Women's charities warn that the cost-of-living crisis is fuelling a rise in domestic abuse

  • Hear from one domestic abuse survivor speaking to ITV News Anglia's Tanya Mercer

A mother-of-two who suffered years of abuse by her ex-husband has described how he used their household finances to keep her trapped - but says now she has escaped her "peace is priceless".

It comes as charities warn that domestic abuse is on the increase, fuelled by the cost of living crisis, with rising prices meaning many victims feel trapped and unable to escape their abusers.

One woman who spoke to ITV News Anglia told how her abusive former husband used money as a weapon against her, dictating what they could spend on and leaving her feeling "like a slave" in her own home.

Liz - not her real name - said he was a heavy drinker and would refuse to help her pay household bills.

"He'd spend all this money on alcohol," she said. "And if I said 'we need money for this and money for that', then he would kick off.

"The abuse was verbal and emotional. He threatened and said he would straighten me out. And these words were said when I was pregnant with our second child. It was toxic.

"I was like a slave in my own house. I was afraid if he came [home] in the middle of the night, drunk, he could do whatever to me. That's how bad it was.”

Liz says that her ex-husband used family finances as a weapon against her. Credit: ITV News Anglia

As she lived in fear, Liz could see no way out. 

Financially she was in severe debt, trying to pay all the bills. It was only when her abuser attacked one of their children that she knew she had to escape.“It was for the protection of my kids [that I left] because he assaulted our son. Afterwards I promised my son 'I'm sorry, but it will never happen again - I promise you.'"

In thousands of pounds of debt, Liz turned for help to Anglia Care Trust, a charity which supports people across the East of England.

In the last seven months the trust has seen a 250% increase in the number of domestic abuse referrals.

Bosses believe a big factor is the cost of living crisis.

Jane Simpson of the Anglia Care Trust. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Jane Simpson of the charity said: “The increased strain on a household when the cost of living kicks in, obviously is going to cause a pressure pot where you're going to get your traditional types of domestic abuse, so violence etcetera.

"But you're also going to have the use of financial constraints on the victim.

"The victim is going to feel with all the costs of living pressure that they don't have the finances to actually flee and support themselves or their children.”

The charity Women's Aid found that two thirds (66%) of abusers are using financial increases as a tool for coercive control, with 27% of women having limited or no access to money due to limits imposed by their abuser.

The charity is now calling for an emergency domestic abuse fund to support survivors of domestic abuse to help pay for essential items and energy bills. 

Staff at Anglia Care Trust have dealt with a 250% increase in cases. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Rhys Lloyd, from Leeway Domestic Violence and Abuse Services, which works in Norfolk and Suffolk, is also urging anyone suffering to seek help.

He said: “It's really important you do come forward, because I think the big worry is that people will perhaps become even more trapped in their relationship and really become quite cut off from support networks.

"And we know in cases where people do stay in relationships, it increases the risk of further serious harm or even to the point of homicide.”

Now able to look back at what she went through, Liz simply wants anyone struggling in a similar situation to try to escape.

“You don't have to stay in that situation - there's help out there," she said.

"And I'm not saying it's going to be easy. It's not easy. It's not easy for me.

"But I have that peace of mind where if I unlock my door, I go in, I see my children. 

"That peace just is priceless. It really is. And I want my kids to see me happy. And there is life after domestic abuse.”

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