Not enough is being done to tackle financial abuse against women in Australia and financial services companies should be doing more to stamp it out, says one outspoken wealth adviser.
In an interview with Financy, money mentor and founder of the Thalia Stanley Group Marion Mays says the current state of financial abuse is alarming.
“The problem is two part, firstly, a lack of financial literacy amongst women and second, a lack of legislation. Front line workers such as police have very limited understanding of financial abuse,” she said.
“Economic abuse in the form of financial abuse affects every single area of a woman and her children’s life.
“It’s the silent form of abuse where the well dressed professional male can hide behind his business status success, whilst not leaving physical injuries on his wife or children but having total control of their life, mind and every aspect of their life,” she says.
The Women’s Information and Referral Exchange (WIRE) estimates that around 2 million women are affected by financial abuse, and in the majority of cases the same women also seek support for domestic and family violence.
About one in six Australian women have experienced financial abuse in an intimate partner relationship, according to the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health.
Not having enough money and being financially dependent on someone who controls the finances is the most commonly cited reason as to why women stay in an abusive relationship.
To help combat the problem, Ms Mays is planning to run a nationwide financial literacy program for women.
To coincide with that, Ms Mays believes that government also needs to take on a pro active role in dealing with the issue.
“The authorities only seem to have a conceptual understanding of the issue.
“I continue to be shocked by the lack of working knowledge about the problem by politicians, our lending institutions and the media at large.
“If you interview a front line worker such as a police officer or special trained domestic violence officer, very few have any real understanding
“All financial institutions should have mandatory training on how to identify financial abuse, they should give full disclosures to all parties in borrowing situations and mandatory written information.
“All lending practices should mandate a process that ensures “a potential victim” is not being placed under duress to apply for credit or put debt in her name.
“Women also need to become more vocal on the issue of financial abuse,” says Marion Mays.
“Proactively approach your local political representatives, break the silence of their experiences with financial abuse by sharing their stories.”
Ms Mays also blames the media for choosing to report on mostly extreme cases of financial abuse that sit at the furthest end of the spectrum.
“They fail to report on the reality that financial abuse is a consistent often subtle series of actions maintained over an extended period of time to strategically deny females financial independence.
“They fail to cite real stories of financial abuse, case studies or legal outcomes. Financial abuse is like this thing that someone once heard about “an urban myth” that potentially doesn’t exist.
“There has to be some mainstream campaign to take away the shame and give women the permission to speak up.
“Proactive action by our politicians is needed, such as a national campaign, start training front line workers, start creating a platform, a central place for victims of financial abuse to report it and seek remedy, with specialist trained financial staff who have a working knowledge of the law and who can advocate for the women,” she said.