Almost two out of five people living in the UK have had their current or former partner financially abuse them, a new study has found.
The report, carried out by Refuge, the UK’s largest provider of shelters for domestic abuse victims, discovered around 20 million people have faced financial abuse from their partner, including being denied access to money or a bank account, as well as having debt placed in their name.
Researchers, who polled over 4,000 people, found 1.6 million adults said financial abuse started during the coronavirus crisis - echoing the wider trend of domestic abuse surging during lockdown.
While almost a million people - ten per cent of all who have been subjected to finance abuse - are currently in a relationship with someone who is subjecting them to financial abuse.
Lisa King, of Refuge, the UK’s biggest domestic abuse charity, said: “Economic abuse isn’t going away, and it needs to be challenged now more than ever. Each and every day, Refuge staff support women who have had their economic independence taken away from them by abusive partners.
“The impact on their finances continues for many years, often long after the relationship has ended. Economic abuse rarely occurs in isolation and is frequently experienced alongside physical, sexual, or psychological abuse.”
Campaigners defined financial abuse as a partner stealing your money, trying to control your spending, blocking you from working, barring you from accessing your own or joint bank accounts, or racking up debts in your name.
Some 85 per cent of people who suffered financial abuse from their current or ex-partner also reported other types of domestic abuse - such as physical, sexual and psychological abuse.
Researchers warned the coronavirus recession, the furlough scheme coming to an end and surging levels of unemployment could give abusers more chances to perpetrate financial abuse.
A third of those who suffer economic abuse do not ever disclose their experiences to people they know.
Maria Cearns, of The Co-operative Bank, said: “Substantive action from banks, government and other duty bearers has never been more pressing to ensure individuals receive the help they require when facing or recovering from the long-lasting ramifications of abuse.
“As we move into a recession, we need to make sure we are doing all we can to support people who are vulnerable to this kind of money-focused coercive control. Our message to customers who might be experiencing economic abuse is we are here to help you and over the coming months.”
The Independent previously reported one in three domestic abuse victims trying to flee their partner have been plagued with financial abuse that leaves them unable to escape danger.
Refuge found 1,780 women seeking help – more than a third of the total – had faced economic abuse from their partner. On average, the mistreatment lasted more than six years.
The economic abuse slashed women’s credit ratings, pushed them into homelessness, spiralling debt, and left them unable to afford food and other staples, the frontline service provider said.
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/
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