December 4, 2018
Dr Nicola Sharp-Jeffs has been working in the violence against women and girls sector since 2006. She joined the CWASU at London Met as a Research Fellow in 2013, and has since become a leading expert in economic abuse. She was made a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust (WCMT) Fellow and awarded a grant to carry out research on responses to the issue in countries such as the United States and Australia. She more recently set up Surviving Economic Abuse with the aim of raising awareness of economic abuse and building the capacity of those who come into contact with victims and survivors to respond.
How you got interested in exploring the issue of economic abuse and why is it important to raise awareness of it?
I became interested in the issue of economic abuse because the negative economic impact of intimate partner violence came up in almost all the conversations I had with survivors when I worked for a domestic violence charity. I looked for information about economic abuse but couldn’t find anything. That was 12 years ago now in 2006. I was doing an MA in Woman and Child Abuse at the time and so chose to research how economic abuse is experienced by women and children. This led me to become really passionate about tackling the issue and ensuring that women can access what I call ‘economic justice’.
Economic abuse, like many other forms, can start out small and gradually increase. What do you think are the key initial warning signs to be aware of?
Like emotional abuse, economic abuse is subtle and can be hard to identify. Abusers may introduce control through the guise of caring – they may say: Let me take care of the finances; You don’t need to work – let me look after you; We’re a team now so why don’t you close your bank account and let’s set up a joint bank account etc.
What premeditative measures could you recommend for someone entering a new relationship and want to feel financially secure?
In order to be safe, women have to have access to funds at short notice if they need them. It is important to try and maintain financial independence wherever possible. This could involve a woman keeping a personal bank account open if a partner suggests setting up a joint account and ensuring wages/benefits are paid into it. If funds needs to be pooled for joint costs such as rent/mortgage then a standing order into the joint bank account can be set up. If this is not possible, money could also be left with a trusted friend or family member if needed.
Is there any specific advice you could give to someone from a BME community with regards to additional risks or difficulties they may encounter surrounding financial abuse?
Women from all backgrounds and income brackets experience economic abuse. This form of abuse interferes with a woman’s ability to acquire, use and maintain economic resources. The goal is to limit women’s choices and create barriers to leaving abuse. Economically abusive behaviours may take culturally specific forms but whatever form it takes, the impact is the same. There may be particular risks for women who can’t read English through being made to sign forms they don’t understand for example. In addition, in some communities there may be more than one abuser, including family members. All women are at risk of economic abuse due to gender inequality; however women who experience multiple inequalities may find it harder to access economic resources and will be more at risk.
You can follow Dr. Nicola Sharp-Jeffs on Twitter.
You can follow Surviving Economic Abuse on Twitter
For more information on economic abuse visit: http://survivingeconomicabuse.org/resources/