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Relationship problems and money: women talk about financial abuse

26 Aug 2014

Examines the barriers women face to building their financial independence and long-term security post-separation.


Women’s financial hardship and insecurity, caused by financial abuse in the context of family violence, is a serious concern, particularly considering the increasing feminisation of poverty in Australia. Financial abuse in intimate relationships is widespread and common, but because this form of abuse is deeply embedded in a complex web of social, gendered and personal beliefs and norms, it is often hidden and unrecognised, even by women who experience it. Financial abuse involves behaviours that ‘control a woman’s ability to acquire, use and maintain economic resources, threatening her economic security and potential for self-sufficiency’.

This project is driven by the need to better understand and address the serious and ongoing consequences of financial abuse in the lives of women and their children. In particular, it examines the barriers women face to building their financial independence and long-term security post-separation. More than two hundred women from across the social, cultural and income spectrum shared their stories in focus groups, interviews and an online survey for this project. They have provided rich and detailed insights into the nature and impacts of financial abuse, within their relationship and after separation. The report draws extensively on their direct accounts. The research literature shows that the majority of women (80–90 per cent) seeking support from domestic violence services have experienced financial abuse. Unlike previous research, this project intentionally included women who had not accessed these services and did not necessarily identify as experiencing family violence. This research further adds to our understanding about this issue through the inclusion of women whose household income was in a high bracket prior to their separation. This has resulted in insights into the hidden nature and diverse impacts of financial abuse on women’s lives.

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