Beating the money bullies
If you ask people what they worry about most, money is always near the top of the list; ask them what they argue about most and, again, money often comes out top. Money – or, more often, the lack of it – undoubtedly plays a significant role in our domestic lives.
Most relationships weather the occasional storm and get through what are usually fairly minor disagreements and rows about money. But where one partner starts to take too much control of the finances, it could be the beginning of something more serious – financial abuse.
A financial abuser tries to exert power over their partner by controlling their money: keeping them short of money, insisting that they account for every penny they spend, making them hand over their wages or benefits, or running up debts in their name.
Recent legislation classes this sort of money bullying as domestic abuse: the Serious Crime Act 2015 makes it an offence to “exercise psychological, emotional or financial control over someone in an intimate or family relationship”, and someone found guilty of such controlling or coercive behaviour can be sentenced to five years in prison. Those living through financial abuse will breathe a sigh of relief that their suffering has at last been recognised.
It’s difficult to estimate how many people are victims of money bullying: Citizens Advice say that of the 13,000 cases of domestic abuse that they deal with each year, many have a financial element.
Financial abuse is bad enough on its own, but it can sometimes be the first sign of further, possibly physical, abuse.
For women, there are Women’s Aid websites and helplines, depending on where you live.
In England: the Women’s Aid website or call 0808 2000 247.
In Wales: the Welsh Women’s Aid website or call 0808 80 10 800.