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The complex link between gambling and family violence.

Each week in Australia, an average of one woman is killed and around 50 are hospitalised after being assaulted by a current or former partner. In fact, intimate partner violence is the greatest contributor to the burden of disease for women aged 25-44, more so than smoking, alcohol and obesity. These alarming facts were revealed by the Australian Institute for Health and Welfare earlier this year.

While gender inequality and disrespect for women are at the core of violence against women, gambling can increase the frequency and severity of this violence. People with gambling problems are more than twice as likely as people without gambling problems to be victims and perpetrators of family violence. Most victims are women, and most perpetrators are a current or former male partner.

The Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence noted that the complex links between gambling and domestic violence are not well understood. However, some insights were provided by the dozens of related submissions they received.

These submissions indicated that violent episodes can accompany a perpetrator’s anger and frustration over their own gambling losses, with their gambling wins and losses sometimes defining the overall climate of fear in the household.

Domestic violence can also accompany a victim’s gambling where the perpetrator acts on accumulated anger about the gambling behaviour and associated stressors, sometimes shifting the blame for their violence onto their partner’s gambling.

Women sometimes gamble to cope with past or current trauma related to family violence. Gambling can provide an emotional escape from problems, as well as a physical escape to venues where they can avoid a perpetrator’s abuse.

Women also report being victims of financial abuse linked to their partner’s gambling, often involving coercive and controlling behaviours to secure household money for gambling. Partners may steal from the woman, spend her earnings in full, use her credit card without permission, squander savings, sell assets, and take out loans and redraws on the mortgage without her knowledge. The effects of this financial abuse can lead to enduring financial hardship.

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The need to better understand the relationships between gambling and domestic violence against women has been recognised by Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety. ANROWS has funded a study currently being conducted by CQUniversity, in collaboration with the Queensland Centre for Domestic and Family Violence Research and the Australian Institute for Family Studies. The study aims to improve support services for women affected by gambling-related domestic violence.

The researchers are keen to interview women who have experienced physical, emotional, verbal, sexual or financial abuse linked to their own or a former or current male partner’s gambling. They would also like to interview women who have gambled to cope with past or current abuse, or have used gambling venues as “safe” spaces to escape from a partner’s abuse. Interviews are confidential and will be conducted by phone.

To find out more and register your participation please contact CQUniversity via the project website, www.cqustudy.com, email at [email protected], phone on 03 9616 0512 or text on 0488 824 624.

Nerilee Hing is a Professor at CQUniversity.

Participants will be compensated for their time with a $40 shopping voucher. All participants must have engaged with a support service, e.g. DV, gambling help, financial counselling, telephone or online support service, or other health practitioner.

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