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Money may be used to exercise control in a relationship. 2015 Australian of the Year Rosie Batty says stopping financial abuse means spotting the warning signs and calling out abuse in a relationship, including your adult child’s.
Family violence is not limited to physical or emotional abuse. Financial abuse involves another person manipulating your financial decisions or controlling your access to money or other property without your consent, according to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission’s MoneySmart website.1
Family violence campaigner and 2015 Australian of the Year Rosie Batty said financial abuse may not leave a bruise, but it was still part of the “horrible, ugly display of family violence.”
"Family violence and domestic violence was really about physical forms of violence, but we’re now beginning to understand that violence comes in different forms, and financial violence is one of those," Rosie told QSuper.
Almost 16% of women and 7.1% of men in Australia have experienced economic abuse, researchers at RMIT found in 2017.2 This means more than 2.5 million Australians, both men and women, may experience financial abuse in their lifetimes.
Financial abuse is a form of family violence.
Withholding money, controlling all the household spending or refusing to include you in financial decisions can be defined as family violence.
Your partner’s behaviour may include:
Source: Women’s Information and Referral Exchange, 2016, Money problems with your partner. Dealing with financial abuse (pdf)
The RMIT researchers said young people in particular were vulnerable and often not aware of the risk of financial abuse.3 One of the reasons young people were at risk was that victims of abuse often did not see the harm that was happening to them until they were older. A UK study4 found only two in five victims of financial abuse recognised it as abuse from the beginning.
Rosie said it was vital to be alert for signs of financial abuse in your adult child’s relationship, which may go hand in hand with other forms of family violence.
Rosie said signs a young person was in an abusive relationship could include suffering verbal abuse, being isolated from family and friends, and their partner controlling what they wore or what they looked like.
“Controlling behaviour is not a demonstration of love. Sometimes, we haven’t experienced what a respectful, supporting, loving relationship is,” she said.
“If you feel unhappy, feel unfulfilled and your choices are being compromised or taken away from you, you’re being put-down, undermined, coerced or forced to do something that you really don’t feel comfortable doing, you can start to feel very uncomfortable. Those are certainly signs that the relationship that you are in is certainly not a healthy, respectful relationship.”
QSuper is proud to have a three year partnership with domestic violence hotline, DVConnect – the leading state-wide crisis response service that operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This includes QSuper funding an additional full-time telephone support officer to answer up to 4,000 more calls annually, from Queenslanders in need of support.
DV Connect: www.dvconnect.org | 1800 811 811
Financial abuse can affect anyone, no matter the stage of life, socio-economic background, or how educated they may be, Rosie said.
Talking about the importance of financial independence was one way to help prevent financial abuse, she said.
"We need to have these conversations as early as possible, so we are talking about financial independence, not about the knight in shining armour who will whisk us off our feet.”
When entering a relationship of equality and respect, a woman’s financial independence should be valued, she said.
“In my generation and those before me, it was very clear that there was an expectation I would marry a man who would provide for me. I would like to think that this doesn’t happen the same way currently, but I do know that as women we do have a lot of conditioning and we have to unpack some of those thoughts.”
For support and information about financial abuse and other forms of family violence contact 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732).
Steps you can take to help someone you believe may be being financially abused include:
Talk to the person you’re worried about and let them know your concerns.
Offer help. If the person declines help, don’t give up. It can be difficult for anyone to leave an abusive situation, especially if it involves family members.
Keep checking in on them and continue to offer support.
Source: Australian Bankers Association, Protecting yourself from financial abuse Consumer fact sheet, 2014
Family violence campaigner Rosie Batty was 2015 Australian of the Year. She is a leader in the crusade against domestic violence and has turned her personal tragedy into a fight to help others. Fortune Magazine names Rosie as one of its top 50 world’s greatest leaders. Rosie has also been inducted into the Victorian Honour Roll of Women.
The views of the author are not necessarily the views of the QSuper Board. We’ve put this information together as general information only and you should get professional advice before relying on this information.
1 Australian Securities and Investments Commission, 2017, MoneySmart, accessed on 19 April 2018 at www.moneysmart.gov.au/life-events-and-you/families/financial-abuse
2 Kutin J, Russell R, Reid M, 28 February 2017, Economic abuse between intimate partners in Australia: prevalence, health status, disability and financial stress, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 2017, vol 41, no 3
3 Kutin J et al, 2 March 2017, Revealed: the hidden problem of economic abuse in Australia, The Conversation, accessed 19 April 2018 at
4 Sharp-Jeffs N, 2015, Money Matters. Research into the extent and nature of financial abuse within intimate relationships in the UK, The Cooperative Bank, p7, at www.refuge.org.uk/files/Money-Matters.pdf
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