Abuse is a sensitive topic to talk about. The common perception is that abuse is physical and violent but that isn’t always the case.

Financial, or economic, abuse is often an indicator of an abusive relationship and it can be the gateway to violence. In the UK, 16% of adults say that they have experienced financial abuse. This equates to 8.7 million people. Here is how to recognise financial abuse and what to do if you do spot it. 


What is financial abuse?

Legislated by the Domestic Abuse Act 2021, financial abuse involves controlling the finances of another. This includes instructing them on what they are allowed to spend money on and how they can maintain their budgets. 

Someone controlling your job prospects is considered financial abuse as well. For example, if you are prohibited from getting a job or are not allowed to pick up any extra hours or do overtime. 

Both of these factors prey on a victim’s fear of being able to provide for themselves and any children or dependents. Therefore, they may find it hard to leave the relationship as they feel dependent on the abuser. 

Signs of financial abuse

Victims of abuse are very good at hiding what is happening, usually due to fear and shame. But there are some things you can look out for with your friends and family.

One of the common signs across all forms of abuse is that the victim will become withdrawn and isolated. You may not see them as much as they are unable to afford to go out or travel to see you. 

You may also notice that the abuser is using the victim’s bank and credit cards more than they are. This can also appear that they are interfering with their finances and credit history by putting the financial burden in the victim’s name and then refusing to pay it off. 

If you are concerned about a colleague you may notice their abuser turning up at work unannounced or preventing them from going to work altogether. 


Leaving an abusive relationship can feel like a huge step but there is support out there to help you leave. 

Firstly, you should request to change your PIN and other personal information with the bank. This will cut your abuser off from your finances and help you to recover by saving any money that comes in. You should also access your credit report and see exactly what has been going on. Taking out credit in someone else’s name is fraud so you could consider speaking to the police. Finally, lean on your friends and family. They will support you and get you back on your feet.

You may be able to make an abuse claim against your abuser. Speak to a firm of specialist solicitors to help you get what you are entitled to. 

Impact of financial abuse 

The ramifications of financial abuse can be long-reaching. Initially, the victim will be unstable financially and potentially mentally. It will be hard to do any form of planning for the future and may leave them open to return to the abusive relationship. 

With support and patience, many victims do manage to leave but it is worth talking to domestic abuse specialists and charities to find out the safest way to do this.