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What is Economic Abuse?

Economic Abuse, what is it?

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.

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

According to the organisation Surviving Economic Abuse, 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, limit working hours, take pay, 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 and justify why it’s needed. Control property, even when the victim is paying for it (e.g. mobile phone, car). They may insist that all financial assets are in their name. Whilst they are insistent that their victim shares every detail of their finances, they may be very secretive with their own.


A perpetrator might refuse to contribute to household bills, misuse joint accounts, steal or damage property, 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 of these people 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.

Economic abuse can be a reason a person stays with their perpetrator, if they leave, they have no money, debts and a credit rating so poor it prevents them from being able rent a property.

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

Where can I find out more information about economic abuse?

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

UK Finance’s 'It's your money' consumer information leaflet (PDF) also provides information and resources to support those experiencing economic abuse.