A proposed domestic violence bill in the UK is the first legislation to include economic abuse and its clear legal definition, which will better serve victims as well as prosecute offenders. The Home Office and Ministry of Justice submitted the bill in late January that also includes a “domestic abuse commissioner” to oversee and develop public assistance for survivors.
Critics of the bill argue that it does not go far enough. Dr. Nicola Sharp-Jeffs, from Surviving Economic Abuse (SEA), explains “The bill doesn’t criminalize economic abuse in and of itself, which is what we wanted.” Advocates for the inclusion of economic abuse draw concerns that this legislation is not strong enough to help survivors who have debt as a result of economic abuse find relief.
Currently, only half of the countries with domestic violence protection legislation outline or include economic abuse. Economic Abuse is defined not only by the controlling of one’s money but also of any items worth monetary value, including but not limited to cars, phones, food, loans, debts in their name or work life. This is one of the most common forms of abuse and tends to be used by abusers early on in the relationship in order to create a cycle of power and control in the survivor’s everyday life. Experts say that because it is not physical, economic abuse is overlooked in many cases as a warning sign.
Much of the world lacks protections against economic abuse, despite its prevalence. Over 1.4 billion people live without legal protection for economic abuse cases. Many more live in countries without government resources for survivors and criminal punishments for abusers.
Despite the varying opinions on the contents of the bill, if passed, this will be a major stride in the acknowledgment of economic abuse. This bill is supported by the World Bank as well as multiple Domestic Abuse Non-profits in hopes of spreading awareness for Economic Abuse.
Media: The Guardian 2019; Home Office and Ministry of Justice 2019; World Bank 2018; NNEDV 2017