26 Dec 2016

Financial abuse under the microscope

11:37 am on 26 December 2016

Women's Refuge is launching an online survey to find out the extent and impact of financial abuse on women.

Financial abuse involves one person in a relationship controlling everything to do with the money and the cashflow, giving the other person no say in the economic operations of the household.


Financial abuse can include insisting on receipts for every, single purchase made. Photo: 123RF

Little is known about the extent of the problem.

Women's Refuge chief executive Ang Jury said financial abuse, also known as economic abuse, included tactics within a relationships that revolved around controlling everything to do with the money and cashflow.

"Things like ensuring that the partner has no access to bank accounts. Ensuring that there's only just sufficient money for the household expenses, demanding receipts from absolutely and utterly every purchase that's made.

"Controlling someone's work, controlling their access to employment and their hours and all of those sorts of things. So basically just holding the purse strings in an inflexible and concrete way," she said.

Dr Jury recalled meeting a woman several years ago after she had left a relationship and had to set up new bank accounts.

"She got a cashflow card and she wanted to get some money out with her debit card. I took her to the money machine so she could do that. She got out of the car and went to the machine and she was standing there for ages. I eventually went over there and said, 'what's the problem?' She had no idea how to use a cashflow card, because she had never had one. There were accounts in her name that had cards attached to them, he held those cards, she never got to touch them," she said.

She said the problem was worse for those who came from wealthier households and often they came across woman who had absolutely no idea about the financial situation in their house.

"They don't know where the money is, they don't know how much money is earned. They don't know who owns the property, they are totally in the dark," she said.

Dr Jury said if someone wanted to control somebody there was no better way to do it than to know how much money they are spending, where they are spending it.

But like so many things that can be turned abusive, it's the intent behind the moves.

The project, run in conduction with an Australian University, is designed to find out how widespread the problem is and what it actually means.

Dr Jury said initial research from Australia suggested financial abuse limited people's ability to participate in things like sports, social events and churches and excluded women from their social supports.

"It circumscribes your choices and your ability to participate in society. In things like sports, social events, churches, all of those sorts of things."

Dr Jury said the priority was to find out the extent of the problem and then consider more qualitative research if required.