Financial abuse may not be what you think

March 21st 2024

The former Spice Girl, Mel B has gone public again about domestic abuse, and we must applaud her, because she is getting us talking about a type of abuse that has had little attention: financial abuse.

Mel B has been a patron of the domestic abuse charity Women’s Aid since 2018 and she has shown a willingness to speak out. Financial abuse was an unheard-of concept a relatively short time ago, and our understanding has been increasing all the time. Now it seems that there are 2 main types, the common denominator, as with all domestic abuse, being control.

The more understood type of financial control is where the abuser denies the victim a job, access to cash and bank accounts, micromanages spending and denies the victim any financial independence or autonomy. This way of ensuring dependency is designed not only to belittle the victim, but to deny means of escape. Charities and other organisations have started addressing this with victims, helping them to set up bank accounts, claim independent benefits and find a route to survivorship.

Mel B has said she has been a victim of the other type of financial abuse. Mel B has at times been a very wealthy woman, famous and successful, with a reputation after all for being “scary”, so how did this come about? 

She has described the other type of abuse where the victim is the earner, but the abuser acts in such a way as to increase and increase the financial pressure the victim is under. The abuser will refuse to pay for household expenses so that the victim gets trapped with ever greater bills, debts and anxiety, the abuser may engage in revenge spending on joint credit cards for example leaving the victim to pick up the tab. We also see victims being subjected to unwarranted litigation as abuse, so that the victim either has to pay endless legal bills (if they are not eligible for Legal Aid) or face their abuser in person.

Mel B ended up living back with her Mum, with all her wealth gone, but out of the toxic environment, she has been able to rebuild her life, and we must applaud her challenging outdated ideas of what abuse is.