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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."

I agree completely with the blog except in one respect.

I am in a position of watching a friend be financially abused by his wife.

Some recognition that it can go the other way would have been nice.

Lweji Thu 09-May-13 15:03:28

Yes, partner instead of woman. smile

SamWidges Thu 09-May-13 15:08:05

Financial abuse after the relationship/marriage has broken down is also a problem. My situation is that I am divorcing my husband, we have 2 kids and he has not paid ANYTHING in over a year. I have just started to get the CSA involved but their formulae mean that he'll pay very little of his take home pay as a percentage (15 per cent as only one of our children is under 18 now)...certainly not enough to ease the financial nightmare that we have been struggling through.

Also, the costs involved in divorcing him have been through the roof because he has not co-operated at any point and I have had to resort to my solicitor more often than would have been necessary if he had been anything like a decent human being. Another more subtle form of financial abuse....

If I was a man who was suffering abuse and I read that blog I would be gutted and feel like my abuse did not matter.

Is that really the message WA want to send out?

Am feeling quite angry now.

TwoFourSixOhOne Thu 09-May-13 15:42:56

Ffs do we really have to have a 'what about the menz' discussion on a thread about the abuse of women?

It's completely irrelevant. Yes, women abuse men, but not in anywhere near the numbers or scope as the abuse of women by their male partners.

It's ok to talk about abused women without having to add the caveat 'and some men too'. Really.

Triumphoveradversity Thu 09-May-13 15:51:02

I did have my own wages but I never knew how much my ex DH earned. He never left any payslips or bank statements about and I realise he must have taken them all to his office. I wasn't allowed to have a key to the letterbox, we lived in a flat so there were locked mailboxes for each flat.

After we divorced I found out from a friend whose BF knew him that he had a secret bank account.

I'm not making it all about the menz. But there are men who are financially and otherwise abused. And this blog post does not mention that at all and I think personally that is an omission.

And I say this, as I've said on other threads, as a woman who was financially abused.

And to say that abuse of anyone is "completely irrelevant"? I'm staggered.

OhLori Thu 09-May-13 15:58:02

Please ... this is a blog by Women's Aid! The clue is in the title. It doesn't mean to say that there aren't sometimes financially abused men, its just not what this organisation is about ... <sighs> can we move on ?

I'm not saying that the blog post isn't absolutely fantastic - it absolutely is - but some acknowledgement that it can be men being abused and that if they are they can seek help too would have been nice.

Anyway, good luck with it WA, hope it works to raise awareness.

GettingStrong Thu 09-May-13 16:11:22

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Snorbs Thu 09-May-13 16:28:51

I've just had a look at the DAME toolkit. It does look like an excellent resource for victims of domestic abuse. Well done to Women's Aid and Money Advice Plus Services for providing such a comprehensive and thoughtful service to help people.

olgaga Thu 09-May-13 19:40:44

How typical that here on Mumsnet we have a brilliant Women's Aid blog about financial abuse of women and a woman moans about it not including some acknowledgement that it can be men being abused and that if they are they can seek help too would have been nice.

This same woman just posted about how her husband cheated on her, and only tonight said of him I have nothing to lose I hate the sight of the fat waste of skin snail and it would be a pure pleasure to cut them off at the knees can come on this thread and moan about abuse of men.

Honestly Freddie, WTF planet are you on? grin

Snazzynewyear Thu 09-May-13 21:03:55

I had no idea this was the plan for how Universal Credit would work. That's outrageous! What if, even if there's no abuse, but the partner whose name the payments are made leaves? Is the rest of the family going to have to wait without any money till it's changed over?

Also, I'm glad this blog is here as I didn't realise till I started reading MN just how widespread varying levels of this kind of financial abuse is, and that it is by no means confined to the Mick Philpotts of this world but is carried out by respectable working-class and middle class folks too.

AnyFucker Thu 09-May-13 21:08:27

it's mostly carried out by "respectable" types, IMO

Mumsnet is by parents for parents.

I wasn't aware men weren't allowed. Or couldn't get support here too. In addition to women. Not as well as or instead of.

edam Thu 09-May-13 22:44:08

Good grief. This is extremely dangerous. Seems to be a theme of this gov't, attacking women and children - taking away legal aid for domestic abuse, cutting
women's jobs disproportionately, cutting child benefit and making the sahp reliant on the higher earner...

olgaga Thu 09-May-13 22:52:15

Freddie, this is a thread by women for women.

Now why don't you pop over here and have a look. You might realise that the men don't actually need you to moan on their behalf.

WafflyVersatile Thu 09-May-13 22:57:40

I really don't think it would have been difficult to 'ungender' this blog or at least acknowledge it happens the other way too.

That jarred with me too.

As for universal credit it's exactly those who are being abused who need split payments yet won't be able to ask precisely because they are abused. Well done tories, yet again.

olgaga Thu 09-May-13 23:06:27

Why the hell should something directed at women, for their information, be "ungendered"?

edam Thu 09-May-13 23:29:10

The immediate howls of 'what about the menz' are another way of shutting women up. How dare we talk about stuff that matters to women without acknowledging men? FFS.

Men are perfectly capable of sorting their own shit out. They have, as a gender, the lion's share of the money, the power, the attention... men dominate every agenda. And yet there are still people who can't bear the idea that women might be allowed, for just a few seconds, to talk about stuff that affects women. The very first post on this thread was 'what about the men?'. Astonishing. Especially when talking about domestic violence and money, where men are overwhelmingly richer than women and overwhelmingly the perpetrators of DV (including against other men).

TheCrackFox Thu 09-May-13 23:34:10

Well said Edam.

garlicyoni Fri 10-May-13 00:20:36

Argh! Women's Aid aids women. Why the hell should it tag every single statement it makes about women with "this can happen to men, too"? Do you expect Save The Children to add "this can also happen to adults" to everything it says? Or a donkey sanctuary to list all the other animals that can be abused? Gah confused

Some of you may have noticed that the government seems to be allocating lots of funding to help for male victims of DV. I'm not saying they weren't under-funded previously or shouldn't receive assistance, but am concerned that support for women fleeing domestic abuse is simultaneously being reduced. "The menz" are already getting a disproportionate amount of the attention; please allow Women's Aid to do what it says in the name.

I said I completely agreed with the blog except that it was gendered.

This is a site that despite being called mumsnet gates itself as by parents for parents.

I was asked what I think and I gave my opinion. If women's aid are going to be the headline blog on here then I don't think it's a big deal to have a line saying "abuse can happen to men too you can seek help from"

And I care because I'm watching my funny charming witty lovely friend be abused by his wife. And I want to help him. And I'm certainly not going to apologise for thinking, as a result of that experience, that I would have been nice if the men suffering abuse, who are in the minority -as I have said - had been given one line.

Yes. A use mostly affects women. Yes there's help out the and it's hard to access. Yes. Yes. Yes. To the blog. Apart from that one thing

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