Financial abuse, one of the many forms of domestic abuse, is rarely talked about. However, it’s not uncommon even here in Surrey. It’s often linked with other forms of domestic abuse and usually it’s hidden from family and friends.

What is financial abuse?

Research from Citizens Advice shows that financial abuse can take many forms:

  • Direct financial harm,
  • Excessive financial control,
  • Exploitation of joint resources.

The impact of economic abuse makes rebuilding lives challenging. Lack of access to money can result in victims staying with an abusive partner or family member and experiencing more harm as a result. Many victims leave with nothing – having no money even for essentials. They must start again from scratch.

Gemma’s story*

Gemma and her husband lived in Surrey. In the early days, Gemma worked to support her husband’s education and to build his career. When their children arrived, she stayed at home to look after the family. Her husband earned a good City-based salary but over the years all access to the household’s money moved away from Gemma. Apart from a minimal monthly allowance, Gemma had no access to funds and little say in deciding how the money was spent or saved for the future. Her husband imposed more control by insisting that all purchases needed to be justified. In Gemma’s words “I didn’t realise it at the time but control was insidious… a drip, drip, drip of constant checking, questioning and criticism across many years that simply wore me down. He took the view that the money was his alone. He was in complete control and I could do very little about it.”

As the relationship deteriorated, Gemma felt isolated from family and friends. She began to suffer from depression which at one point included a time in hospital.

Gemma could take no more and asked to end the marriage. The immediate response from her husband came as a massive surprise… “We can’t do it because we can’t afford it.” However, refusing to fund the legal ending of a marriage is a common way for the perpetrator to keep abusing the victim, long after the relationship has ended.

*Name has been changed to protect client confidentiality.     

How Gemma was helped

Gemma needed help and in desperation she turned to her local Domestic Abuse Service for support. By talking to one of their team she received assistance from attending the Freedom Programme. This is a course for survivors of domestic abuse which helps individuals make sense of what has happened to them. The programme examines the roles played by attitudes and beliefs on the actions of the perpetrator and the responses of victims and survivors. Gemma also received help with legal and financial issues and after many months she was able to make a fresh start. As a survivor she has been able to turn her life around.

It is not easy to accept that a loved one can behave so aggressively and because you cannot explain the behaviour, you assume that it is your fault. You are not to blame for your partner’s behaviour. Everyone has the right to live life free from threats, violence and abuse and help is available.

South West Surrey Domestic Abuse Outreach Service
By phone: 01483 898884
By Email: or visit
In an emergency always dial 999

Citizens Advice Waverley
By phone: 0344 848 7969 to speak to an adviser
By Email: Use the enquiry form at https://waverleycab/