Defining economic abuse in legislation won’t necessarily help survivors get out of coerced debt or regain financial stability, said Russell. Still, she hopes it offers a foundation to build on because financial wellbeing is crucial to leaving an abusive relationship and establishing an independent life.
“The sort of common characteristic of financial abuse is one of control, an abuser trying to place as much control over someone’s life as possible,” said Andrea Hetling, a professor at Rutgers University who has published extensively on domestic violence. “Financial abuse is a very effective way of doing that. If we don’t have financial freedom, it’s really hard to function in our society, and building up debt in someone’s name, having a poor credit history, are really, really difficult barriers.”