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Financial Abuse

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01Domestic abuse or spouse abuse is a very serious issue and also a serious crime.

It has been estimated that there are almost 13 million domestic acts of violence a year against women, and 2.5 million against men.

According to the British Crime Survey there is a phone call to the police one call a minute regarding domestic violence.

Physically or emotionally abusing a spouse or partner is something we hear about and can recognise. It gets reported, is a crime, and there are agencies in place to help those that have been abused.

I read something the other day about financial abuse. And to me this was really nothing new as I have heard it all over the years when working with couples on financial issues. The thing I found odd was that it was finally being mentioned in a forum other than in professional financial or debt advice circles.

Of course people are more willing to discuss physical attacks or violence then they would be to discuss their finances or money.

And financial abuse is easier to hide.

If someone is prevented from having financial independence, this could be considered a from of financial abuse.

If someone controls your money and your spending, it could be a form of financial abuse. Especially if you have no control over any spending.

If someone works, earns a wage and that wage is taken from them and they have no say in how the bills or paid, and their wages are taken off them, it could be a form of financial abuse.

If this occurs, a person can be trapped in a cycle of poverty.

Here are a couple of examples I have witnessed:

A woman came to me to discuss the families finances with her husband. They both worked, but he controlled the money, and not just controlled it, he ruled over it like a Sovereign.

He took total control over their money. All her earnings went to him, she had no spending money, he dolled out what she was to have on a daily basis, gave her the household money each week for the food shopping, and she never had any money of her own. She had no mobile phone, no new clothes, and basically was clueless as to what bills were and were not paid, and what money they may have or may not have had.

This may sound extreme, but these cases can be common.

Second example is almost the opposite only by gender.

A fellow worked and his wife did not work. Fair enough. He gave her his wages weekly, and she took it and gave him a few quid each week to get by. He just handed over his pay packet each week never opening it, and as long as he had enough for a pint or two, he was OK.
Financial abuse, maybe, maybe not. He was fine with it all, or was it all he knew?? This incident took an ugly turn as the couple split up, she however continued to demand his wages. She took it to the extreme to have him have his wages paid into her account.

There also is the blatant abuse such as emptying out someone’s bank account, or just bullying them for their wages.

There also is having a spouse or partner, or anyone for that matter be forced to co-sign a loan or take out a loan for someone. The person taking out the loan is responsible for the payments, not the abuser.

The Chief Executive of the Citizens Advice Bureau, Gillian Guy said, “Financial abuse is an invisible crime in abusive relationships. Control over money is another weapon abusers use to hurt their victims.”

“Recognising the abuse in a relationship is itself a tough challenge for victims. Getting out of an abusive relationship may be practically impossible for people whose abusers ensure they don’t have any access to money. Similarly the ties of joint finances or threat of severe debt is used by perpetrators to stop people cutting ties with their abuser.”

“Authorities’ lack of awareness of financial abuse leaves victims at risk of further harm. The Government is right to have made tackling domestic abuse a top priority. Citizens Advice wants financial abuse to form part of this commitment. Ministers must ensure that abuse victims are able to get the support they need from legal aid and that family assistance like Child Benefit is not being misused by abusers. The FCA should look to provide guidance for banks and creditors dealing with financial abuse cases.”


2The Elderly and Mentally Ill

There also is financial abuse of the elderly and those who are in care. Handling an elderly family member’s finances and using their money for one’s own purpose, could also be seen as financial abuse.

There are even extreme instances where an elderly person has died and a family member continues to receive and spend their monthly retirement or pension payments.

Financial abuse of the mentally ill is also an issue. It is estimated that seven (7) in 1,000 people will experience this.

Social workers and carers need to be aware and look out for any form of financial abuse with vulnerable people such as the elderly and mentally incapacitated.


3The Numbers

A survey by the Co-operative Bank and Refuge, a domestic violence charity, showed that of the people they surveyed, 18% had stated they had experienced and been a victim of financial abuse in an adult relationship.

The abuse could be anything from being forced to handing over money, not being allowed to have a bank account, or to not be allowed to even work.

The Chief Executive of Refuge Sandra Horley said, “Some women are forced to hand over their wages or benefits to their partner every month.”

“Others are prevented from going out to work or completing their education. Many victims are forced to provide receipts, accounting for every single penny they spend or are given such ridiculously small ‘allowances’ they can’t afford to buy food for themselves and their children.”

“Some are forced into debt, shackled to a past relationship through a churn of constant bills and repayments.”

If we are to expand on what the findings of this report, it would mean that 9.2 million people in the UK would at some time, experienced some form of financial abuse.

The statistics were:

* “More than one third (36%) of people who had suffered financial abuse had a household income of between £20,001 and £50,000. One quarter (25%) had a household income of more than £50,000.”

* “One in 10 (10%) victims had a household income of up to £10,000, while one in five (20%) had a household income between £10,001 and £20,000. The remaining 9% preferred not to give details of their income.”

* “Just over a third of those reporting financial abuse (35%) were experiencing it within their current relationship, while three-quarters (74%) of victims experienced it in a past relationship. Some people experienced financial abuse both in a past relationship and in a current relationship.”

* “One in three (34%) victims of financial abuse said they had told no one about it. Two-thirds (67%) of those who had kept silent were women.

The Chairwoman of the Co-operative Bank’s Value and Ethics Committee, Laura Carstensen said, “The impact of this kind of coercive control where money is used as a weapon within an intimate relationship is not yet fully understood.”


4Is Financial Abuse Illegal

Beginning later this year this form of abuse will become illegal.

Under the Serious Crime Act, “coercive and controlling behaviour between partners will become illegal for the first time.”

Under Section 76, “where someone’s behaviour causes alarm or serious distress to their partner”, and this will now include financial abuse, the abuser can receive a maximum prison sentence of five years.

Police are also to be given training in noticing this form of abuse.

The Chief Executive of Woman’s Aid, Polly Neate said, “We know of many cases where women have not come forward about controlling coercive abuse – including financial abuse – because they feel the Police won’t take any action unless they’ve been physically assaulted.

“We’re hoping this new law will change that.”

Financial abuse is something that is out there and may be more prevalent then we realise. With this change in the law and the police being trained in spotting it, hopefully more awareness will be raised and those being abused will come forward to report the abuse.

,Domestic abuse or spouse abuse is a very serious issue and also a serious crime. It has been estimated that there are almost 13 million domestic acts of violence a year against women, and 2.5 milli

This article by Jon Emge was syndicated by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

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