Exit this website safely!

What is economic abuse?

What is economic abuse?

Economic abuse is a form of domestic abuse. Domestic abuse is described as a pattern of behaviour used to gain or maintain power and control over someone. There are many ways in which perpetrators do this, including economic abuse, which is a form of coercive control.

Case study image - image of concerned woman
Perpetrators may run up huge debts in their victim’s name.

Economic abuse is when a partner restricts how you acquire, use and maintain money and economic resources, including accommodation, food and clothing. (Surviving Economic Abuse SEA.Org)

According to SEA, a perpetrator may try to sabotage, restrict and exploit their victim’s acquisition or access to money.


A perpetrator might stop a victim from attending work or education. They may limit the working hours of their victim. They might take wages, or not allow access to bank accounts by taking cards and keeping log in details a secret.


A perpetrator might control how the money is spent, check receipts, make a victim ask for money. They might insist their victim  justify why it’s needed.  They may control property (such as phones or cars), even when the victim is paying for it. They may insist that all financial assets are in their name. Whilst a perpetrator will insist that their victim shares every detail of their finances, they will be very secretive about their own.


A perpetrator might refuse to contribute to household bills, misuse joint accounts, steal or damage property. They might take out loans in their victim’s name, insist that all bills are in their victim’s name and/or run up debts in their victim’s name with or without their prior knowledge.

A report by the Co-operative bank and Refuge (co-operativebank.co.uk) found that 16% of adults in the UK (that’s 8.7 million people) have experienced some form of economic abuse. 39% of people who were in debt from economic abuse were still in debt because of it and 21% have debts they feel unable to pay. Furthermore, the report found that there is fourteen point four billion pounds of economic abuse related debts in the UK.

There are many reasons a person stays with their perpetrator. Being stripped of financial independence makes leaving particularly hard. If they leave, they have no money, large debts and a credit rating so poor it prevents them from being able rent a property. Very often the choice is to stay with their perpetrator or become homeless. Whilst the government has provided extra funding for provision of domestic abuse services, there is simply not enough refuge spaces for those who need them.

Worryingly, since the Covid-19 pandemic, cases of abuse have risen. Many claiming that the economic abuse started during lockdown. Banks are beginning to recognise it, some with specialist staff  trained to support survivors. Although this doesn’t mean that debts incurred through coercive control are written off, It is a step in the right direction.

Where can I find out more information about economic abuse?

For further information on the issues raised in this post, the following may be of use;

To visit SEA, an organisation dedicated to raising awareness and supporting survivors click here.

For information on economic abuse from the Co-operative bank, click here.

For a  leaflet on economic abuse from UK Finance, click here.

Know economic abuse, a report by the Co-operative bank and Refuge is available to read here.

Where can I find more information on domestic abuse?

Visit our domestic abuse pages on this by clicking here.