Transforming the response to domestic abuse

Closes 31 May 2018

Economic abuse

Domestic abuse is not just physical or psychological - it can also be economic or financial. As stated earlier, we are considering explicitly recognising and including economic abuse (which includes financial abuse) in the statutory definition.

“She had control of my wages and gave me £20 per week from them”[1]

Economic abuse goes beyond purely financial abuse and can involve behaviours that control a person’s ability to acquire, use and maintain economic resources, threatening their economic security and potential for self-sufficiency.

Coerced debt can leave victims with debts they cannot pay or with a poor credit rating. Alternatively, if an abusive partner manages the household finances, the victim can be left with a thin credit file when they leave a relationship. These issues can be significant barriers to victims escaping domestic abuse, making it harder for them to rebuild their lives.[2]

I was completely taken over by the relationship. I went from being an independent woman to nothing. He totally controlled me. When I met him I had a good career, savings and my own car. He wanted to have an amazing lifestyle and it was my income that had to support it. He leased a car and loaned money for the deposit in my name. He used my credit cards and store accounts to purchase goods for himself. He took money from my current account using my bank card and stole from my purse. I was coerced into paying for things or giving him money. The more I invested financially in the relationship, the more difficult it was for me to leave.

In the end his behaviour resulted in me losing my job and career as a teacher. Eventually he was arrested and sent to prison. Despite being free of the abuse, I am still paying the price for being in the relationship. Because I was constantly monitored I was unable to respond to calls and letters from the bank. A default notice was served and the balance on my credit card recorded as unsettled. I have appealed to the Financial Ombudsman to remove this since it means I am unable to move on with my life.” [3]

In 2013, the government established a conduct-focused financial services regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), to ensure the interests of consumers and participants in our financial markets are placed at the heart of the regulatory system and given the priority they deserve.

One of the FCA’s three operational objectives  is to secure appropriate protection for consumers and the FCA’s rules require financial institutions to treat customers fairly.[4]

We are interested in identifying practical issues that make it harder for a victim to escape or recover from financial abuse. The finance and banking trade body, UK Finance, is examining recent research and working alongside key stakeholders such as Citizens Advice and Refuge to establish the role that the financial services industry can play in combating financial abuse and assisting victims.

It aims to develop a voluntary industry code of practice to help guide the response of financial institutions when dealing with victims. It will also establish the role the financial services industry can play in helping to raise awareness about financial abuse, and empower victims to regain control of their finances by making informed decisions based on their personal circumstances.

In addition, breathing space - a period of respite from fees, charges and enforcement action for severely over-indebted consumers - may be of practical benefit to victims of financial abuse. The government has recently published a call for evidence for breathing space, which would be followed, where appropriate, by a statutory debt repayment plan.[5]


[1] Bates, E. (2017). Hidden Victims: Men and their Experience of Domestic Violence.

[2] More information about types of economic abuse at: Women’s Aid (2012). Chapter 2 – Domestic abuse and financial abuse: An overview


[4] The FCA’s approach to advancing its objectives 2015

[5] Breathing space: call for evidence

35. What practical barriers do domestic abuse victims face in escaping or recovering from economic abuse and how could these be overcome?