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'I was financially abused for 3 years. Here are 5 things nobody realises.'
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This post deals with financial abuse and might be triggering for some readers.

Mary* had big plans. 

She wanted to be a lawyer, or a doctor, or perhaps a lollipop lady at a local primary school. 

Some days, she tells Mamamia, she wanted to be someone big and intimidating and be someone to fear. On other days, Mary was sure she'd be happy living in a small cottage on some coastal line, far away from civilisation. 

Mary was sure she could be whatever she wanted. 

Then she met him. 

He was charming, she tells Mamamia. A real go-getter on the outside. Unintimidating. Completely unassuming. They were a perfect match. 

"It was really a perfect meeting story," Mary explains. "He hit on me at a bar. In this era, it feels like everyone is meeting on the apps but the first words we ever spoke to each other were in person. He unsettled me, ruffled my feathers — whatever you want to call it."

She was 19 years old, and he was 27. She was in her first year of studying and he was a manager at a department store. She was in love and believed he was, too.

He doted on Mary, hand and foot, in the first six months of their relationship. He spent hours complimenting her appearance and spending hundreds of dollars at the drop of a hat on her. If she was in a bind, he got her out of it. If she needed anything, he gave it to her. 


When they moved in together, he changed overnight. 

"All of a sudden, it was like I was under surveillance," Mary tells Mamamia. "His initial protective measure was just a mask. He knew what he was doing and me agreeing to move in with him meant he had won."

"I didn't see it coming," she continued. "But what surprised me the most, because I didn't know it existed, was how natural being financially abusive came to him and just how quickly I became a victim-survivor."

Here are 5 things nobody realises about financial abuse.

Mary had to ask permission before spending a single cent. 

When the pair moved in together, Mary says it was like a light switched off because the abuse began immediately. 

"I couldn't drive and we lived far away from my loved ones so I was alone unless he was around," she says. "Even my phone plan was cut off until he paid it — which was rarely." 

She was also forced to quit her part-time job when he refused to drive her.

"I had no money, and I didn't know how to access financial support from the government," she explains. "I was completely, utterly alone. If I wanted to buy food, he would give me a very specific budget and demand a receipt. Every dollar had to go back to him."

Mary says he played mind games as well and often would calculate how much food she ate or how much toilet paper she used. He used his money as a way to guide her into submission. 


"He knew my bank account details and would check it constantly so friends couldn't even send me money so I could order food," she said. "I was trapped in his games."

Mary needed help, she tells Mamamia, but didn't know who to turn to. Her relationships with loved ones had become fragile and she wasn't convinced Domestic Violence services could assist her.

Back then, she didn't know about, an organisation that provides online resources for victim-survivors in situations just like hers. offers victim-survivors a free four-step plan that arms them with the knowledge to rebuild their financial independence – from accessing monetary grants from the government to protecting their bank accounts and passwords. It's a resource that came about after a conversation between founder Lyn Beazley (former West Australian of the Year), and Rosie Batty, Australian domestic violence campaigner, whose 11-year-old son Luke Batty was murdered by his father. 

"I thought that perhaps no one could help me," Mary tells Mamamia. "I thought no one could ever understand. I didn't know this is a very common tactic abusers use to gain control over their partner."

Mary was cut off from those she loved very much. 

"We lived a 20-minute drive from the closest train station and I didn't even have a bank card connected to my phone or in my possession to jump on a bus," Mary tells Mamamia. "I couldn't leave the house or grab groceries without him and if I did, it was because he wanted to let me believe I had power and independence before he took it from me again." 


Mary's two siblings lost contact with her quickly, despite being incredibly close. The life she knew of being in constant contact with her parents was stripped from her too and her budding social life became naught. 

"My friends dried up and he said it was because they were never my real friends to begin with," Mary recalls. "I didn't realise it was all his doing. They stopped texting because their numbers were blocked or he would get to my phone and delete them."

She says his control extended to such intense trickery that she would question if his control over her was something she had actually asked for.

"He would say, 'Baby I want you to be able to do things on your own without having to rely on me,' as if I chose the life I had. Like I wanted him to be my saviour or something," she recalls. "It feels difficult to talk about just how much his control scared me without realising it. I had never encountered anything like it in my life."

Image: Getty. 


Mary found it almost impossible to leave him because of the control he had over her finances. 

When they'd argue, Mary recalls, he would cut off their subscriptions, phone plan and wireless internet. All she had were books. 

"I remember the last time he cut my phone off, and I just crumpled onto the floor," she tells Mamamia. "It was like every emotion I had held inside of me finally unleashed and I realised how desperately I needed to get out. I felt so guilty... like it was my fault." 

When her phone was eventually restored, she got back into contact with a distant cousin and begged them to ring her. Then, she told them everything and hours later, she was being driven away with nothing but a small bag. 


"I left my phone on the dining table because I didn't want him to track me but I took my phone charger," she recalls. "I took underwear but not socks. I had shorts but no pants and it was in the middle of winter. I rushed to pack anything I could because I was so scared he'd be home early."

Mary had turned 20, just three days before she left her abuser. 

She wishes, she tells Mamamia, that she knew about's four-step plan that could have assisted her in getting access to "get out money" from Centrelink and MyGov. 

"I had no idea support was available from the government," she recalls of the early days. "I didn't have a single cent to my name when I left."

After returning home to her family, she was able to safeguard her bank accounts and find financial support through researching online. Since following a safety plan that ensured he could never have access to her again, Mary has a full-time job and next year, she plans to study. 

Mary didn't realise how important financial independence is.

Now at 25 years old, Mary admits she still feels like she is learning about how "difficult" her situation really was. 

"I can't imagine what life would have been like if I stayed," she says. "I still have panic attacks. I had people surrounding me every day before him. My family had warned me about physical and emotional abuse but not financial abuse. I didn't know how crippling life could be when you are in that situation."


She continues, "Some days I want to blame myself and some days, I look in the mirror and want to break it. I'm still unlearning all of the ways I learnt to survive under his thumb."

Still, Mary says she sometimes feels grateful to have been "thrown a curveball" because now she helps her friends and other young women who have the potential to become a victim-survivor like her.

"A few months ago, a girl was telling me how she shares a bank account with her boyfriend of three years and I wanted to cry," she recalls. "She was so, like, completely unaware — just like I was. We talked for hours. Without me telling her, she realised that their joint finances were becoming problematic. We still talk all the time."

The source of this article is known to Mamamia, but her identity has been omitted for privacy reasons. is a free online guide on money matters, personal safety and support services. Visit when it is safe to do so.

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home. You can also visit White Ribbon Australia to find support services in your state.

Feature Image: Getty. is a free online step-by-step guide about recovering from or facing family and domestic violence. Whatever stage of your journey, provides 4 steps to an empowered physical, emotional and financial wellbeing.