Embargoed 00.01 Monday 4th December 2017.

Economic abuse ‘hidden in plain sight’
New analysis of crime figures highlights the scale of economic abuse being overlooked

An independent analysis of criminal prosecutions has found that the scale of economic abuse within coercive and controlling behaviour is being overlooked.

The analysis found examples of cases where victims were prevented from going to work and earning an income or coerced into handing over thousands of pounds to their abusive partner, including one woman being left with a debt of £50,000. Other abusive behaviours included controlling women through their access to housing, household goods, mobile phones and transport.

The analysis and report, published today by new charity Surviving Economic Abuse, is the first to examine the detail of prosecutions brought under the controlling or coercive behaviour legislation introduced in December 2015. In two-thirds of the cases, researchers uncovered examples of economic abuse, yet in none of the cases was this form of abuse named.

The charity’s founder and Director warns that, until the scale of economic abuse is recognised and given the attention it deserves, then responses to it will remain inadequate.  Surviving Economic Abuse believes that the upcoming Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill is a significant opportunity for Government to address this by making economic abuse part of the new legislative definition of domestic violence. Given the widespread nature of economic abuse, the charity would also like to explore making this form of abuse a criminal offence, in line with other countries.

The report’s author, and founder of Surviving Economic Abuse, Dr. Nicola Sharp-Jeffs, said:

“Economic abuse is widespread and damaging but overlooked. Perpetrators of economic abuse and their crimes, but most importantly their victims, are hidden in plain sight. In the past decade, significant progress has been made to improve the legal protections for victims of all kinds of abuse, yet using access to economic resources as part of abusive behaviour continues to go under the radar.

“Our research shows that victims of abuse are made to be economically dependent making it hard for them to access the resources they need to escape and rebuild their lives. Some women are left paying back debts that they were coerced into taking out, for many years after leaving. The recent and welcome controlling or coercive behaviour law was a watershed in acknowledging that domestic abuse does not have to leave a bruise to cause lasting harm. We look forward to working with the Government to explore ways in which the upcoming Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill can recognise economic abuse in all its forms.”    

The research makes the following recommendations:

  • For economic abuse to be included in the new definition of domestic abuse to be included in legislation early next year.
  • For economic abuse to be defined in the new legislation and to be made a criminal offence.
  • For economic abuse to be introduced into statutory guidance for the existing controlling or coercive behaviour legislation.

Analysis was carried out of 35 successful prosecutions under the controlling or coercive behaviour legislation, details of which are publicly available in media reports and CPS publications. It is not known how many successful prosecutions have been achieved since the legislation was introduced in December 2015.

The report is being published to coincide with the official launch of the charity on Monday 4th December. Surviving Economic Abuse is the only UK charity dedicated to raising awareness of economic abuse and increasing the capacity of those who come into contact with victims and survivors to respond.  

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Notes to editors.

1.    Many women experience economic abuse within the context of domestic violence. It limits their choices and their ability to access safety. Surviving Economic Abuse (SEA) is the only UK charity raising awareness of economic abuse and committed to building the capacity of those who come into contact with victims and survivors of economic abuse to respond. We do this through sharing expert knowledge and developing useful tools and resources. We work with partner organisations to implement innovative responses. We also identify and share best practice and research (www.survivingeconomicabuse.org)


2.    SEA’s new report ‘In plain sight’, by Dr. Nicola Sharp-Jeffs with Sarah Learmonth, will be published on Monday 4th December 2017. For an embargoed copy of the report, or to speak to one of the report’s authors, please contact:   survivingeconomicabuse@gmail.com

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