A domestic violence survivor who was told she could not close a joint account at her bank unless she attended with her abusive ex-husband has told BuzzFeed News about her experience.
The shocking case was raised at Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday by her local MP, Lisa Cameron, who urged Theresa May to change the law to ensure other victims do not suffer the same thing.
The woman, who did not want to be named, said she had tried to close the joint account or remove her name from it, after finally fleeing her abuser after two decades.
"However, my husband had emptied the account leaving a small balance in credit and then put the account into dispute, meaning it took two signatures to change the account," she said.
"He could have closed the account but then he would not have been able to have control or continue to torment me. He was arrested around the same time for assault.
"The bank insisted that we both needed to come down together, even after I told them he was on bail for assaulting me. This made no difference to them. Even though the account was in credit and I was prepared to forfeit the money, they still refused. They then told me it was a civil matter.
"I was distraught and still in shock. I was desperately trying to distance myself from him and struggled with PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder]. This situation just re-traumatised me. And it dragged on and on."
The woman went to see Cameron, SNP MP for East Kilbride, who helped her resolve the situation with the bank. She praised Cameron for raising the issue in parliament and said she wanted to see a change in the law to protect victims of domestic abuse in the future.
"The bank now tell me they have a 'vulnerable customer team' and that if the same thing happened now I would be dealt with more sympathetically by them," she added. "I've asked them to advertise this department in all their branches."
She said she was with her abuser "for over two decades of emotional, mental, sexual, physical, and financial abuse" and it was only with the help of charity Women's Aid that she was finally able to get free.
There were audible gasps in the Commons as Cameron told MPs: "My constituent informed me that she had been repeatedly raped and beaten by her ex-partner, requiring an injunction. Much to her horror, her bank would not close her joint account unless she attended with the perpetrator.
"When banks are left to their own discretion, women’s lives are put at risk. Will the prime minister ensure policy to protect survivors is included in the pending domestic violence bill?"
In reply, the PM said it was a "very distressing case", adding: "We want to ensure that we give proper support to all those who have been subject to domestic violence or to abuse of the kind to which you have referred."
She said home secretary Amber Rudd would soon be issuing a consultation on proposed domestic violence legislation and "that will be an opportunity for issues such as this to be raised".
Sandra Horley, chief executive of domestic violence charity Refuge, told us: "Two women a week are killed by a current or former partner in England and Wales alone; forcing a victim to meet with their perpetrator could be life-threatening, as well as highly traumatic."
She added: "Financial abuse is a form of domestic violence and the consequences of this type of abuse can be both devastating and long-lasting. Banks have a key role to play when it comes to supporting women who experience financial abuse.
"Refuge is currently working with UK Finance on guidance for banks and building societies on how to support women who experience financial abuse. Until new guidance is finalised, it is essential that banks and building societies do all they can to help victims with their finances; this includes not requesting joint meetings that insist a victim sits in the same room as their perpetrator."
Emily Ashton is a senior political correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Emily Ashton at email@example.com.
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