How money impacts the domestic violence crisis

by Verve

Content warning: abuse, self harm. 

Enough is enough – that was the message from the tens of thousands who gathered to protest the needless deaths of dozens of women this year alone. 

While it was heartening to see so many turn out in solidarity, the fact that intimate partner violence continues to take so many lives understandably provokes rage. 

The number of deaths of women at the hands of their partners, this year alone, now stands at 27. The figure is almost double when compared to the same time last year. 

One protester at the Perth rally, quoted by the ABC, summed it up perfectly: “I’ve been at these sort of marches for 50 years … and I’m sick to death of the death and harm from men.” 

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese described the situation as a “crisis”, acknowledging that one woman a week dies at the hands of someone they know or someone they are in a relationship with. 

“We need to focus on the perpetrators and focus on prevention,” Albanese said at the Canberra protest.

Payments for those leaving violence 

In an acknowledgement of the link between financial insecurity and family violence, the government announced a new payment to help women leave a violent partner. 

The Leaving Violence Program will see $925.2 million over five years committed so that those escaping violence can receive financial support, safety assessments and referrals to support pathways.

Those eligible will be able to access up to $5,000 in financial support along with referral services, risk assessments and safety planning.

The link between money and abuse 

It’s a start. Coercive control, including financial abuse, is said to occur in 99% of domestic violence cases.

The Leaving Violence Program is also a big step up from the 2021 proposal to let those experiencing family violence access their super early. 

As the Centre for Women’s Economic Security pointed out at the time, women leaving domestic abuse deserve a better safety net than raiding their own retirement savings. 

Perpetrators profiting from abuse in the case of DV 

As a super fund, we’re particularly disturbed by the knowledge that perpetrators are in many cases likely to be profiting from their abuse.

Multiple studies have now linked rates of suicide among women and children to domestic violence. 

For instance, a 2017 study in WA, demonstrated that in close to three out of five suicides by women and children, the deceased person was known to police as victims of domestic violence. The actual rate is likely even higher as many domestic violence cases, of course, go unreported.

Disturbingly, we know that in the case of suicide the most likely beneficiary of someone’s superannuation is their partner. That means that perpetrators are likely often financially benefiting from their violence. 

The strict laws relating to who can be a superannuation beneficiary mean that in many cases, even if the victim of domestic violence has informed their super fund that they want someone else to receive their funds, funds may still be given to the perpetrator.

In Australia, there are laws preventing someone from inheriting or profiting from someone’s death if they caused it. But this doesn’t apply to cases where someone has been driven to suicide. A recent push to have police label three suicides as domestic violence related deaths instead could be one possible solution, however, this is not current practice. 

It’s clearly time for beneficiary legislation to be reviewed and to stop perpetrators benefiting from their violence.

If you think you or anyone you know may be experiencing domestic violence, help is available. Please reach out to 1800RESPECT, a 24-hour free helpline, on 1800 737 732. 

If you or anyone you know are experiencing thoughts of self harm or suicide please call Lifeline on 13 11 14, or text 0477 13 11 14, for free and confidential support. Beyond Blue can also assist you with mental health resources, you can reach out to them on 1300 224 636. 

To access free financial counselling, reach out to Financial Counselling Australia on 1800 007 007.

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