Money worries

Purse with coins

Everyone has the right to financial independence. If your partner is controlling your money or other financial assets, you are experiencing financial abuse. This is a form of domestic violence.


What is financial abuse?

Financial abuse is a way of controlling a person’s ability to acquire, use and maintain their own money and resources.

Financial abuse can take many forms. Abusers may prevent you from earning or accessing your own money; spend or take your money without your consent; build up debts in your name; damage your possessions or property. If you are separated and have children, the abuser might withhold child maintenance payments.

Are you experiencing financial abuse?

Refuge has created a list of questions which might help you recognise whether you are experiencing financial abuse.

Does/did your partner:

  • Prevent you from working, or stop you from going to work?
  • Prevent you from going to college or university?
  • Ask you to account for every penny you spend?
  • Check your receipts or bank statements so they can monitor how much you are spending?
  • Keep the log-in details, bank cards or PIN numbers for your joint account so that you cannot access the account?
  • Spend money allocated to bills for other things?
  • Steal, damage or destroy your possessions?
  • Spend whatever they want, but belittle you for spending any money?
  • Insist on control of all financial matters?
  • Insist that all the bills and loans are in your name?
  • Make you ask permission before making any purchase, no matter how small?
  • Make significant financial decisions without you (e.g. buying a new home, car)?
  • Place debts in your name?
  • Steal money from you, or use your bank card without permission?
  • Withhold child maintenance payments?
  • Initiate expensive post separation legal battles knowing you cannot afford to fight, or will bankrupt you?

If any of these situations feel familiar, you may be experiencing financial abuse.

Refuge has developed a guide to support victims of financial abuse. You can download a copy of the financial guide: My Money My Life .

Refuge, in partnership with The Co-operative Bank, has also launched a powerful campaign to shine a spotlight on this often overlooked form of abuse of domestic abuse. Find out more about the campaign.

Kaylin’s story:

“I met Luke back in 2009. The financial abuse started very early on. Every pay day, Luke would demand to see my bank statements and I was forced to give him most of the money I had earnt and survive on next to nothing. He also stopped me from going to work – sometimes with violence and sometimes by guilt-tripping me. I kept money secretly hidden away from him, but I still couldn’t afford my car finance and car insurance bills. When Luke was given a council house, he forced me to pay his bills. Sometimes I would save money by not eating. It was a nightmare and at one point bailiffs were involved.

“I’m still affected by the financial abuse I endured. The car is still on finance, and my family have had to lend me thousands of pounds to pay back the debts he built up.

“I think that the “My money, my life” campaign is really important. So few women recognise that financial abuse is a form of abuse and that it can have devastating consequences. I really hope the campaign makes a difference to the lives of women living with abuse. Knowing the signs is the first step to protecting yourself.”