Shame no more to talk about domestic abuse and money trouble!
Silence can be a deadly killer for women of domestic abuse and instead of just hindering their recovery it could lead to their fatality. According to the Office of National Statistics (2015), two women are killed every week in England and Wales by a current or former partner in a relationship.
The definition of domestic abuse has been expanded in recent times by legislation:
an incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and violent behaviour, including sexual violence.
Julia Oviedo, a victim and survivor of domestic abuse, shared her personal experience on ‘In Conversation with Ripon Ray…the Community Money Matters Show’ on Betar Bangla Radio. It may seem just another story to many listeners but for an individual to talk about such a personal experience requires bravery, confidence and the will to encourage other victims to come forward and share their experiences. In her case, it was physical violence which she feared the most from her ex-husband. It then escalated to the point that she was afraid of her children experiencing the same violence. She felt her only option was to flee from her home and take her two young daughters as far away from him as possible or otherwise risk serious or even fatal consequences.
Lesley Webber, Domestic Violence Intervention Manager, of Hackney Council reported on Community Money Show on East London Radio that for many individuals they have to get away from their perpetrator and stay in a refuge in order to rebuild a new life. Many women need support from statutory and voluntary agencies such as local authorities, the police and local advice agencies to help them achieve the position where they are completely safe.
Once the victim is no longer in immediate danger financial capacity building plays a critical part for many in the beginning of their new independent life. Shirina, a money and debt adviser at Limehouse Project, who supports domestic abuse victims through money training, states that:
‘training in financial capability is essential for some of these individuals because they never gained the skills to manage money and plan their financial affairs. Usually this is the first time they sought such a support. By training them to personally budget their income, prioritise their essential expenses, actually gives these women the chance to gain confidence and fully participate as citizens.’
What does that mean on practical terms for these women? It means making them aware that learning how to budget their essential living expenses is vital. This will include identifying creative ways to shop to save money, planning ways to reduce expenses, and looking at ways to understand the importance of money because a small amount of it has to go along way.
This is the reality of gaining confidence in housing financial matters.
As confidence builds through financial support, another common problem is the identification of debt. Some debts may be known but often there are unknown debts incurred fraudulently by their ex-partner, the number and amount of which can be quite a surprise to these women.
Many never had the opportunity or even inclination to question the sincerity of their husband’s actions prior to leaving nor the knowledge of any credit obtained by their partners.
I came across a recent case where the woman discovered that there were multiple loans under her name. This was a revelation since she has now began to take responsibility in her household finances. Through the support from Toynbee Hall, they contacted Action Fraud and obtained a crime reference number from them against over £10,000 loans racked up fraudulently by her husband. Once the creditors investigated the matter they were able write off the debts. For an individual in such a situation, support from debt services, such as Toynbee Hall, is crucial to getting out of such a financial situation.
The above only touches on some of the multiple problems a person has to go through when escaping domestic abuse, often after suffering silently for a long time. I can only imagine how difficult it is for a victim of domestic abuse to take the decision to leave everything they own – their home, clothes, jewellery, photos, even friends - behind and how many are too scared and feel they can’t, only to pay the final price.
But I can also testify that there is help and support available to those that do.
If you are a victim of domestic abuse you can get help by calling 0808 2000 247, the free 24-hour National Domestic Violence Helpline run in partnership between Women's Aid and Refuge.
Men can call the Men's Advice Line free on 0808 801 0327. If it is emergency, please contact 999.
Even talk to your local GP to start the conversation.
If you are in debt or struggling with money you can contact Toynbee Hall on 020 7392 2953, www.toynbeehall.org.uk or drop on Mon – Fri 10am to 1pm or 2pm to 4pm
There are other debt advice agencies available, please ensure they are free, impartial and independent.
I am Ripon Ray, a qualified Debt Advisor for the last 5 years. This is my personal blog, all views are my own but the content is based on factual data available at the time of writing.