- It’s not just about money. Economic abuse is a subtle, manipulative form of control which manifests itself in many different ways, through a range of different relationships.
- From older family members losing control of their finances, through to women being kept from the college, work or training they need in order to progress.
- It can be as subtle as providing a weekly budget that doesn’t quite cover the essentials, stopping the victim from taking any control; or as part of a larger circle of domestic abuse involving assault or criminal damage.
- Economic abuse can be hard to spot, so Gloucestershire’s Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner has spoken with experts in the field to find out how to spot the signs, how to report it, and how to offer support to victims of economic abuse in Gloucestershire.
- Heather Downer is Service Manager for Gloucestershire Domestic Abuse Support Service and Sophie Jarrett is Gloucestershire’s domestic abuse and sexual violence strategic co-ordinator.
Could someone you know be a victim of economic abuse? If they're:Being stopped from going to work, college or trainingHaving credit cards or finance agreements taken out in their nameBeing asked to account for everything they spendNot having access to family funds for food, clothing or transportThey could be in need of some help. Economic abuse is a crime and should be reported.Support is available in Gloucestershire through GDASS.
Posted by Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Gloucestershire on Friday, 31 July 2020
What is Economic Abuse?
Heather: Economic Abuse is controlling somebody’s access to finances in a range of different ways. It could be preventing someone from going to work; breaking objects they’re unable to replace; it could be providing someone with an allowance – often that doesn’t meet their basic needs; asking somebody to report on their expenditure.
Then it can also be the flip side as well. It can be forcing somebody to work when they don’t want to; forcing someone to earn money in ways they don’t feel comfortable doing. There’s a massive range of behaviours that come under the umbrella of economic abuse.
Very often people overlook it, but it’s quite often seen in families, especially with older people who may not have control over their finances.
Why would someone be an economic abuser and what does a perpetrator get from it?
Heather: It’s a really effective way of controlling what somebody does. You can really limit somebody’s movements while making them feel like they have access to resource. For example, if somebody has negotiated an allowance, they are only then able to act within the amount of money that they have and they might not be able to go back and ask for more. They might also be asked to report on everything they’ve spent on petrol, nappies, food or whatever – and this can also affect their movements, or how far they can travel because the abuser will need to know their exact whereabouts.
There are certain examples there, which blur the lines between controlling behaviour and healthy money management within a family. How can someone tell the difference?
Heather: It comes down to whether or not victims feel they can negotiate to change the status quo. With economic abuse, you might be in a situation where you think: ‘I don’t have enough money to get the nappies, the formula, the food, and the petrol to physically go to the shop’ but they’re unable to negotiate to get more. That results in victims sacrificing their own food in order to make sure the family is cared for.
Perpetrators might make them feel bad or guilty for overspending on something that was a reasonable expense. There could be a background threat of violence to consider, and there is often fear where victims don’t feel they can ask for additional support because there will be repercussions.
It’s difficult to identify, but it’s prevalent in the majority of coercive control cases. It’s a really effective way of controlling someone, but it’s really hard to spot.
What support is available to victims in Gloucestershire?
Heather: at GDASS we work with people to first of all identify that they’re experiencing economic abuse, and then we can help provide them with support to become economically independent. We help them set up bank accounts, we help people to identify ways to support themselves after leaving a abusive relationship and we have great links with other agencies to assist with that.
There have been circumstances where we’ve helped older people regain control of their finances when that had been removed as part of a care decision and where people are forced into things like prostitution we can help them to either manage that safely if they want to remain there, or to help them leave.
Every case is different, there are a wide range of behaviours that come under the umbrella of economic abuse, and so we tailor our support around the needs of each person and specific types of abuse they are experiencing.
How do the police in Gloucestershire deal with domestic abuse and economic abuse?
Sophie: It is a crime, and we encourage people to report economic abuse to the police in Gloucestershire. Economic abuse is often prevalent as part of wider domestic abuse, but while domestic abuse isn’t considered a defined ‘crime type’ on it’s own – it’s still investigated based on the behaviour in each case.
Quite often it’ll be considered a crime under ‘controlling and coercive behaviour’; sometimes there are elements of fraud too where victims are forced into committing benefit fraud, or where abusers have taken out debts or credit agreements in the victim’s name; or family money is stolen and misused. There are even cases that come under criminal damage if the abuser destroys property.
People can report domestic abuse to the police, regardless of the type of abuse. It doesn’t have to be physical and It will be investigated.
How can friends and family support victims when this is a difficult crime to spot?
Heather: The most important thing that friends and family can do is to talk to people and keep the lines of communications open. Even if the person doesn’t acknowledge the economic abuse is what they are dealing with, knowing that you won’t judge and are a safe person to talk to further down the line can be important if they change their mind and need extra support.
Equip yourself with the GDASS website or phone numbers and mention what we do and that support is available. There’s loads of information on our website too.
If a family member is concerned about a person they know, they can call GDASS or send an enquiry through our online referral form. It’s confidential and they don’t need to provide a name. We can offer them advice on how to record economic abuse, and tools to help people identify it for themselves.
Sophie: Language has changed in the domestic abuse bill from ‘financial abuse’ to ‘economic abuse’ because it’s recognising that’s it’s a much broader issue. It’s not just about taking somebody’s money and I think the wording of financial abuse made people think quite specifically.
The term economic abuse is trying to make it clear that it can be a whole range of things which stop people’s ability to obtain goods, services, or even go to work.
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