How does Money Play a Role in Family Violence?

Economic abuse

When we talk about finances in relationships, we often think about whose money is whose, who makes the decisions, and how it is spent. Healthy financial partnerships require good communication, a level of equality, respect, negotiation and shared goals. Without regular financial conversations about how money and resources will be used, spending can become individualized and one partner’s wants and needs can start to take precedence. Over time this can lead to behaviours that restrict, control and exclude the other person’s choices, and access to financial and economic resources. Before they realise what has happened, what might have begun as a normal financial argument, descends quickly into economic abuse.

Economic abuse is considered to be a form of psychological harm in the Family Violence Act, but stretches way beyond the mind, into the realm of everyday life, for many families. For those who know little of economic abuse, it might be imagined that it simply affects a person’s access to money and meeting their basic needs. However, the reality is it can be as complex as family violence itself, and for many, remains an invisible parasite that infects all areas of their lives, including future opportunities.

The controlling behaviours that inflict this harm often feel inescapable, creating hostile environments that can lead to poverty, debilitating debt and damaged relationships. Social isolation can also occur, along with unwanted reliance on social services, shattered trust and confidence, other forms of violence, and in some cases serious mental health issues. The impact can be vast and far reaching, significantly limiting employment, housing and other future options, including the restriction of normal social and developmental opportunities children need growing up.

In a society where money is a necessity, for some families the economic and financial harm they experience not only occurs within their home environment but can continue externally from the very system they rely on and are encouraged to access for support.

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