economic abuse

Cost of living crisis heightens risk of economic abuse

Posted by
James Harbottle
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Cost of living crisis heightens economic abuseCost of living crisis heightens risk of economic abuse

As everyone reading this will be aware, the country is in the midst of a cost of living crisis, the likes of which has not been seen for a generation or more.

Inflation is now at 10.1%, the highest since 1982, driven in particular by soaring food prices and energy bills.

Most households in the UK are feeling the effects of the crisis, with poorer households being affected worse than most.

But there is another group of people for whom the crisis could be even more serious: those suffering domestic abuse, especially economic abuse.

As several charities are warning, the cost of living crisis is affecting abuse victims in various ways, including making it more difficult for them to move away from their abusers, and heightening the effect upon them of economic abuse.

Abuse isn’t just physical

It is a common misconception that domestic abuse only comprises physical abuse: violence and threats of violence.

But whilst physical abuse is of course often an element of domestic abuse, it is not always the only way in which a victim suffers.

Domestic abuse can often also include controlling and coercive behaviour, and economic abuse.

Economic abuse has been defined by the government to mean any behaviour that has a substantial adverse effect upon the victim’s ability to acquire, use or maintain money or other property, or to obtain goods or services.

Economic abuse is used by abusers as a method of control, restricting the freedom of victims, and making it much harder for them to escape the abuse.

And it does not require much imagination to see that the cost of living crisis can both encourage an economic abuser, and exacerbate the effect of the abuse on the victim.

The issue has recently been highlighted by several charities, including Women’s Aid and Surviving Domestic Abuse, who have both called upon the Government to help victims.

And the domestic abuse commissioner Nicole Jacobs has said: “I will be working with the government as a matter of great urgency over the coming months to ensure that all domestic abuse victims get the help and support they need to get through this unprecedented cost of living crisis. There is no doubt that everyone is under financial pressure, but the effects could be far more extreme for those experiencing domestic abuse.”

How the law can helpSomerset Council failed to comply with adoption requirements

But the law can also help victims of economic abuse, both by protecting them from the abuse and by providing means to obtain financial support.

As to protection from abuse, a victim can apply to the Family Court for non-molestation and occupation orders. A non-molestation order prohibits an abuser from molesting or harassing their victim, and an occupation order regulates who lives in the family home.

An occupation order can be particularly helpful for a victim of economic abuse by requiring an abuser to leaver the family home, thereby enabling the victim to separate from their abuser. It can also require an abuser to pay towards expenses in relation to the home, such as the mortgage, rent and other outgoings.

And there are other ways in which a victim of economic abuse can use the law to seek financial support from their abusers.

If the victim has dependent children of the relationship living with them they can seek child support maintenance.

And if the parties were married, the victim can request the court to order the abuser to pay maintenance to them, even if there are no divorce proceedings.

Of course if there are divorce proceedings, the victim can seek a full range of financial orders against the abuser, including for maintenance, a lump sum, and in relation to property.

Lastly, if the parties were not married and the victim has a dependent child of the relationship living with them they can seek an order for financial provision for the child, which can include a lump sum order, and an order requiring the abuser to provide a home for the child.