Financial control and abuse in relationships is still an area we aren’t talking enough about

by Verve

This article contains material that is sometimes confronting and disturbing. Sometimes words or images can cause sadness or distress, or trigger traumatic memories for people, particularly survivors of abuse, violence or trauma.

For some people, these responses can be overwhelming. If you need to talk to someone, support is available. Call 1800 Respect on 1800 737 732


A few months back, I was waiting in the checkout line at Myer behind an older couple, when, mid purchase, the husband began harshly berating his wife for wasteful purchasing.

It was rattling, but it was the comment of the sales assistant a few minutes later that really threw me: giving a little wink, she whispered “don’t worry, we see that sort of thing all the time”.

This past month we marked the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on the 25th of November.

We’ve made so much progress in the past decade to better understand gender based violence. But the words of that shop assistant ring in my ears today, reminding me that financial control and abuse in relationships is still an area that we aren’t talking enough about and that as a society we don’t fully understand – a form of cohesive control that in its own right is illegal across most of Australia (not yet in NSW) and also often a precursor to other forms of violence.

Seeing someone being publicly shamed about their spending shouldn’t be ‘normal’, it should be something that worries us all

Yet, often it’s the most frequent forms of cultural violence that are normalised, and therefore don’t attract our attention as they should. A 2020 report revealed that more than 600,000 Australians experienced financial abuse over the past 12-months.^

At least one in thirty women have experienced financial abuse in 2020, and it is reported to have cost victims $5.7 billion that year. ^

^ Deloitte / CBA The cost of financial abuse in Australia report 2022

Part of ending the scourge of cohesive control including financial abuse, and the violent patriarchy that causes it, is actually being able to identify the full spectrum of what abuse looks like – so that we can call it out, and label it for what it is.

Coercive control including financial abuse is a silent type of abuse and is said to occur in 99% of domestic violence cases

Emotional abuse usually accompanies financial abuse in a context where the impact of financial abuse is often so devastating that victims are left feeling inadequate and unsure about themselves. Signs of financial abuse include tactics used making the victim feel isolated and financially dependent, which leaves them feeling trapped in the relationship.

We’ve written a full blog on financial abuse behaviours, but some of the high-level signs include when someone:

  • controls your access to money or requests that ask permission to spend your own money. This can include failing to provide adequate cash to cover living costs or the costs of caring for children or others.
  • uses your money without your knowledge or consent.
  • signs legal documents on your behalf or forces you to sign docs you don’t understand – including taking on loans or debt.
  • hurts, threatens or punishes you, including making you feel stupid or that you can’t be trusted with money.

With the issue of violence against women and children in this country at unacceptable levels, it’s time to act if Australia is to improve its current rank of 43 out of 156 countries in the World Economic Forum gender gap analysis.

This blog is published by Verve Superannuation Pty Ltd (ABN 65 628 675 169, AFS Representative No. 001268903), which is a Corporate Authorised Representative of True Oak Investments Ltd (ABN 81 002 558 956, AFSL 238184).

Verve Superannuation Pty Ltd and True Oak Investments Ltd are not licensed to provide personal financial advice. The information contained in this blog, including any financial guidance, is general in nature. You should consider seeking independent legal, financial, taxation or other advice to ensure that your financial decisions are suited to your unique circumstances.

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