford it'.

There are many many people out there who think like this.

So although I have digressed from the original topic which is financial abuse, the single monthly payment has far wider reaching repurcussions than financial abuse, for families where the recipient of the money is unable to budget.

Just now I know people on several-payments-throughout-a-month benefits who are always 'skint' a couple of days each week. Imagine that with a single monthly payment and a financially abusive person in charge of the money. There will be whole weeks at the end of the month where there will be NO MONEY for food, elec meter etc. MPs with comfortable/affluent backgrounds must have no concept of this or they would never ever have approved this scheme.

LadyMaryQuiteContrary Fri 10-May-13 11:28:25

There are non resident parents who use maintenance as a way to control their ex's, this should be included IMO.

StrangeGlue Fri 10-May-13 12:31:26

This is a brilliant blog and really brings to life a rather hidden issue.

Money is so emotional and discussing it so taboo that I would imagine its the easiest way to abuse and control someone else. If I felt my every penny was being watched and accounted for and judged I can see that would grind down my trust in myself very quickly.

Good work women's aid (off to follow you on twitter, is there a link to this blog I can retweet there?)

aliciaflorrick Fri 10-May-13 13:21:14

This happened to me and I didn't even realise it was happening. We moved abroad and I continued to work for clients in the UK, the money was paid into a UK account which my H controlled. He gave me 300 euros a month for me and two DCs to live on, combined with my CB, so I had about 450-500 euros a month to live, pay the bills, etc. I never had enough money, if I asked for more he would say there was none. I had no heating in winter for three years because I couldn't afford to buy wood. I had to account for where all the money had gone, because we were "struggling".

Then when he decided the marriage was over, he did it quickly just with a telephone call and made it impossible for me to open a UK bank account because I was an overseas resident, so clients couldn't pay me. He left me with no means of supporting myself. It took me two months until I was able to get myself a UK bank account.

Now it's the child maintenance that he dangles over my head, will he pay it this month? Won't he? Depends how well behaved I've been I suppose.

He's also bumped up the legal fees in the divorce about arguing over stupid points, but fortunately for me he's not as clever as he thinks he is and he ticked the box on the form at the beginning of the divorce saying he would be responsible for all fees. He has kicked up such a stink about that but he's stuck with it and has to pay it.

Since he left life has improved no end for me and the DCs, money is still tight but at least we have some.

Jux Fri 10-May-13 14:18:43

It'll be every 28 days to further confuse everyone, won't it?

Having experienced financial abuse for many years, I think it's always worth raising awareness. However I think the scenarios given don't illustrate just how covert and insidious financial abuse is.

For many people experiencing this abuse from their partners, it is rarely as explicit as 'no, you can't work' or 'hand over your wages'. As a PP said, it's much more 'well, if you want it, then you pay for it'.

Also financial abuse is very easy to continue after the relationship has ended - maintenance, children's savings, the NRP not providing the kids with basics when they have contact.

2712 Fri 10-May-13 22:13:51

I'm not really clued up on this universal credit stuff yet. However, the tax credits that me and DH received were in his name and paid into his account. I just got in touch with HMRC and changed the bank details from his account to mine. Did this about 2 years ago, so even though the money is paid to him it goes straight to my account.
They never asked for his permission or anything, just changed the account details over. could this be an option before universal credits come in?

2712 Fri 10-May-13 22:17:52

And I'm not being funny but if you need to ask for "split payments" then you need to ask yourself if your your relationship is working.

edam Fri 10-May-13 23:07:55

Freddie, appreciate your last post.

2712 - well, yes, obviously. But by the time someone realises that, they are probably in too deep to make getting out easy or quick or even, in their eyes, possible. I would imagine financial abuse is much like physical violence - everyone who has never experienced it and doesn't know much about it thinks 'well of course, I'd leave/throw him out the second he laid a hand on me. That would be it'. Only it is far, far more complicated than that. Abusive men don't tend to beat women up on the first date. That way they wouldn't get hold of many victims, would they?

Go and read stuff about violence and abuse in relationships on the Women's Aid or Refuge websites.

amothersplaceisinthewrong Sat 11-May-13 17:04:07

THe UC will work as one single payment once a month like a salary, and will be a nightmare for those who have never budgeted in their life, let alone for those with a controlling partner. That said, I am not convinced it will actually come in, I still think it will this government's poll tax. It is so complicated to administer and there is still doubt that the IT systems needed will work. Sorry, I digress.

dungiven Sat 11-May-13 17:58:53

Edam, you are sexist

JennyMakkers Sat 11-May-13 18:07:39

I agree wrt can we not address this an issue that affects mainly women without people jumping up and down in their seats saying 'what about the menz'. angry

For several obvious reasons, financial abuse is an issue that is more likely to affect women. They are the ones who earn less, they are the ones who have babies. Childcare is still seen as a woman's problem. Women are the ones who are more likely to end up dependent on an earner, and then, when that earner is financially abusive, they've no resources to walk away because they have young children! Mothers are backed further into a corner by financial abuse. I knwo at one point I was reliant on the children's allowance. I had a roof over our heads and very little else. It was a total nightmare.

I believe it happens to men sometimes, but forgive me I can't take as gospel the 3RD HAND word of somebody's 'charming witty lovely friend ebing abuused by his wife'. My x would have said similar about me.

THE WORLD AS IT IS favours men............... i actually feel very strongly that this charity shouldn't have to apologise for wanting to help women.

Jenny - please do not mock my friend's experience. That is, in my opinion, rude and unnecessary. And I am, for reasons I am not going to disclose here, absolutely sure that it is true.

JennyMakkers Sat 11-May-13 18:13:56

I agree with Edam, by the time you realise you're being financially abused you're already screwed. I was told that if I wanted to go back to work I had to earn more than the childcare for two. In other words, he wasn't prepared to 'subsidise' my working ONE penny. But when he was earning and I wasn't he had all the power! that was what he wanted of course. And having two small children I was just screwed really. He also did that thing of going through the credit card bills. The credit card was in my name, but he used to pay it (after the humiliating run through what's this, what's that? every month) so, when I left him, I had to leave him with nothing, and a credit card bill for groceries... and parking tickets (his). I think he sensed I was thinking of leaving so he kept asking me oh just put this on your credit card will you? what could i say? he cleared it every month. my only money for ME was the children's allowance.

JennyMakkers Sat 11-May-13 18:20:52

Well Freddie, I don't give a shit if you think I'm rude. I think you're so misguided I could laugh if it weren't a serious issue. Just because you have one male friend who tells you he's being financially abused by his wife does not mean that you're entitled to shout down these bloggers and say "but what about poor men?" . Your anger is misplaced on a thread/blog highlighting this serious issue. And it is a more serious issue for women. Women are more vulnerable in this area. They are , and if you don't understand why then you need to have a really long hard think before you muddy the waters raising men's rights and men's POVs.

JennyMakkers Sat 11-May-13 18:22:33

ps, and i'm not mocking your friend's experience. If I'm 'mocking' anybody and that's your choice of word there, it's you for thinking that because one man has told you he's being abused that you need to shout down these bloggers and tell them they're wrong not to talk about men's rights. Give me a break.

edam Sat 11-May-13 18:22:50

Glad you got out, Jenny.

dungiven, thanks so much for your thoughtful, reasoned contribution to the debate. Not.

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