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Breaking free from financial abuse

The most recent report from the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) reveals a disturbing trend: a nearly 30% surge in the rate of Australian women killed by intimate partners.

Financial abuse is a large contributing factor as to why people stay in unsafe relationships.  It's a form of domestic or family violence that can take various shapes and sizes and unlike physical abuse, financial abuse can be much harder to spot.  While women are more likely to experience it, anyone can be a victim, regardless of your background or income level.

Here's what financial abuse can look or feel like:

- Limiting access to money or closely monitoring spending.

- Keeping you uninformed about your financial situation.

- Using threats and intimidation regarding money matters.

- Pressuring you to take on debts or making financial decisions on your behalf.

- Cutting you off from friends, family, or any potential financial support.

- Undermining your education or career prospects.

 - Concealing spending or misusing joint funds.

Supporting others

It's all too common for people to overlook signs of financial abuse within their relationships, brushing off controlling behaviour as just a typical aspect of their dynamics. This is precisely why engaging in open discussions about finances is absolutely crucial. When money remains a taboo subject, it exacerbates the issues surrounding financial abuse.

Conversations about money with friends provide invaluable insights into diverse financial situations. By sharing experiences and stories, we gain a deeper understanding of what's considered normal and recognise potential red flags signalling abuse. This not only broadens our perspectives but also empowers us to identify when something isn't quite right.

Opening up about experiences of domestic violence requires a lot of courage. Our response can profoundly impact someone's well-being and their approach to their situation. Victims often feel trapped and powerless, and pressuring them to follow our advice can make matters worse. Instead, it's crucial to support them in making their own choices, on their own terms, when they're ready. You can help by arming them with knowledge on professional support services that can assist them.

Government assistance

Australian women escaping domestic violence can access much-needed support through the Escaping Violence Payment (EVP) Program, which provides up to $5,000 in financial assistance. This funding is aimed at helping women transition to safer environments and establish homes free from violence.

Under the scheme, women will receive up to $1,500 in cash, with the remainder of the amount available for goods and services, direct payments of rental bonds, school fees or other necessary support to establish a new life.

The 2-year trial, costed at $144.8 million, is part of the federal government’s women’s safety package. The payment is not taxable or reportable income and is designed to address some of the financial barriers women face when attempting to leave an abusive situation.

Additionally, many banks offer support packages for their customers who are victims of domestic violence, so it's important to reach out to your bank as soon as possible if you are impacted.

Safeguarding yourself

Protecting yourself from financial abuse starts with awareness and empowerment. Here are some steps to safeguard yourself:

- Understand what financial abuse looks like and familiarise yourself with the warning signs.

- Strive to maintain control over your own finances like having your own bank account that only you have access to.

- Communicate openly about money matters in your relationship and ensure financial decisions are made together.

- Establish clear boundaries around finances and stand firm in upholding them.

- Maintain connections with friends, family, and support networks outside of your relationship.

- Always trust your instincts. If something feels off or you suspect financial abuse, don't ignore it.

While one person may naturally take the lead in managing day-to-day finances, it's crucial for both parties to comprehend their financial situation fully. Remember, you deserve to have control over your own financial well-being and to be in a relationship built on trust, respect, and equality. Don't hesitate to take action to protect yourself if you feel your financial independence is being threatened.

Need Help?

If you or someone you know is the victim of domestic abuse in any form, there are free services you can access.

1800RESPECT is the national domestic, family and sexual violence counselling, information and support service. This is a free, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week service.

In emergencies, always call 000.


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