Research indicates that financial abuse is experienced in 98% of abusive relationships, and surveys of survivors reflect that concerns over their ability to provide financially for themselves and their children as one of the top reasons for staying in, or returning to, a violent or abusive relationship¹.
People’s Choice is one of Australia’s largest credit unions with more than 345,000 members across Australia and 1,100 employees. People’s Choice Credit Union has joined other employers in Australia supporting White Ribbon’s Workplace Accreditation Program – the world’s largest male-led movement to end men’s violence against women.
In support of this commitment, People’s Choice is undertaking a thorough review of its policies, procedures, training and communications to identify opportunities to empower and support all staff to prevent and respond to the issue of violence against women.
“We have to change the attitudes that allow violence against women to take place, and education about financial abuse is an important place to start,” said Steve Laidlaw, People’s Choice Chief Executive Officer.
“By taking control of all aspects of a person’s finances, an abuser can effectively trap someone in an abusive relationship – giving them no way to support themselves or their children if they leave,” he said.
“In the short term, access to assets is imperative to staying safe for victims of domestic violence, financial or otherwise. Without assets, victims are often unable to find safe and affordable housing or to provide for themselves and their children. In the long term, victims often face damaged credit histories, unstable or sporadic employment and legal issues that make it difficult to gain independence, safety and security.”
“Domestic violence is happening to one in three Australian women. We have to face this reality and take positive steps to change it. We believe change begins with education, so we’re sharing some of the common ways in which an abuser may control someone through financial abuse.”
Five signs of financial abuse
1. Limiting spending decisions
Abusers often control family finances by monitoring purchases and demanding they authorise when, where and how all money is spent. Often a first sign of financial abuse, this subtle or overt control of a victim’s spending is an indication of controlling behaviour that is a hallmark of domestic violence.
2. Restricting access to funds
Not allowing someone to have bank accounts or credit cards, not including them in investment or banking decisions, hiding assets and running up large amounts of debt on joint accounts all limit the financial freedom of a victim. By the time she attempts to take back control of her finances, a victim may find that the accounts have all been moved, or she no longer has knowledge of, or access to, the family funds.
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. Further control is gained by providing a meagre ‘allowance’ for the victim, rather than access to funds.
4. Invasion of personal privacy and security
Gaining access to savings accounts, insurance policies and the like allows an abuser to gain control over the life of their victim. This can quickly escalate to illegal activity with lasting effects for the victim such as identity theft, theft of property or inheritances, filing of fraudulent tax returns and false insurance claims, and refusal to pay bills and other behaviour which could have permanent effects on their credit history.
5. Controlling income
Abusers commonly use violence or intimidation to keep someone from working, earning an income and having their independence. Sabotaging work or employment opportunities by stalking or harassing the victim at the workplace, causing a victim to lose their job, physically or otherwise abusing a victim before important meetings or interviews, forbidding a victim to attend training or preventing them from access to advancement opportunities all diminish a victim’s freedom and keep them under an abuser’s control.
If you or someone you know is impacted 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.
1. National Network to End Domestic Violence – http://nnedv.org/resources/ejresources/about-financial-abuse.html