Women’s Aid patron Mel B delivers report on the economics of abuse to Number 10 Downing Street ahead of International Women’s Day

 

Wednesday 6th March 2019

 

Women’s Aid patron Melanie Brown has delivered a report on economic abuse, a devastating yet often hidden form of abuse which she has survived, to Number 10 Downing Street ahead of International Women’s Aid.

Today (Wednesday 6th March), Women’s Aid has published new research into survivors’ access to economic resources and their experiences of economic abuse as the government commits to recognising this form of abuse in its statutory definition of domestic abuse for the first time.

Over two thirds of survivors surveyed reported that they had experienced economic abuse, according to Women’s Aid’s ‘The Economics of Abuse’ report published in advance of International Women’s Day.[1]

Economic abuse is a devastating form of abuse that often has long-lasting consequences for survivors. Nearly half of women told us that they didn’t have enough money to pay for basic essentials like food and bills while they were with their abusive partner. Over two in five women were in debt as a result of the economic abuse. While one third of women had to give up their home either as a result of experiencing economic abuse or leaving their abusive partner.

 

“Fear of the financial implications kept me in the relationship for much longer than I would have if I had been financially independent.” – Anonymous survivor

 

The survey found that economic abuse put major barriers in the way of survivors leaving their abuser, with survivors facing financial hardship or homelessness after fleeing the abuse. Almost one third of women who left their abusive partner had to turn to credit to do so, many others were forced to rely on the help of family members or friends. While one in five respondents who had left their abuser reported that they had difficulty accessing benefits.

Melanie Brown is a survivor of domestic abuse including economic abuse and is now working with Women’s Aid to raise awareness of domestic abuse and help break down the barriers survivors face so that they can be empowered to escape it.

 

Melanie Brown, Women’s Aid patron, said: 

“When you have no access to your own money, you can feel completely trapped. I know because I was trapped in a controlling marriage with an abusive partner for 10 years. When I built up the courage to leave my abuser, I had just $936 to my name. Like many other survivors that Women’s Aid has supported and who feature in their latest report, ‘The Economics of Abuse’, I had to borrow money from a friend when I left just so I could keep a roof over my head.

“It isn’t easy walking away from your home, your cars and your savings but since leaving him the money that I have earned has gone straight into my bank account, which only I have access to. Since leaving my abuser it has been my personal duty and calling to help other women and children escape domestic abuse. That’s why I am proud to be a patron for Women’s Aid and to be able to deliver their report to 10 Downing Street where we had a positive meeting with government advisors. No woman should be forced to stay with an abusive partner because she cannot afford to leave. We’re calling on the government to deliver the funding needed so every woman and child can safely escape and rebuild their lives free from fear and abuse.”

 

Sarah Davidge, Research, Evaluation and Development Officer at Women’s Aid and co-author of the report, said:

“When you have no access money, you can feel completely trapped. Economic abuse is often used by abusers to control their partner and stop her from leaving. No woman should be faced with the awful reality of either her family being plunged into homelessness and poverty or staying put with the abuser. We need to remove the barriers that are put in the way of survivors escaping domestic abuse and help her rebuild her life.

“The government’s commitment to including economic abuse in the statutory definition of domestic abuse in its forthcoming domestic abuse bill is very welcome. By naming economic abuse, we can take the first step to challenging it. But what is clear from our Survivors’ Voices Survey is that women need both access to resources and specialist support to help them escape the long-lasting damaging impact of domestic abuse.

“Survivors are often forced to flee with nothing but the clothes on their back. We know that access to resources can empower women to safely escape domestic abuse. That’s why every survivor must be able to access welfare support for her and all of her children when fleeing domestic abuse. We also need to ensure that specialist domestic abuse services can meet demand from survivors for their life-transforming support so that every survivor and her children can get the support they so desperately need. This International Women’s Day is the time to support survivors to reclaim their economic independence and ensure that we have the tools to put an end to economic abuse once and for all.”

 

“I had to live on thin air when I left with my child. This caused much stress and I don’t think I have ever recovered.” – Anonymous survivor

 

Economic abuse not only restricts women’s access to money but also has an adverse impact on their employment and education. Nearly one in five women were prevented by their abusive partner from having paid employment. While one third of women reported that their partner was abusive towards them while they were at work or college, making it difficult for them to keep their current job or complete their studies.

 

“My credit rating is rock bottom. I’m struggling to find a place to live.” – Anonymous survivor

 

Specialist domestic abuse services play a key role in helping survivors to rebuild their lives after experiencing economic abuse. Often survivors are forced to leave with nothing but the clothes on their back. These life-changing services help survivors open bank accounts, access food banks, move into safe housing and manage debt acquired as a result of the abuse to name but a few. Currently, services are struggling to meet demand; an estimated 21,084 referrals to all refuge services in England were declined in 2017/18, averaging over 400 referrals declined each week.

Although over half of women saw a decrease in their household income when they left their abusive partner, many women reported that they had increased access to their money. This financial independent meant that they were more likely to be able to meet the cost of paying for essentials like food, housing and bills to better support their families.

 

For information or support, you can contact the Freephone 24-hour National Domestic Violence Helpline, run in partnership between Women’s Aid and Refuge, on 0808 2000 247 or visit www.womensaid.org.uk.

 

For more information, please contact the Women’s Aid press office: 020 7566 2511 / [email protected]

 

[1] 68% of respondents (49) reported that they had experienced economic abuse. Women’s Aid surveyed 72 women survivors as part of our first Survivors’ Voices Survey for our report, ‘The Economics of Abuse’. Survivors took part in an online survey via The Survivors Forum, a private online platform for peer-to-peer support. The Survivors’ Voices Survey will be an annual survey that will put survivors’ voices and experiences at the heart of new research on domestic abuse.

 

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Women’s Aid is a registered charity in England No. 1054154

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