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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."

RachelToussaint Mon 20-May-13 00:41:18

I agree with this post raises some good points about covert domestic abuse. Also some self employed women with young children will find that the new Universal Credit system will put them under increased financial strain. As they are mostly the main carers, working less hours and therefore earning less. This is particularly damning for victims of financial abuse as they are unlikely to receive the payment. It's worth noting that child benefit is not going to be part of the UC "bundle", which might be some relief. I've covered more about the effect of UC in my blog. www.racheltoussaint.wordpress.com

RachelToussaint Mon 20-May-13 00:17:21

Good post. Also some self employed women with young children will find that the new Universal Credit system will put them under increased financial strain. This is particularly damning for victims of financial abuse. I've written more about it here .

JennyMakkers Sun 12-May-13 18:18:11

I thought you were the one angry with me confused , accusing me of mocking your friend's experience you said (I wasn't) and saying to me that you would like me to acknowledge (have forgotten what). I haven't the energy to get into further argument with you. Stop mentioning me in posts and I'll do the same.

LadyMaryQuiteContrary Sun 12-May-13 14:07:32

It should also be abuse against the child as well, as their remaining parent is left struggling to cover the basics. My son would have been taken by social services if I had behaved like his father. Maintenance is used a hell of a lot to control the resident parent and the child and the resident parent suffer because of this.

Jenny why are you so angry with me? I have been financially abused, physically abused and sexually abused and I'm watching a friend who happens to be male go through the same. Fuck me sideways for having some empathy and trying to help him.

JennyMakkers Sun 12-May-13 11:45:42

Absolutely Basil, mothers shouldn't have to incur 100% of the financial responsibility for raising children but so often they do. 5 years of nothing under my belt.

Freddie, this isn't about your ego, and this issue can not be about men. You wan't an acknowledgement from me ... Are we in the boxing ring here? Do you want a point? Am I obliged to agree with you? confused Am I obliged to respect your opinions? No. I'm not. I don't. I haven't been rude or nasty to you so stop saying that, but I think you are extremely misguided and if there were large numbers of women getting involved with this campaign just to stand up and represent men's rights - it would make the problems worse for women (remember them, the ones who are about 100 times more likely to be affected?).

edam Sat 11-May-13 20:12:23

Very true, Basil.

BasilBabyEater Sat 11-May-13 19:31:15

I think non-payment of maintenance should be recognised as financial abuse as well. It's financial abuse of both women and children (and men in the case of the <10% of male resident LP's).

3/5 of lone parents don't get any maintenance at all and the other 2/5 can be continually threatened with its withdrawal if they don't co-operate with abusive demands of the exes. This form of financial abuse is rife.

I never said women weren't more affected.

What I said is that I have friend who is a male who is being financially abused by his partner. And I'd have liked some acknowledgement of that so I could use the blog/thread to show him where to access help.

And I haven't been rude or nasty to you.

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.

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.

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 18:13:56

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.

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 18:07:39

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.

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

Edam, you are sexist

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.

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.

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.

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?

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.

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

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

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.

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?)

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.

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