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As we mark White Ribbon Day, we should remember that domestic abuse takes many forms. Some abusers continually dictate a partner’s choices, controlling their everyday actions and threatening them or becoming violent if their demands are refused. Often, the abuse includes exerting financial control, restricting how their partner acquires and uses money and other resources such as food, clothing, accommodation, and even transport. This is known as economic abuse. Common examples include:
- preventing their partner from working;
- holding assets such as bank accounts in their sole name;
- denying their partner information about their finances;
- insisting their partner’s salary is paid into an account that only the abuser has access to;
- controlling how money is spent and questioning their partner’s spending.
As with all forms of domestic abuse, economic abuse causes emotional and psychological distress. And without the means to support themselves financially, the victim can feel trapped in the relationship.
Domestic Abuse Bill
The landmark Domestic Abuse Bill (“the Bill”) is currently before parliament. Among a host of reasons why this legislation is crucial is that it represents the first formal recognition of economic abuse as a form of domestic abuse.
The government’s policy paper on the Bill defines economic abuse in the following way:
“Economic abuse involves behaviours that interfere with an individual’s ability to acquire, use and maintain economic resources such as money, transportation and utilities. It can be controlling or coercive. It can make the individual economically dependent on the abuser, thereby limiting their ability to escape and access safety.”
The Bill has attracted cross-party support and is hailed by campaigners as a historic opportunity to transform support for victims by ensuring its recognition among public sector and other bodies.
When will the Bill become law?
Frustratingly, the Bill’s progress was halted by last December’s general election. However, it was reintroduced swiftly to the new parliament and in July passed its first reading in the House of Commons. It is now proceeding through its stages in the House of Lords, but no date has yet been fixed for its second reading in the Commons. Nevertheless, there is every expectation of it receiving Royal Assent in 2021.