/ Money

Domestic abuse: access to cash can mean life or death

For some women who experience domestic abuse, having access to cash can be a matter of life or death. Our guest, Refuge’s Lisa King, explains how and why.

This is a guest post by Lisa King. All views expressed are Lisa’s own and not necessarily shared by Which?.

A staggering one in every four women will experience abuse at some time in their lives; and a shocking two women are killed every week in England and Wales alone by a current or former partner.

Domestic violence takes lives and ruins lives.

Most of us only recognise abuse as broken bones and black eyes. But put plainly if you change your behaviour because you are scared of your partner’s reaction, then you are experiencing abuse. 

Domestic abuse is all about power and control; perpetrators use many tactics to maintain control over their victims.

Denying access to cash

Economic abuse is a very common way to control another person and can take many different guises; but a common controlling tactic is to deny a woman access to cash.

Many women will be prevented from accessing family money, or even prevented from accessing their own money and instead they may be given a strict weekly allowance, controlled by the perpetrator.  

When this happens, many women will cut back on buying some of their essentials and will, over a period of time, try to put aside small amounts of cash to create an escape fund.

Access to cash can literally mean the difference between being trapped with a perpetrator of domestic violence, isolated and living in fear – and having the ability to escape and seek refuge.

Women who need to access cash will often need to do so at very short notice – needing to maximise a short window of opportunity to flee the violent partner and will need ATMs, post office options and banks to be readily and plentifully available in all locations, both rural and city. 

Staying safe

Cash is also ‘invisible’, so if you’re a woman escaping a violent partner and you’ve moved to a new location you may choose to pay cash to prevent your location being detected through ATM details on online banking pages/postal statements. Using cash can help women stay undetected – and safe.

Bad debt is another key reason for women needing access to cash. Some women are not eligible for bank accounts or credit cards due to debt that has been taken out in their name by the perpetrator – often without their knowing – which gives them a poor credit rating. 

Access to cash for women in these circumstances is utterly essential. 

Accessing cash is critical, but so is being able to use cash. The current climate is moving to a cashless system and this is a real problem for survivors of domestic abuse.

In many parts of the UK, you cannot pay for a bus ride now using cash – if a woman only has access to cash, and not a card, how can she escape? 

Few people realise that domestic abuse is the biggest issue affecting woman and children in this country today.

Cash for many women who experience domestic abuse is literally a matter of life or death. Let’s work together to ensure all women have access to cash no matter where they live in the country – this could save a life.

If you have been affected by this or would like more information, visit the Refuge website or call our freephone 24-hour helpline on 0808 2000 247.

This was a guest post by Lisa King. All views expressed were Lisa’s own and not necessarily shared by Which?.


Sadly I know a man who works many hours a week but as soon as he gets paid he has to hand his money over to his wife. By the following day he has no money to his name, he can’t buy a coffee/water or a bite to eat. His wife is a high earning medical professional who has complete control over this mans life. He is frightened to accept help.
It’s not always men who are the perpetrators.

brian steadman says:
20 August 2019

in the uk 15% of abused people are male.

Another report says that out of an estimated 2 million victims of domestic abuse, 1.3 million are female.

C Elliott says:
21 August 2019

My daughter was completely controlled by her ex husband. He had taken out credit cards in her name and run up £28000 of debt. She now has a poor credit rating which we can do nothing about. So even though she has escaped the legacy of abuse carries on.

Here is a recent article about how a customer was let down by her bank: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-49281219