ONE in three Australian women experience family violence – and financial abuse is present in many of those cases.
Nanjing Night Net

According to research officer with the WIRE Women’s Information service Prue Cameron, financial abuse can take many forms and “because it isshrouded in gender stereotypes, such as men are better money managers than women or women are spendthrifts and shopaholics, and also the very powerful social belief that money matters are private, it is often invisible and unrecognised even by the women who are experiencing it’’.

Financial abuse has been recognised as a form of family violence in Victorian law since 2008, yet often goes unrecognised

Financial abusein an intimate relationship happens when one partner, usually the male, insists on controlling the household finances and monitors his partner’s spending.

It is considered abuse when your partner prevents you from working or studying – or doing things which would create financial independence.

“Compelling a woman to put all her income into a joint bank account, often saying that to do otherwise means she doesn’t love and respect him or isn’t committed to the relationship is another example,’’ Prue said.

“It can be when a woman is restricted or prevented from using the family car; or it may be that the partner keeps all their financial affairs a secret.

“On the other hand, the partner might take out loans and run up debts in his partner’s name, refuses to contribute to household expenses or child care or puts the woman’s name on all the utility bills.

“In some circumstances a partner might make his partner do things for money against her will, such as forcing her to commit social security fraud.

“The one thing that is always present is that money, or the household finances and assets are used as a means to control the woman and exert powerover her.’’

Ms Cameron says the impact of financial abuse can be financial insecurity and often poverty and homelessness.

“As well as having lost any control over their finances during the years of their relationship, these women have been told repeatedly that they are hopeless with money, that they are stupid, that they wouldn’t understand or be capable of managing financial matters,’’ she says.

“This means that when their relationship ends, not only are they often left with nothing but debts, difficulty finding a job because they may have been out of the workforce for years but also a profound loss of confidence in themselves.

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CONTROL: The impact of financial abuse can be financial insecurity and often poverty and homelessness.

“We are also seeing in our research that these women are often disadvantaged in property settlement and legal processes, particularly if their ex-partner has the resources to pay for legal costs, they can be dragged through the courts for years, which further impoverishes them.

“Because their limited resources are quickly exhausted through the costly legal processes, many women forgo their chance for a fair financial settlement from their relationship – sometimes ending up with no home, little money in the bank, debts accrued in their name, responsibility for the children and the psychological trauma of an abusive relationship to deal with.

“All this has a huge impact on their financial security for the rest of their lives. Of course, many women simply avoid pursuing a financial settlement because they are afraid of their ex-partner or they may just want the whole experience to be over.

“It is important to breakdown the cultural stereotypes and myths that allow this form of abuse to be perpetuated – the gendered myths that say men are better with money than women or that it is not socially acceptable to talk about your financial affairs with friends, colleagues or service providers or even other family members for that matter.’’

MS Cameron is holding a focus group inBendigoon Wednesday for women who have experienced financial abuse to share their stories. The focus group will be held at18 Forest StBendigofrom 10.30 until12.30. It is an opportunity for women to learn from the experiences of others and by telling their own story, and help other women who are experiencing financial abuse. Phone Vashti on 1800 884 038 or Prue on 9348 9416 (Option 9)

The aim ofWIRE’s research project is to increase understanding about the impact of financial abuse and particularly to find out what type of information, support services and advice women need when they are leaving or thinking of leaving a financially abusive relationship.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.