What is Economic Abuse

Economic abuse is when one intimate partner has control over the other partner’s access to economic resources and opportunities and is designed to reinforce economic dependency or create economic instability through economic control, economic exploitation and economic sabotage.

This is where abusers use a variety of tactics to maintain control over their partners by forcing physical, emotional, and financial dependency and producing a continual fear which prevents women from challenging their actions frequently, a hidden or “invisible” form of abuse.
“Intimate Partner Violence contributes to “poverty, financial risk and financial insecurity for women, sometimes long after the relationship has ended”


The research suggests that economic abuse is more complex. Dr.Sharp (2008) identifies three different types of Economic Abuse:
1. Sabotage how you acquire money and economic resources
2. Restrict how you use money and economic resources
3. Exploit your ability to maintain economic resources



“The goal is always the same — to gain power and control in a relationship”


Domestic violence through a maintenance lens

• Involves a perpetrator using or misusing money which limits and controls their partner or ex-partner’s current and future actions and their freedom of choice which causes them harm. The child is the glue that binds the victim to the abuser post relationship and maintenance is the most effective tool to cause harm.

• Intentionally withholding child support is a deliberate effort to control, coerce and punish a person and is one component of the post relationship abuse wheel. What makes it so effective is that it is silent and invisible yet no less violent than other better known forms of abuse.

Domestic abuse survival toolkit

A guideline on how to protect oneself in an abusive relationship

Check if there is spyware on your phone, laptop or computer
Change passwords for emails and back up all files and keep them in a protected cloud or secure folder.
Delete messages that might alert the abuser that you have communicated the abuse with another person.
Have your car checked for a tracking device.
Disengage location from google, movements can be checked or be mindful where you go.
Start an emergency fund by opening a secret bank account or hide cash in a safe place as a last resort, ask a trusted person to keep the money or to open a bank account for you.
Do not radically change any behaviour or pattern that might raise suspicions.
If you are experiencing physical abuse take photos, make sure they are dated and store them in a safe place in your cloud or secure folder.
Do not be coerced into taking out credit in your name.
Keep a certified copy of all important documents in a safe place and in a secure folder for backup. This includes identity documents, birth certificates, marriage contracts, medical aid, bond papers, car registration papers, bank statements.
If your relationship is physically violent and you are too afraid to report it, download a gbv app that once activated, you will be assisted especially if you have no means of transport or means to escape an abusive situation.
Pack an emergency clothing bag for you and your children and keep it at a different location.
If possible arrange somewhere to stay with somebody you know if not, find out where the nearest shelter is and save their number.
Keep a list of emergency numbers on your phone under a pseudonym and in another safe place.
If you can leave when it is safe for you and the children to do so, preferably when the perpetrator is at work.
Have a safe word/code to call for help, one that is not obvious like the food is burnt, i need to throw it away, or the apple was rotten and it needs to be thrown away, it must not be completely random as it might cause suspicion and communicate it to your friends so that they know that they need to activate the plan.


How to protect a victim who has left an abusive relationship and experienced economic abuse

Remove access to victims’ bank accounts.
Obtain a new bank account.
If there are children born of the relationship how to apply for interim maintenance through the maintenance courts, or the divorce court for the child’s immediate needs.
If access to funds is removed and the victim has no funds, how to apply for urgent monetary relief in the domestic violence courts to secure housing and food security.
Advice the victim on how to recover from coercive debt.
Assist the victim to recover from coercive debt or other debt.
Assist the victim to recover from coercive and other debt.
Flexibility to negotiate credit without blacklisting causing further harm.
Skills development so a victim can become economically active
Financial literacy program