'I was the victim of financial abuse'

Louise was getting her life together after her divorce. Then her new partner needed a loan....

I have just moved back in with my mum. I am back in my old teenage bedroom, and I’m back revisiting old haunts with old school friends. It’s not where I thought I would be at 53, but I also didn’t expect to be duped and deceived by someone I trusted and believed.

In 2005, my husband left to be with our babysitter, whom he had been having an affair with for 2 years.  Our children were 7, 5 and 18 months. It wasn’t a great time!

Looking for a new start for my son

In 2012, despite not having a lot of money, I enquired about sending my son to the school that my late father had attended. They were kind and understanding and offered me a bursary. It felt like an opportunity I couldn’t just dismiss, and so just before the start of the September term I moved out of London, initially just for 2 years so that my son could hopefully extract himself from the troublesome gang he was hanging around with and get himself some GCSE qualifications.

My son despised me. And so did my ex-husband, who was convinced my only motive was to destroy his relationship with his children (although he had already done that all by himself). He did his utmost to try to prevent the move, even down to telling the school that my son took drugs (he didn’t).

What sort of a father would do that? Thankfully the headmaster thought the same and said that my ex had actually helped us.

The first year was horrendous. How I got my son to school every day is thankfully now a distant memory obscured by shouting, begging, tears and bribery (although deep down he knew what an amazing opportunity this was for him). He became a weekly boarder. My son insisted he hated it; he has subsequently told me how great it was, and the friendships he made will be lifelong.

Finally, GCSEs

Eventually after 2 years, GCSE results day arrived. I prayed that he would achieve just 1 GCSE, as this might give him some confidence that he so desperately needed. Nine GCSEs — all at grades A&B — did that for him and, doing his utmost to appear to be reluctant to do so, he suggested that it would be a good idea for him to stay on for sixth form.

Daughters doing well + a new man

My two daughters were also very happy at the school, and I had met a new partner, so we all decided to stay. Unfortunately, the reality was now that I needed to find school fees for three children. I was renting out my flat in London to pay for the rental of the house I was now sharing with my new partner. He was in property management (so he told me) and so suggested that I sell my flat in London in order to meet the horrendously high bills at the end of every term. I would then have money for school fees and the remaining proceeds would be used to buy a smaller property so that I could continue to earn a rental income.

How things went wrong

Unfortunately, what I didn’t know was that once my property was sold, my new partner required a short-term loan for a project he was working on abroad. Three months maximum was the promise. After four months and no repayment, he remained positive that all would be paid back together with some handsome interest before month five. Once we had reached month 24, I knew that, despite his promises, I wasn’t ever going to see my money again and so I began to confide in friends. They then told me that they hadn’t trusted him from the start!  In 2018, he was caught having phone sex with another woman whilst on holiday with his children. This wasn’t great for his kids but was a good way out of the relationship for me.

The first six months I cried a lot. I was very scared for my future. I was infuriated by my stupidity and embarrassed by my naivety. I had no money, nowhere to live, no income and school fees to pay. When they’ve been caused by someone you trusted — and you were doing really well on your own before he came along — they are incredibly painful and unfair. Where I would be now without my friends and family and an amazingly understanding school I have no idea, but by 2019, things were better. I had a job, a place to live and a lawyer to help me to try to recoup the money.

Trying to get my money back

Despite the efforts of my lawyer, there wasn’t much they could do. My ex-partner insisted that the money was not a loan but a gift and an investment into his business which had failed. He was managing to come up with some money in cash every couple of months which all seemed very dodgy, and my lawyer was keen to pursue this, but I was just glad to be out of the relationship and keen to move on. A very expensive lesson learned!

The truth about financial abuse

Sadly, stories of scams and fraudulent behaviour are becoming more widespread, and the recent Netflix documentary The Tinder Swindler shows how easy it is to con and cheat innocent people. So often, feeling embarrassed and foolish prevents victims from speaking out.

Financial abuse is the second most reported form of abuse. It has hugely significant consequences for victims and their families. So here I am, starting all over again, or in the words of Frank Sinatra, I’m picking myself up and getting back in the race. Some of you will have similar experiences and many are emerging from Covid lockdowns needing to rethink or change direction.

How I move forward

Being positive is not always easy, and some days feel very scary, but I have so much to be grateful for (annoying cliché, I know). I am so lucky to have a mum who will take me in. My three children are amazing and are on their way in the world, far more equipped than many to deal with the unexpected curveballs that life can throw. I have the greatest friends who have insisted on vetting any future partner first!

Louise Jones*

(Louise Jones is a pseudonym.)


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