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BSB 805 050

Financial abuse – the hidden form of emotional abuse

22 Nov2017

Financial abuse is central to control in more than one in three instances of emotional abuse, new data shows.

New data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows 37.6% of female respondents who have suffered emotional abuse have faced partners who have controlled or tried to control their access or ability to make decisions about household money. More than one in four, or 26.6%, have faced a partner trying to control their assets or income, and 22% have faced partners trying to control their ability to work or earn money, according to the results of the ABS’s third Personal Safety Survey.

People’s Choice Credit Union Chief Executive Officer and White Ribbon Ambassador, Steve Laidlaw, said attitudes needed to change immediately to prevent the institutionalisation of financial abuse.

“Financial abuse is a particularly insidious form of control that traps people without means or hope of escape,” Mr Laidlaw said.

“The fact that it sits at the heart of more than one-third of all forms of emotional abuse should set alarm bells ringing – we need to start to unwind the notion that this is acceptable from the youngest ages, starting today,” he said.

Recognising the five signs of financial abuse

People’s Choice Credit Union was Australia’s first financial institution to gain White Ribbon Workplace accreditation as an organisation that educates, manages and combats domestic violence, and is committed to ending the damage that financial abuse poses, Mr Laidlaw said.

“We believe People’s Choice and our staff can play a key role in reducing such vulnerability and abuse – and with these figures reliably showing the extent of such financial abuse, this task is more important than ever this forthcoming White Ribbon Day,” he said.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics considered three forms of financial abuse: that affecting knowledge and access to decisions about household money; that affecting the ability to work or earn money; and that affecting control over income and assets. All were considered a form of emotional abuse rather than being recognised in their own right.

Signs can include:

  1. Limiting spending decisions: abusers often control or limit access to family finances or how all money is spent.
  2. Restricting access to funds: removing access to bank accounts or credit cards, and the hiding or moving of assets may be done without the knowledge or consent of a person.
  3. Withholding money or enforcing an allowance: refusing to work or contribute to the family income, or withholding funds for the victim or children to obtain basic needs such as food and medicine, leaves a victim powerless to their abuser.
  4. Invading personal privacy and security: controlling a victim’s life and finances can escalate to illegal activity including identity theft, theft of property or inheritances, filing of fraudulent tax returns and false insurance claims. This can have permanent effects on the victim’s credit history.
  5. Controlling income or ability to work: abusers may use intimidation or harassment to sabotage employment opportunities and keep victims under an abuser’s control.

Responding to domestic abuse

If you or someone you know is affected by family violence or sexual assault, visit whiteribbon.org.au/finding-help for information or call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) for confidential 24 hour counselling. In an emergency, call 000.

“Financial abuse is a particularly insidious form of control that traps people without means or hope of escape,” 

- Steve Laidlaw, Chief Executive Officer

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