financial abuse

“I’m not paying for that”, financial abuse blindness

How one woman suffered financial abuse and broke away and how men can also find themselves to be victims.

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Until things got nasty, Lauren Harry turned a blind eye to financial abuse. It wasn’t she locked her keys in the family car and her husband yelled at her, but it didn’t stop there. The screaming and obsessive questioning went on all night as he refused her sleep as punishment.

The keys were an honest mistake, one everyone at some time or another has probably done. But simple mistake is all it ever took and one that many victims of abuse know all too well.

Both Lauren* and her husband Michael* were on big salaries and lived in a comfortable city apartment but despite this, Lauren was a victim of violent domestic and financial abuse at the hand of her husband.

“Why do you need to buy that?”, “I’m not paying for that,” And “How much was that?” were common phrases Lauren would hear and they’d turn a short trip up the shops into humiliation in front of sales staff.

Even the purchase of gifts to his and her family members became an argument over who would pay and how much should be spent.

“I became so depressed and in the end was scared for my life. He is just so obsessed with money.”

Lauren is an educated woman and has been a high salary earner. But that was before years of financial bullying and violence shattered her emotional wellbeing and confidence.

These days she’s now broke but happy to be divorced and free from her abuser.

It’s estimated that two million Australians are victims of financial abuse and domestic abuse at the hands of a partner or another family member.

Economic abuse affects both men and women.

In 2017 researchers from RMIT found the life-time prevalence of economic abuse for women is 15.7 per cent, while for men it’s 7.1 per cent. It’s estimated that more than two million Australians have or will experience economic abuse in their life times.

As one male victim of financial abuse told Financy, he was not allowed to see family bills or bank accounts, and nor did he know that his wife had bought and sold several properties without him seeing a cent.

While men are also affected by financial abuse, the majority of cases are women who generally earn less than men, may be perceived as being less financially educated, and take more time off to care for children.

“Money was something we just couldn’t talk about peacefully,” said Lauren.

“He’d have all the bills in his name and had secret assets including property that were bought and sold, and which I didn’t know about until after we divorced, which meant I saw none of it despite contributing half the family income.

“I’m not even a spender, I rarely drink, my clothes are second hand and so too is my furniture.

“I’m really lucky I survived and I got help early. But lots of people don’t and many I imagine spend decades in physical or emotionally abusive relationships,” she said.

*Names have been changed to protect the victim featured in this story.

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