Content warning: this article contains description of domestic violence and abuse
I’ll never forget the familiar, chilling way that my husband, Rakesh*, would fix me with his eyes. That look was a warning. If I dared to question a decision he’d made, there was no telling what the consequences might be.
Looking back, it’s frightening how easily my abuser found ways to destroy my financial independence. I didn’t realise I was experiencing economic abuse, and a decade later, I’m still dealing with the devastating impact.
I met Rakesh at university. We worked in a bar together and he was so confident. On nights out, he’d order bottles of expensive champagne for everyone then a few days later he’d be asking those same friends if he could borrow money.
After university, I found work as a children’s support worker, while Rakesh drifted between different jobs. Rakesh proposed, but he’d brought the engagement ring on credit in my name. He pushed me to get a new sofa on credit and also insisted I ask my parents for money. Then, every now and again, Rakesh would swoop in with a large wad of cash. There was no explanation for where the money had come from, but he’d make it seem like he was my ‘saving grace’ – meanwhile stacks of loan statements and credit card bills would regularly land on the door mat.
He made me feel worthless. If I displeased him, he’d stay out all night with other women and withhold affection. Sometimes, I’d wake up in the night to find he’d started to have sex with me without my consent.
Degraded and ashamed, I didn’t know what to do. Rakesh would slap me during arguments, and he continued to force me into spending money because the fear of saying ‘no’ was so intense. When I fell pregnant, I was scared for my unborn child, too.
Snowed under with debt and when my son was six months old, Rakesh attacked me because I hadn’t made his dinner. That was it – I knew I had to get away.
One day, Rakesh insisted we buy a...