FINANCIAL ABUSE A MAJOR THREAT AFFECTING MANY WOMEN
–can lead to serious emotional, physical and even sexual abuse of partners
In Guyana, we have heard a lot about sexual, physical and substance abuse, with many human rights activists as well as non-governmental organisations continuing to advocate for more to be done to curb the prevalence of these issues.
However, one form of abuse which is often over-looked, or may not even be recognized as a serious threat and that can be considered the fore-runner of the above-mentioned forms of abuse, is financial abuse.
Financial abuse, in fact, is more prevalent in Guyana than the average citizen may think. It involves your significant other spending your jointly-earned money, pressuring you (directly or indirectly) to pay bills, taking out loans in your name, and also when your partner analyzes each dollar that you spend.
The majority of victims of financial abuse has been identified as women but still, there are a number of men who are subjected to this form of abuse, especially when these males suffer from disabilities.
Although there are no laws in Guyana, presently, which will aid in minimizing and/or eventually stopping this form of abuse, internationally, some countries are already pursuing the introduction of new laws to try to stop such coercive behaviour; but it is unclear as to how effective such laws will be when they are implemented.
According to a recent report for the Trades Union Congress and the charity, Women’s Aid, in the United Kingdom, it was revealed that financial abuse was often the first sign of emotional or domestic abuse.
This report, the “Unequal Trapped and Controlled”, pointed out that there are signs to look out for could indicate that your significant other/partner is financially abusing you.
Some of these signs include if your significant other/ partner takes important financial decisions without you, controls your access to money and spending, uses your debit/credit card without your permission, stops you from working, uses you as a free source of labour, refuses to contribute to household bills or children’s expenses, and more.
Meanwhile, in England, according to reports, under the Serious Crime Act- which has received royal assent, coercive and controlling behaviour between significant others/ partners will become illegal for the first time. This Act is slated to be implemented later this year.
Section 76 of the Act allows for a maximum prison sentence of five years, where someone’s behaviour causes alarm or serious distress to their partner. This can include financial abuse. In light of this, the Police will be given training in how to spot instances of coercive control.
Additionally, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid, Polly Neate, believes the law will encourage victims to come forward.
“We know of many cases where women have not come forward about controlling coercive abuse – including financial abuse – because they feel the Police won’t take any action unless they’ve been physically assaulted.
We’re hoping this new law will change that,” she says.
It is hoped that advocates for human rights in Guyana will take a page out of this book and begin lobbying for laws to be implemented so as to protect victims and potential victims from financial abuse.