Rosie is a Healthwatch Essex Trauma Ambassador and told us about some of the financial and economic tactics and behaviours exhibited by her abusive partner during their relationship. Similarly, to emotional and psychological abuse, the effects of this can be difficult to explain as they are often not as visible as physical injuries, but nonetheless cause significant and long- lasting repercussions for the person experiencing the abuse.
Rosie says of her experience, “I got my first proper relationship at 17 and he was four years older than me. I was with him for seven and a half years so up until I was around 24. During that time, it was domestic abuse, but I didn’t realise it was abuse because it wasn’t physical. He didn’t have a job so I used to help him get jobs and sometimes I’d have to pay his rent for him because he said he couldn’t afford it. I paid for his driving lessons to get him on the road and help him find a job; I helped put money towards cars, his test, insurance, all sort of things like that.
“I just thought that was sort of the norm when you’re in a relationship; to support and help each other. I didn’t question or begrudge it. I’ve always been really good with saving, and we decided to live together so we were meant to be saving for a deposit together. Unfortunately, he kept taking money out of the joint savings account which was supposed to be just for our deposit. He wasn’t very good with finances and was always saying he needed to take money out to pay for different things. He had a very poor credit rating so, as I was working in banking, I did everything I could to help him raise his rating.
Finally, we had the 5% deposit we needed and got a lovely little two bedroomed flat. It was the best thing in my life, I loved it, it was my achievement in life. I paid to have it all completely refurbished, redecorated and furnished and my family contributed too. I also opened a joint account with him to pay for bills; I did this because he had such a poor track record with finances, and I needed to make sure that things were paid. He started taking money out of the account; he was a drug user which I wasn’t happy about, but he kept telling me that he’d stop but he never did. Some weeks he’d take out £200 from ATM and then two days later another £200. I was earning the most in this relationship and whenever I’d say something, he’d say something like, “well you spent £10 on a bottle of wine last week with your friends down the pub.”
By 2019 I couldn’t take any more and told him that I didn’t want to be with him. He asked if we could give it another try, which I agreed to, but six months later nothing had changed so I told him it was over. He seemed to take it fairly well at first but then the emotional abuse started. It was too much to cope with, so in the August I moved out to stay with my parents. It didn’t seem fair that I had to be the one to move out, but he wasn’t going anywhere. I was trying to get him to agree to put the flat on the market and he was trying everything in his power to not, and I couldn’t deal with the emotional abuse that I was experiencing. On the way to work I was getting phone calls from him saying things like, “I want to burn your mum and dad’s house down with them inside” and I’d get home and he’d be fine as if nothing had happened, as if he’d done nothing wrong. He was not cleaning up after himself, leaving dirty washing on the floor and it was stressing me out how messy he was making the flat. He would get in at night when I was in bed and he’d start screaming, shouting, banging about and I just didn’t feel safe so that’s why I left. I continued paying all the bills and the mortgage in full as he had lost his job coincidentally. By October 2019, he got physical and that’s when I had to get a restraining order in place, and he’s never spoken to me ever since apart from when in court or through my solicitor.
He continued to try and abuse me through my solicitor; I just wanted to be able to put the flat on the market, but he wouldn’t cooperate. He was living there at no cost at all to himself. He made all kinds of threats and kept playing games whilst I continued to pay all of the mortgage, bills and solicitors fees. By September 2020, I just couldn’t afford it or cope with it anymore, so I stopped paying the mortgage. My solicitor let him know, and the mortgage company knew it was domestic abuse, but by the October/November time I was getting harassed by the bank about why I wasn’t paying the mortgage. My ex-partner wrote to my solicitor in the December saying, “she stopped paying the mortgage without telling me (which wasn’t true), I’m trying to buy a Mercedes on finance, can you tell her to start paying the mortgage in full because she’s ruining my credit scoring.” So, in a nutshell, my property is still in repossession, it has been for two years. It takes a long period of time having to go through the courts to get a possession order and then back there to get a repossession date, hire a bailiff, etc, even when they know its domestic abuse.
I don’t know what state the property’s in now of course, if there’s equity then it has to be split 50/50, and if there is debt, I will have to deal with that when I get there. If there was a way to get out of a mortgage, which there isn’t, then my abuse could have been finished by 2020. As it is, its still happening and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. The psychological effects are really significant. I didn’t start going out in the area, to the shops or for a walk until last year, late last year because of the psychological effects and the anxiety and I felt that I couldn’t leave my home because something bad would happen.
I had to go to court so many times that I got to the stage where I just couldn’t do it anymore. I would get anxiety whenever I received an email or letter from my solicitor. People kept telling me that I needed to stand up and fight for what was rightfully mine, but for me it was a no go, I didn’t want to go back to court, I didn’t want to do any of it. I know how much money I put into the flat, but I don’t want to go back in that property where I’ve been abused, physically abused and had the police there, I don’t want to go back there.
I think my advice to anyone experiencing financial abuse and control would be don’t give up. I mean you can give up and say you’re not paying your mortgage anymore, ‘enough is enough’ sort of thing and that’s fine but when I say, “don’t give up”, I mean don’t feel like the world is going to end because I’ve been there where I’ve felt, ‘I can’t do this anymore, it’s too much’. You can’t cope with it anymore but there is light at the end of the tunnel, it might take a while, especially if it’s from financial abuse, it may take a while but there is light at the end of that tunnel, and it does come to an end at some stage.
Well-meaning people will say, “hold on to the flat, it’s yours, you paid most of it, fight for it, don’t give up” and that’s all very nice in principle but you’ve got to weigh it up against how exhausted you are, how much more you can fight and picking your battles because it is such hard work to recover when you’ve been in something like this and people have got to make their own decisions, the rest of the world might not agree with you but they haven’t walked your path.
When you have been through traumatic experiences I thought at one point that would be it, life would be over but you know, I’ve won Young Banker of the Year, I bring change into the financial sector with my different ideas and people find me inspiring and people think going through that there is hope for them as well, that life does get better and I think it’s just really important to highlight that, because it does give people hope.”
Thankfully there is support and assistance for anyone who has experienced domestic abuse. The Healthwatch Essex Information & Guidance service is a registered J9 Domestic Abuse Reporting Centre and can offer confidential support if you feel that you may be experiencing domestic abuse. We can help you find support and access local and national specialist services, depending upon your individual needs and wishes. Contact us on 0300 500 1895, email [email protected] or text/WhatsApp on 07712 395398.