Blog: Bringing the issue of economic abuse into the mainstream
Published: 27 Jun 2018
At our Award Ceremony in June 2018, Nicola Sharp-Jeffs received the Pol Roger award, which is given to a Fellow who has conducted an outstanding Fellowship and generated significant publicity for their findings. Below, she writes about economic abuse, the issue she researched, and the journey she has been on since being awarded a Fellowship.
Earlier this month at the biennial Award Ceremony of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, I was struck by the sheer diversity of issues that we Churchill Fellows pursue on our travels, from improving the management of sleep problems to reviving traditional meadow skills. What we all have in common, however, is an idea that we can’t let go of, that we want to pursue. For many of us that means stepping off well-worn tracks and into the unknown.
I had been researching economic abuse for nearly a decade and waiting for an organisation or person to take up the issue and run with it. Economic abuse occurs when an abusive partner creates economic dependency within a relationship and in so doing creates barriers to stop their victim from leaving and being self-sufficient.
Then came my Fellowship researching innovative responses to economic abuse. My travels to Australia and the USA made me realise that I needed to be the change I wanted to see. Gulp! I set up a charity, ‘Surviving Economic Abuse (SEA)’, which will help women in the UK to access the same kinds of support I’d seen on my travels.
Timing is everything and I’d founded my charity just as the UK Government announced a new Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill. I met with Ministers and spoke about the work being done in response to economic abuse by the social, financial and legal organisations I’d visited on my travels, and the scope for transferring these practices to the UK.
Fast-forward six months and Society Guardian was tweeting that, thanks to the campaigning work of SEA, the new Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill would provide a new statutory definition of domestic abuse that includes economic abuse. This will create a strong framework for tackling the issue.
I’ve also been able to discuss the issue of economic abuse in print and broadcast media, including The Guardian, Woman’s Hour, Radio 4 Money Box, Five Live Investigates, Radio 4 Today and BBC Breakfast. This issue is now being spoken about and, more importantly, acted on in the social, financial and political mainstream.
Having been caught up in the momentum of everything that has happened since my travels, the ceremony gave me time to sit and reflect on what a journey it has been. To be a recipient of the Pol Roger Prize for producing an outstanding Fellowship and generating effective publicity is testament to this.
Nicola is pictured above at the Award Ceremony with guest of honour Nick Danziger, left, and Christian Pol Roger. Picture ©Clive Totman 2018