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One in five women have money or possessions controlled by domestic abusers

One in 13 women have seen their credit rating intentionally destroyed or have had credit taken out in their name without their partner asking permission (PA)
One in 13 women have seen their credit rating intentionally destroyed or have had credit taken out in their name without their partner asking permission (PA)

Domestic abusers are controlling the finances and possessions of more than 5 million women in the UK, a shocking new study has found.

Researchers, who polled over 2,000 women living in the UK, discovered one in five women had experienced economic abuse in the past year from a current partner or an ex – with the issue estimated to have impacted 5.5 million women.

The study, by the charity Surviving Economic Abuse, found one in 11 women have had their partner or ex-partner curb their bank account usage.

One in nine women has also been blocked from accessing medication, food or shampoo, while one in 13 had their credit rating intentionally destroyed or have had credit taken out in their name without their partner asking permission.

Researchers, who released the findings on International Economic Abuse Awareness Day, discovered that Black, Asian and minority ethnic women were almost twice as likely to endure economic abuse than white women – with some 32 per cent targeted, compared to 18 per cent of white women.

Anna, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, said that her abusive partner made her support him financially. They owned a home together and his financial abuse towards her got worse after she fled.

Her ex-partner, who she was with for seven years, chose to stay in the property but refused to leave the house, pay the mortgage or sell the property.

Anna said: “I was too scared to go back to our home so I had to move back in with my parents, scraping together enough money to pay the mortgage and bills completely on my own. I needed help from the bank, but I couldn’t believe how difficult it was.

“No one understood that I'd been abused – all they cared about was that I paid back the loan. I felt completely trapped and the toll this took on my mental health was extreme.

“I was getting calls every day asking why I hadn’t paid back the mortgage, even though I’d explained my situation multiple times. Having to relive the abuse so many times was traumatising.”

She said their home was finally repossessed years after she had ended the relationship, which destroyed her credit rating.

“I was free from abuse, but my credit score was so low, I couldn’t even get a phone contract in my own name. It felt like I’d never be able to move on,” Anna added.

“Finally, I reached someone who could help me, who treated me with dignity and respect and validated what I’d been through. They were able to help me restore my credit rating and regain some stability. They changed my life – but it shouldn’t have taken years to get there.”

Dr Nicola Sharp-Jeffs, chief executive and founder of Surviving Economic Abuse, warned financial abuse was “ruining lives” and said the “skyrocketing cost of living” only made freedom feel further out of reach for victim-survivors.

She said the charity had launched a banking support directory, an online one-stop shop setting out how banks can help so survivors can quickly and easily access the support they need.

Anyone who requires help or support can contact the National Domestic Abuse Helpline which is open 24/7 365 days per year on 0808 2000 247 or via their website https://www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk/