A woman has won a scholarship to go to the USA and Australia to learn more about how we can help women suffering from financial abuse.

Nicola Sharp-Jeffs, of Victory Road in Wanstead, was chosen from 1,000 candidates to win the Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship, which is awarded to people who want to travel abroad to carry out innovative research in their field.

The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust was set up after the ex-Prime Minister’s death in 1965 to encourage people in the UK to travel the world to explore new ways to tackle problems we face back at home.

The 38-year-old, who is now a research fellow at the Child and Women Abuse Studies Unit and London Metropolitan University, wants to find out how the UK can help bring the issue of domestic financial abuse to the fore.

She 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.

“Financial abuse is something people don’t really know about.”

After working for the domestic violence charity Refuge, Nicola became more aware of the issue and went on to study it at Master’s level.

She said: “Financial abuse is when someone is in a relationship and that person controls their partner's money.

“The perpetrator often won’t allow the other person to have any money, sometimes leaving them with no food to eat and therefore no option to escape.

“Women feel disempowered because they can’t do what they want with their lives, and are forced to feel worthless, like no one else would want them.”

Although relatively new, the Government has tried to bring financial abuse into law with changes to the Serious Crime Act 2015.

During her work as a researcher, Nicola explored how other countries were dealing with the issue and wanted to find out more.

She said: “North America and Australia are very much ahead of the UK in terms of how they deal with financial abuse.

“The idea of the fellowship is to encourage international learning and bringing that knowledge back to help people here in the UK, so that’s why I decided to go for it.”

Nicola will be going to the USA for two weeks in June and Australia for three weeks in November to attend seminars, speak to utility companies, and see how consumer law can change to protect the rights of women suffering from financial abuse.

She said: “I’m really looking forward to it, it’s going to be very exciting.

“We have to represent Winston Churchill and his legacy, which is quite a big responsibility, but there’s a nice personal connection with Wanstead being where his constituency office and Conservative headquarters were.

“I knew I had to have a glass of wine to celebrate at the Manor House where he had his offices!”