What is Financial Abuse? A Quick Guide to Self-Protection

Domestic abuse in the UK is a problem of epidemic proportions, with the Office for National Statistics finding that more than 2 million people over 16 had suffered it in March 2022-23 alone. Domestic abuse takes many forms, each with their own pernicious roots and results. Financial abuse is one such sub-category, wherein a partner or spouse uses money as a tool for control and the wielding of power.

Indeed, financial abuse is rarely about the money itself, as abusive partners are not wholly motivated by personal financial gain; rather, the money is a shibboleth through which they can exert new and unique forms of force and control over someone trapped in a relationship with them. Here, we will look at the specific forms financial abuse can take, and the steps you can take to recognise or protect yourself from it.

Types of Financial Abuse

While financial abuse is specific enough a definition, there are still a variety of forms in which it can be found to occur. Financial abuse is not limited to an abuser stealing money from their victim, though this does describe many cases. It can also present as a failure to provide the victim with enough money to sustain themselves, while also depriving them of opportunities to make their own money.

Abusers might force their victims to sell their assets or move out from rented accommodation, thus enabling them to dangle shelter over their heads as collateral for other forms of abuse. They may even pressure their victims into making unwise changes to legal documents like their will, in order to enrich themselves and deprive their partner.


For someone lucky enough to escape an abusive household, the freedom of a life untrammelled by such behaviour is often overshadowed by a spectre of their abuser’s potential presence – something that is barely alleviated by the success of criminal proceedings or restraining orders. Civil recourse via consultation with solicitors is a possibility for seeing some of the money lost returned as compensation, but these are small comforts in comparison to the mental anguish suffered.

The best recourse, then, is often to live well, and live in spite of one’s abuser’s efforts. This is a difficult journey, though, and one that requires engagement with professional mental health resources or experts.

Protecting Yourself

If you are worried you may find yourself in this most unfortunate of positions, there are some steps you can take to ringfence your finances and reduce the immediate financial impact of financial abuse. Creating a safety plan, including a burner phone and a ‘safety phrase’ with a trusted friend or co-worker, can help you exit a situation before it develops for the worse. Creating separate and secret accounts for your money can also act as a breakwater between your holdings and a potential abuser.