Feeling scared, overwhelmed, restricted and suffocated are just some of the feelings commonly expressed by victims of financial abuse.
Despite the increasing media focus on the issue, financial abuse is not widely understood as a form of domestic violence.
It’s often explained as being where one partner financially controls another, and it quite often is linked to physical or psychological abuse in relationships.
It affects both men and women of all walks of life. It can happen across age groups, incomes brackets and the control can be over big-ticket items or the very minor.
“I had one client who I remember burst into tears telling me that she wasn’t even allowed to buy a bottle of milk without asking her partner for permission to spend the money,” says money coach Lea Schodel.
Ms Schodel says the most common examples of financial abuse that she’s seen have been where one partner is making all the financial decisions and deliberately limits or restricts the actions of another person.
Perhaps the most well known form of financial abuse is where one partner is a problem gambler, and they misuse the joint and sometimes the life savings of another person to feed their addiction.
But financial abuse can often be clouded in secrecy. There might be situations where one partner hides important financial decisions or problems from the other, such as asset purchases or mounting credit card debt.
Some of the most common tell tale signs of financial abuse are:
- Feeling as though your partner is not being 100 per cent truthful with you on financial matters.
- Noticing that your partner is receiving mail about debt or assets that you are not part of, or even taking private phone calls on such matters.
- Not be allowed to open or see joint bank account details or statements.
- Feeling that your partner is controlling access to economic resources – such as interfering with or restricting your education or employment – Isolating or restricting your mobility or access to transportation.
- Realising that your partner is generating economic cost or debt in your name.
- Noticing that your partner is varying loans that may be in your name, such as covertly increasing home loans for no explained reason.
- Having a partner that deliberately damages a property that is in your name, so as to cost you money in repairs.
- Having a partner that avoids child support payments; manipulating the shared care system to reduce payments; and repeatedly applying for re-assessment of payment.
- Having a partner that cancels essential services, and/or refuses to pay debts.
- You notice support being withdrawn for partner visas, or the lodging of malicious reports to the Department of Immigration.
- Dowry abuse, where one partner uses verbal and often physical threats of violence to force the family of their partner to increase dowry payments to them.
- It can also present itself in systems abuse, where one partner will seek to financially cripple another through legal proceedings.
Women are more likely than men to find themselves in a financially abusive relationship, particularly if they have stopped working to care for children.
In 2017 researchers from RMIT found the lifetime prevalence of economic abuse for women is 15.7 per cent, while for men it’s 7.1 per cent.
This means an estimated two million Australians have or will experience economic abuse in their life times.
Recovery from financial abuse often requires legal and financial support that spans credit law, family law and the criminal court.
It can be an extremely costly exercise, and some victims give up just to have freedom rather than pursue justice through the courts.
If you know someone who might be a victim of financial or domestic abuse, two of the recommended helplines include 1800-Respect or Relationships Australia 1300 364 277.
This article was first published on News Corp’s whim.com.au.