A WOMAN has recalled her “inspiring” visit to the USA to help bring the issue of financial abuse to the fore.
Earlier this year Nicola Sharp-Jeffs was chosen from 1,000 hopefuls to win the Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship, which is given to people looking to carry out overseas research in their field.
The scholarship was set up by the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, created after the former Prime Minister’s death in 1965 to help explore different ways of tackling issues Brits face at home.
The 38-year-old research fellow at the Child and Women Abuse Studies Unit at London Metropolitan University decided to use her travel scholarship to visit New York, New Jersey and Texas, where innovative projects are trying to help women suffering financial abuse.
Ms Sharp-Jeffs, who lived in Wanstead for three years, said: “When people think about domestic violence they think of one person controlling another.
“But often they think of that abuse as being purely physical and not financial.
“I felt very privileged to have had the opportunity to talk to so many interesting people who are doing such great things.
“The whole experience has been inspiring and I think that really reflects Winston Churchill’s philosophy of learning from others.”
During her time in New York, she spoke to lawyers who are looking into ways of helping victims of identity theft and those who have been coerced into taking on their partner’s debts.
She also visited centres around the city where women can take classes on financial literacy and how to cope with debt management.
Most memorably she got to visit the New York Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence, which she said was “very exciting”.
After more seminars and support group visits in New Jersey, Ms Sharp-Jeffs travelled to Texas, where the USA’s first case of financial abuse is soon to be heard in court.
There she met with academics from Texas University as well as the Michigan State University to discuss how to help women who have been left with poor credit ratings after suffering financial abuse.
She said: “In the USA if you have a poor credit rating it can really affect every part of your life – it can stop you getting a job and a house.
“I worked with one academic in particular called Adrienne Adams on that.
“We’re actually going to edit a book together on how different countries are dealing with financial abuse, and we already have a publisher interested, which is just incredible.”
Since flying home at the end of July, Ms Sharp-Jeffs has been to the Ministry of Justice to share her findings and is due to fly to Australia to carry out similar research in November.
She added: “The whole trip has been so motivating for me to know we’re not starting from scratch here in the UK when it comes to financial abuse.
“We have some great work to take inspiration from abroad and that’s fantastic.”
To find out more about Nicola Sharp-Jeffs’ work, see her website.