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Domestic and family violence isn’t always physical. There are many different forms, including financial abuse, used to control a person and their actions.
A new report by Deloitte on behalf of the Commonwealth Bank has revealed the extent of financial abuse in Australia, estimating that more than 600,000 people experienced financial abuse in 2020, affecting one in 30 women and one in 50 men.1
The research found that in 2020 alone, victim-survivors lost $5.7 billion to actions such as:
The report estimates that these costs are also likely to be underestimated.
Financial abuse does not discriminate. It can be carried out against anyone, no matter how old someone is, how much money they have, or how educated they are.
Financial abuse occurs when someone takes away access to money, manipulates a person’s financial decisions, or uses their money without consent.
It is a form of coercive control that generally involves influence and intimidation to make a victim scared, isolated and dependent on the abuser.
Australian Retirement Trust’s Financial Crimes Officer Rebecca Mallett says financial abuse can be hard to identify.
“It’s difficult to define financial abuse as it is a form of coercive control that can be subtle and innocuous,” Ms Mallett said. “Often people have no idea that it is going on until much later, or sadly when it is too late.”
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission’s MoneySmart service lists signs that may indicate someone may be in a financially abusive relationship2 which includes someone who:
If you are in a violent or controlling relationship, it is important, if you can, to have an exit strategy and money that your partner cannot access. There are things you can do to protect your finances, including:
As a financial crimes officer, Ms Mallett works to guard members’ superannuation accounts against fraudulent behaviour.
In some financial abuse cases, she said, partners are being coerced into accessing superannuation early.
Ms Mallett said there are measures you can take to keep your finances such as superannuation, safe, which include:
“Pay attention to what you should know,” Ms Mallett said. “If your fund sends you a message, get in contact with them immediately. But don’t respond to the number that might be in a text message; call them on the detail that you know or look up the number on the website.”
It often takes someone outside the relationship to identify that financial abuse occurs, Ms Mallett said.
“As victims are not physically harmed, they don’t think that their partner manipulating or controlling their money is abuse,” she said. “But when it starts to impact a person negatively, it is often a loved one who will tweak to the coercive behaviour.”
We take an active role in the stand against domestic and family violence (DFV), and will this year again support the Darkness to Daylight Challenge to raise awareness and support DFV prevention.
We also support other DFV services via community partnerships with DVConnect and RizeUp Australia. This includes funding 4,000 crisis calls each year.
If you feel you’re in a financial abuse situation, or if you believe someone you know is affected, there are many strategies available. It’s best to speak with an organisation like DVConnect who can offer the support and assistance needed.
You can call the DVConnect hotlines on
1800 811 811 for women
1800 600 636 for men
1. Research conducted by Deloitte on behalf of the Commonwealth Bank, commbank.com.au/articles/newsroom/2022/02/next-chapter-commitment
2. ASIC, MoneySmart, Financial abuse: signs of a financially abusive person, accessed 21 April 2022, at moneysmart.gov.au/financial-abuse
This content is provided for information purposes only, and the opinions expressed are theirs alone and should not be taken as financial product advice. No responsibility is taken for the accuracy of any of the information supplied and you should seek advice for your circumstances.
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