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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

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.

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.

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.

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

Very true, Basil.

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?).

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.

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.

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.

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 .

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

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