Understanding domestic abuse

Also known as domestic violence or intimate partner violence, domestic abuse is a controlling pattern of behaviour. Its aim is to gain or maintain power over someone. And can happen between partners, exes, family members or carers.

This abusive behaviour can manifest in various forms:

Coercive control
This involves a pattern of intimidation, degradation, isolation, and control. And is often accompanied by threats of physical or sexual violence.

Psychological and emotional abuse

Emotional manipulation, insults, and undermining a person’s self-worth fall under this category.

Physical or sexual abuse
Inflicting harm or violating someone’s bodily autonomy.

Financial or economic abuse
Controlling finances, restricting access to resources, or sabotaging economic independence. We have more information about this below.

Harassment and stalking
Persistent unwanted attention, monitoring, or following.

Online or digital abuse
Using technology to harm, control, or harass the victim.

Domestic abuse impacts the mental, emotional, physical, social, and financial wellbeing of survivors and their families. Children and young people can also be affected by witnessing or experiencing domestic abuse.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, consider seeking professional help and support from organisations like Refuge (opens in a new window) or Women’s Aid (opens in a new window).

What financial and economic abuse looks like

Financial and economic abuse can happen to anyone, no matter their age, gender, ethnicity, class, religion or disability. It’s usually carried out by a partner, family member, friend or carer who might:

  • Stop you from working or getting to your job
  • Make you hand over control of your bank accounts and stop you accessing your money
  • Make you explain what you’ve spent your money on
  • Withholding money and stopping you from buying essentials
  • Take out credit cards or loans in your name
  • Spend your household budget on other things without telling you
  • Withdraw money from your account without your knowledge or permission.

How we can help you

As a banking provider, supporting those suffering from financial and economic abuse is where we can be the most helpful. But we know domestic abuse is never straightforward and can often switch between the various forms at different points. So, do get in touch if you are experiencing any form of abuse and we will try and help wherever we can.

If you contact us, we’ll listen to your situation and make sure we understand everything. Then we’ll suggest ways we could help. Our support could include:

  • Helping you understand the payments going in and out of your account
  • Resetting login details for your Internet Bank or changing card PINs
  • Explaining your options if you have a joint account
  • Setting up a new current account or savings account
  • Sending your bank statements to a different address
  • Helping you deal with any debts
  • Working out a budget
  • Letting you know about other organisations that could help keep you safe and provide support.

Certain branches also offer Safe Spaces for anyone living in the community.

Get in touch

Our Specialist Support Team are ready to help. They’ll never judge you or put you under pressure.

Call us

Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm
Saturday, 9am to 1pm
Closed Sundays and bank holidays

Visit us in branch

Prefer to speak face-to-face? We’ll make time for you. There’s no need to make an appointment.

Our Branch Finder also tells you which of our branches offer Safe Spaces. 

Find your nearest branch.


If you need help urgently, dial 999 and ask for the police.

You can also call the National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247. They’re available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This free helpline is run by Refuge and Women’s Aid (opens in a new window).

Find your nearest Safe Space

We know that experiencing domestic, or financial and economic abuse, can be isolating. And make it difficult to find support or think about your options.

That’s why Nationwide supports the domestic abuse charity Hestia’s UK SAYS NO MORE (opens in a new window) campaign. And offers a physical Safe Space in many of our branches.

How to access a Safe Space in a participating branch

You don’t need to make an appointment. Simply walk into a Nationwide branch that has the Safe Space poster in the window. Or use our Branch Finder to find your nearest branch with a Safe Space.

Ask a member of staff to use the Safe Space and you’ll be shown to a private room. Here you can discreetly call friends, family, support charities or the police. Or you can simply use the room for some breathing space.

More help and information

Use the Bright Sky app

Hestia also provide a free mobile app called Bright Sky. This safe, easy-to-use app and website gives practical support and information on domestic abuse. It is designed for anyone experiencing domestic abuse, or anyone who is worried about a friend, family member, or colleague.

Key features include: 

  • A short quiz to assess the safety of a relationship, and information about the signs to look out for 
  • Practical advice on how to safely support a friend or family member, service user or colleague, including conversation starters
  • A directory of specialist support services and helplines
  • A journal to document evidence.

Only download the Bright Sky app if it is safe to do so.

Get the Bright Sky app (opens in a new window)

Find out more from UK Finance

UK Finance has worked with several banks and building societies to create a leaflet about financial abuse.

Download for more examples of financial and economic abuse and ways we can help. It also lists other organisations that can support you, or someone you know, when you’re ready to reach out.