Debt Still Paralyzes Victims One Year After Financial Abuse Deal | The independent

An important new code of conduct was agreed with members of UK Finance and the Building Societies Association a year ago this week. It was a code of practice to support victims of financial abuse.

Victims like Jane (not her real name). She is 37 years old and met her attacker when she was still a teenager.

“I met him online in my late teens,” she explains. “He was a friend of a real friend and we talked a lot. I liked him, he liked me, he hadn’t had a girlfriend before, but I thought he treated me really well. We got together for years, bought an apartment together, and even got married.

It was a painful and controlling relationship and she suffered a lot of emotional abuse over the years.

The resulting mental scars remain, but so do the effects of financial abuse. “Since I was earning more than he did, if unforeseen bills came up he expected me to cover them, while he spent his available money on cigarettes and computer games,” she says.

Their financial security collapsed, and like many financial abusers, their control and damage lasted long after their relationship collapsed.

She left the relationship after using keylogging software to spy on her computer activity and accused her of cheating before threatening to end her life. The police were called.

After that, Jane was left with nothing but debts. She estimates that it cost her £ 18,000 to clear the debts he has accumulated.

“I had no money because I quit my job and did a minimum wage internship as I changed careers,” she says. “I was lucky to have a place to stay pretty much rent free, but still struggled.

“I couldn’t pay the bills or the mortgage while I was getting minimum wage, so I [paid] my half of the mortgage in the bank. He paid nothing but refused to sell the property. We ended up repossessing the apartment and I was left thousands of dollars out of my pocket. I still have debts.

Time change

The banks and building societies that signed the new code have agreed to raise awareness of the problem, train their staff to recognize and respond appropriately, and provide safe ways to disclose abuse and appropriate responses.

Under the new code, victims would not need to repeat their story over and over to different people within the same organization and would be assisted in regaining control of their finances from the perpetrator.

Much work was required to ensure that victims were not further damaged and distressed as they attempted to escape economic abuse. But many banks and building societies have made changes and are keen to point out that their customers now enjoy much more protection.

One example is HSBC, which has a dedicated process in place for customers who disclose that they are experiencing or escaping economic abuse.

A spokesperson said: “Over the past year, we have trained staff in detecting signs of financial abuse and introduced measures to help clients manage and regain control of their finances.

“From opening a separate account with a national sort code to help conceal their location, to appointing a representative from a safe house to handle their finances on their behalf, our financial exploitation process continues to unfold. ensuring that every time a customer walks into a branch or calls us, they will receive the specialist care they need.

Getting There

The Surviving Economic Abuse charity says significant work has been done over the past year and that could mean more support will gradually become available.

Nicola Sharp-Jeffs, founder of the association, says: “Evidence to date suggests that banks and mortgage lenders have undertaken the necessary preparatory work to be able to better support victims.

“We expect to see real differences for victims in terms of better outcomes over the next 12 months. “

Later this month, Surviving Economic Abuse will welcome representatives from banks and building societies to share best practices in supporting clients, to ensure that no one has a worse outcome just because of the abuse. place where they do their banking.

But, while Dr. Sharp-Jeffs may be pleased with the work that has been done over the past 12 months, she remains convinced that more needs to be done. His organization called on the new domestic violence commissioner to conduct a nationwide inquiry into economic abuse to explore what banks and other businesses might do.

And there is one key area where she believes people fleeing economic abuse need more support.

“We always want the banks to tackle the problem of forced debts and write off debts incurred in this way,” she said. “We also call for a legal duty of care for banks to respond to vulnerable customers. “

Jane says that higher levels of support and guidance, when she was most vulnerable, would have made a real difference in her situation. “More help and support would be amazing,” she says. “I had paid thousands of dollars for the mortgage that was going nowhere. I ended up getting a black mark against my name even though I paid my fair share, but it got away without spending a dime.

“I don’t know if I will ever be able to get a mortgage now. “

What is economic or financial exploitation?

This type of abuse can be difficult for victims and their loved ones to identify. It can happen in isolation, but it is also often part of a larger situation of violence, including physical and emotional violence. Surviving economic abuse says it can be difficult to identify as it usually develops gradually.

It indicates that one in five British adults have suffered economic abuse from a current or former partner.

Sandra Horley, Executive Director of the National Domestic Violence Charity Refuge, said: “Refuge supports 6,500 domestic violence survivors every day and about a third of them have been financially abused; the consequences of which can be both devastating and lasting.

Economic abuse can take many different forms, but ultimately it is about limiting a partner’s choices and controlling their behavior.

An abuser can control the way their partner makes money, for example by preventing them from working or limiting their hours.

Or they can control how their victim spends money, such as limiting the amount they have, forcing them to ask for it, requiring receipts, or keeping financial information secret from them.

They can sabotage their victim’s finances by stealing their money, putting bills and debts in their name, or refusing to help with household expenses.

If you are a victim of financial abuse, contact the National helpline on domestic violence, run by Refuge, on 0808 2000 247. There is also the Men’s advice line on 0808 801 0327. If you are in immediate danger, call the police on 999.

If you think you or a loved one is being abused, visit the Survive economic abuse website. It has resources that can help you survive and thrive.

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