Women’s experiences of Domestic Violence and Abuse

Financial abuse

The financial impacts and consequences of domestic abuse were recognised from the early refuges which opened for those who had nowhere to live when fleeing from domestic violence and abuse with their children. However, women who leave abusive relationships often end up in poverty, because of actions taken by abusive partners. Partners often take a woman’s money, limit access to joint accounts and resources, and in some cases, build up debts for which the woman is then liable. 

Women we interviewed described how their partners gradually took control over more and more areas of their lives, which had the effect of curtailing their freedom (see ‘Coercive controlling behaviour’). A powerful form of controlling behaviour was when men took charge of household finances and limited women’s access to money. Ella thought it was ‘normal’ to hand over her wages to her partner. She said:

‘Because I didn’t know that there was financial abuse, I just thought that was normal, that you had to give your money and things like that because you were living with somebody.’
Witholding money as a form of control

One woman we interviewed said the only clothing that she was allowed to buy was a pair of jeans on her birthday. Others frequently talked about having to behave in certain ways to be ‘allowed’ money. Jane, despite having a ’joint’ business with her husband had all her expenditure scrutinised.
Lack of access to money made it difficult to leave

Kanya and Ana, both migrant women, left their abusive partners but had to return to them as they had no access to money.
Many women described having no money of their own which left them feeling trapped and unable to leave their partner.

Sex for money

Several of the women’s accounts revealed a close link between financial abuse and sexual abuse. Being ‘allowed’ money often depended on women having sex when their partner chose.
Yasmin had no money of her own and relied on her husband to provide money for basics such as milk and nappies for the children. He became annoyed when she asked and demanded sex before he handed over any money. She talked about being driven to a remote car park and forced to have oral sex before he took her grocery shopping.


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