Financial abuse is when someone takes control of your money, stops you from being financially independent or earning your own money.
Financial abuse is a systematic behaviour where one person tries to control another person’s access to money and often occurs between partners. Financial abuse is a form of family violence and can be present with other forms of abuse like physical or emotional abuse, but can also be present without these other behaviours.
There are a lot of different ways someone can be financially abusive, and sometimes it might not be very obvious. Some forms of financial abuse may even seem like displays of affection initially, like your partner offering to take control of the finances to take the pressure off you, but are really an attempt to control your access to money.
Financial abuse can occur throughout a relationship, or may begin after you and your partner have split up through things like property settlement and child support processes.
Financially abusive behaviours include:
Controlling your money:
Taking control of your finances (e.g. being in charge of all the household income and paying you an allowance).
Controlling how all of the household income is spent.
Forcing you to claim social security benefits like Centrelink.
Making you go guarantor on a loan or take a loan out in your name.
Making you take out a second credit card.
Forcing you to work in a family business without being paid.
Filing fraudulent insurance claims.
Stopping you from earning:
Stopping you from getting a job or going to work.
Stopping you from going to work or important meetings by keeping you up all night or physically hurting you.
- Stopping you from studying.
Limiting your access to money:
Not giving you access to bank accounts.
- Denying you access to money so you can’t afford basic expenses like food or medicine.
- Destroying or damaging or stealing your property.
Racking up debt on shared accounts or joint credit cards.
Withholding financial support like child support payments.
Refusing to work or contribute anything to the household income.
- Gambling away your money or shared money.
Financial abuse can have a huge impact on your life, both emotionally and financially. If you’re experiencing financial abuse it’s important to remember it’s not your fault. No one has the right to control your money, even if you’re in a relationship with them.
What are the warning signs?
So how do you know if your relationship is financially abusive? Here are some warning signs to look out for.
Your partner might be abusive if they:
want to join finances early in your relationship.
are pressuring you to get a joint bank account or second credit card.
want you to go guarantor on a loan you don’t really know much about.
react badly when you try to talk to them about money, making you scared to bring it up.
do things that stop you from going to work.
want you to give up your job.
stalk or harass you or your colleagues at work.
forge your signature for financial documents.
Where can you get help?
If you think you might be in a financially abusive relationship it might be a good idea to start looking for help and support.
Talking to someone you trust could be a good start, whether that’s a friend, relative, a counsellor or psychologist. There are also a number of organisations that may be able to help you.
1800 RESPECT is a national counselling helpline for women who have experienced family violence or sexual assault. Their support line is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Relationships Australia is a leading provider of relationship support services for individuals, families and communities. They aim to support all people in Australia to achieve positive and respectful relationships.
Financial counsellors are non-judgmental, qualified professionals who provide information, support and advocacy to people in financial difficulty. Working in community organisations, their services are free, independent and confidential. Take a look at the Financial Counselling Australia website to find a financial counsellor near you.
If the abuse is affecting your mental health you may be eligible for a Mental Health Care Plan which gives you access to up to 10 sessions with a psychologist at a rebated rate. Mental health care plans are for people with mental health issues who have several healthcare professionals working with them.
A care plan explains the support provided by each of those professionals and when treatment should be provided. If you think a care plan could be helpful for you, make an appointment with a GP to discuss whether or not you are eligible. When you book the appointment let them know you want a care plan because you'll need a longer appointment than usual.
Living with financial abuse
Coping with financial abuse can be really tough, and sometimes you can be so caught up with everything going on that you can forget to look after yourself. So try to remember to take some time out to do something you enjoy. It might seem like your last priority but taking time for yourself can really help when you're trying to cope with something serious like financial abuse.