Media Release: The hidden abuse that even victims don’t know about (Mon 28/10/13)
Research to help women make informed financial decisions after separation
When Jane* got married, she had some savings, a job and a car. After her marriage broke down some years later, Jane was left with nothing. Nadia* fled from family violence with only the clothes on her back. She just wanted to feel safe, get away and start again, but soon realised that without any money, it was hard to start a new life. Allie’s* ex-partner never hit her, but she had to account for every cent she spent and is now left with his debts.
*Names changed to protect women’s privacy and confidentiality.
Like Nadia, Jane and Allie, many women (and their children) leaving abusive relationships face immediate and prolonged financial hardship, especially when they don’t seek their fair share of assets from the relationship when they leave and in subsequent court proceedings.
“We know many women leave with nothing and may even have debts accrued in their name by their former partner,” WIRE Women’s Information researcher Prue Cameron said.
In Victoria, financial abuse has been legally recognised as a form of family violence since 2008, yet there is little awareness or understanding of the issue.
“Financial abuse affects women of all ages, walks of life, and social and cultural backgrounds,” said Ms Cameron. “Yet so many women live with it without recognising it as abuse.”
WIRE Women’s Information is undertaking research into how financial abuse affects women’s financial and legal decisions after separation.
“This research will help us to understand what information and support women need to help them make the best decisions for their financial future,” said Ms Cameron.
As part of the research, women with experience of financial abuse are invited to share their stories in a focus group discussion. Focus groups will be held in November at WIRE on 372 Spencer Street, West Melbourne. For details visit www.wire.org.au/shareyourstory/ or call Prue Cameron on 9348 9416 (Option 9).
What is financial abuse?
Financial abuse can occur with other forms of family violence or it may the main form of abuse. “Financial abuse can take many forms. A partner may control all household finances and preventing a woman accessing bank accounts or credit cards, or stop her working or studying to curtail her financial independence,” said Ms Cameron. “It might be that all the household bills are in the woman’s name but property titles or bank accounts are in the man’s name.”
“While financial abuse is widespread, it is largely hidden due to persistent gender stereotypes about managing money and cultural norms where money matters are private,” Ms Cameron explained.
One in three women in Australia experience family violence in their lifetime, which costs Australia $8 billion a year[i]. Financial abuse occurs in at least 50 per cent[ii] of family violence – conservatively this means 1.86 million Australian women have experienced financial abuse.
[i] Campbell, R (2011) The financial cost of domestic and family violence Australian Domestic & Family Violence Clearinghouse July 2011 http://www.adfvc.unsw.edu.au/PDF%20files/Fast_Facts_3.pdf
[ii] Corrie, T & McGuire M (2013) Economic Abuse: Searching for Solutions Good Shepherd Youth & Family Service and Uniting Care Kildonan, North Collingwood
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