Many women fleeing domestic abuse face poverty, report finds

Respondents in England say partners use economic abuse as method of control

Victims of domestic abuse face the choice of their families being plunged into homelessness and poverty, or staying with the abuser, a report has found.

More than two-thirds of survivors of domestic abuse have reported their partners withheld money from them as a key method of controlling and mistreating them, according to the Women’s Aid report, The Economics of Abuse.

“Fear of the financial implications kept me in the relationship for much longer than I would have if I had been financially independent,” one survivor told researchers.

Another said: “I had to live on thin air when I left with my child. This caused much stress and I don’t think I have ever recovered.”

Nearly half the women said they did not have enough money to pay for basic essentials such as food and bills while they were with their abusive partner. More than two in five women were in debt as a result of the economic abuse, while a third of women had to give up their home either as a result of experiencing economic abuse or leaving their abusive partner.

Sarah Davidge, a research, evaluation and development officer at Women’s Aid and co-author of the report, said: “Economic abuse is a devastating form of abuse that often has long-lasting consequences for survivors.”

Published in the run-up to International Women’s Day, the survey of domestic abuse survivors in England found that economic abuse put significant barriers for them to leave their abuser, with survivors facing financial hardship or homelessness after fleeing.

Almost a third of women who left their abusive partner had to turn to credit to do so, many others relied on the help of family members or friends. While one in five respondents who had left their abuser reported that they had difficulty accessing benefits.

“When you have no access to money, you can feel completely trapped,” said Davidge. “Economic abuse is often used by abusers to control their partner and stop her from leaving.

“The government’s commitment to including economic abuse in the statutory definition of domestic abuse in its forthcoming domestic abuse billis very welcome. By naming economic abuse, we can take the first step to challenging it.

“But what is clear from our Survivors’ Voices survey is that women need both access to resources and specialist support to help them escape the long-lasting damaging impact of domestic abuse.”

The report found that survivors wer often forced to flee without their belongings. It also found that economic abuse not only restricted women’s access to money but also had an adverse impact on their employment and education.

Nearly one in five women were prevented by their abusive partner from having paid employment. While a third reported that their partner was abusive towards them while they were at work or college, making it difficult for them to keep their job or complete their studies.

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