Tackling economic abuse

Economic abuse is an all too common form of abuse that is designed to reinforce or create economic dependence and to gain control over another. In this way it limits a woman’s choices and her ability to access safety. Lack of access to economic resources can result in women staying with abusive men for longer and experiencing more harm as a result.

Here are some of the many ways economic abuse can be carried out in and of itself and through other forms of abuse.


Preventing you from getting or keeping a job; making you ask for money; giving you an allowance ; taking your money; not letting you know about or have access to family income.


Threatening to deny you access to economic assets such as the telephone and the car; threatening to throw you out of the house; saying that if you leave they will not give any money to you and or the children.


Destroying your property; threatening to beat you up if you refuse to pay child maintenance; using money as a source of power with which to threaten you, for example taking you to court.


Telling you that you are worthless; making you feel worthless by forcing you to account for every penny; making you feel worthless by denying you basic necessities and making you feel ‘cheap’.


Not giving you any money to go anywhere or to do anything; stopping you from going to work and seeing colleagues; not allowing you to use the telephone; destroying your address book.


Telling you they only do it because you let them; telling you you’ll spend the money unless they look after it for you; telling you you only waste money on ‘silly’ things; telling you that you make them destroy your things.


Taking the child benefit, child tax credit, Sure Start grant, child savings and birthday money; refusing to pay for nappies, milk and clothes; destroying the children’s property; stealing the children’s belongings.


Telling you that they should have all the money as head of the household; making all the big decisions about financial issues; defining your role by not letting you work; exploiting your existing economic disadvantage.

We have seen the severity and prevalence of the issue increase. When women experience economic abuse within a context of coercive control then they are at increased risk of domestic homicide (Websdale, 1999). Women accessing specialist domestic violence services report high rates of economic abuse; anywhere between 43-98 per cent (Sharp, 2008). In a national prevalence study, one in five women reported having experienced economic abuse in a current/former relationship (Sharp-Jeffs, 2015).

In order to tackle it our Islington community and refuge teams have recently started piloting an exciting new project focussing on the issue of Economic Abuse for victim/survivors. They have worked closely with Surviving Economic Abuse (SEA), which is the only charity in the UK dedicated to raising awareness and building the capacity of services to respond to economic abuse.  

The project involves a toolkit that helps identify what the patterns of economic abuse are by asking specific questions to survivors and identifying specific experiences to highlight the presence of this type of abuse. This then gives teams the chance to assess what the needs of the survivor are and helps identify what the next steps might be in terms of referring on to specialist debt advice services or DAME (Domestic Abuse Money Education) run by Women’s Aid.

In partnership with SEA Solace will also have access to a Domestic Violence Debt Advocate who will be able to offer specialist advice and guidance for women who are experiencing complex financial and economic abuse. This exciting project will be evaluated by the University of Suffolk and will hopefully show how vital focussing on economic abuse really is for survivors and will therefore shape how domestic violence services assess and deal with this type of abuse in the future.

If you think you or someone you know might be experiencing economic abuse, please contact us on our advice line at 0808 802 5565 or email us at [email protected]