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Financial abuse: The hidden form of domestic violence

On the surface, it seems so obvious – if your partner is hurting you, the easiest way to stop it is to get away from them. But domestic violence isn’t just physical. Many women who are victims of domestic violence also face financial abuse.*

What is financial abuse?

Financial abuse has nothing to do with taking your credit card on a shopping bender. Financial abuse happens when one partner restricts the other’s access to economic resources. Domestic violence is often about control – so it’s quite obvious that controlling the purse strings can be a key tool of an abuser.

It’s estimated that about two million women in Australia have experienced financial abuse, but awareness of the issue is so low that many don’t identify themselves as victims.

Signs of financial abuse

  • Your bank accounts and pay are restricted by your partner
  • Every dollar you spend is tracked
  • You have been encouraged to leave your job or are forbidden access to get to work
  • Credit cards have been opened in your name without your consent, harming your credit rating and limiting your future potential to borrow money.

Being trapped financially is a key reason women don’t leave abusive relationships. If you don’t have access to your own money or a job, how will you look after yourself and also any children if you go?

What can you do?

It’s much easier said than done, but you can leave. Some women don’t get a choice about when they leave but there are steps you can take to plan your way out of an abusive relationship.

  • Talk to a financial counsellor. It’s a free service that provides information, support and advocacy to assist people in financial difficulty. A financial counsellor can help you understand your options so that you can get back on your feet.
  • Talk to your bank. In the last few years, Australian banks have developed financial abuse support programs to help vulnerable customers.
  • Skim money, no matter how small, whenever you can. Open a secret bank account where you can save up enough until you’re ready to leave.
  • There are also a number of apps that have been designed to help women in or trying to leave abusive relationships:
    • Daisy connects women experiencing violence to state and local services.
    • iMatter helps young women identify signs that a relationship is unhealthy and empowers them to leave before they become abusive.
    • Aurora provides emergency contacts and links to support services available in NSW
    • Re-focus offers legal information for women who have separated or are thinking of separating from a violent relationship in Queensland.

To find out more about domestic violence hotlines and support services in your state visit White Ribbon Australia.

 

*I have focused on financial abuse affecting women in this story because domestic violence is overwhelmingly perpetrated by men against women. However, domestic violence can affect men which I would like to acknowledge.