How the Cost-of-Living Crisis is fuelling Economic Abuse
The Cost-of-Living Crisis currently ongoing in Great Britain is estimated to be affecting more than 46 million Brits according to the Office for National Statistics.1 But, as seen with other recent major national events such as the Covid-19 Pandemic, these issues have a cruel habit of impacting those already in the hardest societal positions the worst. The Cost-of-Living Crisis is no exception.
Survivors of domestic abuse are being particularly affected as instances of economic abuse have been seen to have increased significantly and directly in relation to the Crisis. A massive 96% of women have seen a negative impact on their finances since the Crisis began, with 61% worried about affording food and 24% being reliant on food banks.2 These statistics on their own are a significant cause for concern but they do not present the full picture for these women. 73% of women who are living with or are financially connected to their abusers have said that the Crisis has prevented them from leaving or has made it harder for them to do so.3 This presents the reality that for many survivors, at least economically, they are more secure staying with their abusers than if they were to leave during these times.
The not-for-profit organisation SEA, Surviving Economic Abuse, have reported that 1 in 6 women experience economic abuse while in romantic relationships, with 95% of domestic abuse cases including economic abuse.4 Economic abuse is defined as the restriction, sabotage, or exploitation of economic resources, and can include things such as denying access to money, restricting how and where money can be spent, acquiring debt in the victim’s name, and plenty more.5 66% of women in situations of domestic abuse have found their abuser is using the Crisis as a tool for further coercion and to restrict access to money even more.6 SEA founder, Dr Sharp-Jeffs, has stated that economic abuse causes “constant deliberate instability” which can be “extremely traumatic and frightening.” The Cost-of-Living Crisis is creating a perfect storm in which economic abuse can thrive, and which can keep the cycle of domestic abuse turning inevitably.
Women’s Aid and SEA are collectively calling on the Government to create an Emergency Domestic Abuse Fund specifically to help those who find themselves in greater danger due to the Crisis.7 This fund would support survivors with energy bills and essential items, taking the unnecessary pressure off those who most importantly need to be focussing on themselves and their wellbeing. Dr Sharp-Jeffs has said that a failure of the Government to act in such a way would be “nothing less than a form of state facilitated economic abuse.”8 This indicates the dire stakes at hand and just how seriously the Government ought to be taking this issue. People’s livelihoods and lives are a stake and thus it ought to be treated with the utmost seriousness and care possible.
The Women’s Budget Group, an independent not-for-profit organisation which monitors the impact of government policies on men and women, has called for wider-reaching support which targets the route causes of women’s poverty and vulnerability. These include increases in Jobseekers Allowance and Statutory Sick Pay to better support women within employment, as well as joining the call for a windfall tax on energy companies to help stabilise energy costs.9 Investments in social and economic infrastructure can help to build up the social and economic positions of women individually, with the aim of making them less susceptible to the economic abuse we are seeing in current conditions.
However, the biggest issue at hand is the direct help needed for those victims who are finding themselves in situations of abuse. These survivors of abuse are finding themselves in greater danger due to the Cost-of-Living Crisis and deserve the highest levels of support. Money should not be what dictates whether someone can live safely in their homes, and so there is no doubt that this is an incredibly pressing concern within the current Crisis.
Written by Leah Harris