Financial abuse — the act of controlling a person’s access to economic resources — is understood to be a particularly ‘hidden’ tactic used in the context of domestic violence (DV).
While we know that financial abuse is present in almost every case of DV, victims often don’t recognise the signs until after they’ve left the relationship. Behaviours like restricting access to money and making major financial decisions without any consultation can seem acceptable, and might even appear to come under the guise of an intimate partner being ‘caring’. But money is one of the biggest barriers to people leaving violent relationships, and when it’s being used as a tactic of abuse, it can take years or even decades to recover.
Despite the prevalence and severe toll of financial abuse, we’re only just starting to understand what it looks like and the impact it has on victims.
On Thursday, the Commonwealth Bank announced a new acceptable use policy for its digital banking services, after discovering abusive messages in transaction descriptions.
“After noticing disturbing messages in the account of a customer experiencing domestic and family violence, we conducted analysis to better understand the problem,” said Catherine Fitzpatrick, General Manager of Community and Customer Vulnerability.
“We were horrified by both the scale and the nature of what we found. In a three month period, we identified more than 8,000 CBA customers who received multiple low-value deposits, often less than $1, with potentially abusive messages in the transaction descriptions – in effect using them as a messaging service. All genders were sending and receiving these messages, but the nature ranged from fairly innocuous ‘jokes’ using profanities to serious threats and clear references to domestic and family violence.”