finance

'I speak to survivors of financial abuse every day. This is what I want you to know.'

COMMONWEALTH BANK
Thanks to our brand partner, COMMONWEALTH BANK

When it comes to financial abuse, there are several misconceptions.

The misconception that women are not as financially skilled as men. That survivors of financial abuse don’t earn as much money as their partner does, and therefore should be grateful that their partner is managing their money. That it is normal for one person in a relationship to care less about money. That it is easy to leave. 

Whilst these may be true in some relationships, it is not true for the vast majority of people who are suffering from financial abuse, according to Suzanne Panecki, a Senior Practitioner Financial Coach at Good Shepherd's Financial Independence Hub, delivered in partnership with Commonwealth Bank.

Another misconception, she says, is that abuse is, to some degree, normal in a relationship. 

“I think the lack of awareness around financial abuse and other forms of violence is still very hidden in society.”

The consequence of the lack of education can lead to the normalisation of inexcusable behaviour. 

There is a misconception that women are not as financially skilled as men. Image: Getty.  

Financial abuse is an insidious form of domestic and family violence. It is a pervasive form of domestic and family violence. In fact, research suggests that up to 90 per cent of people who seek help for domestic and family violence are affected by financial abuse. 

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But despite the prevalence, it can be difficult to recognise and identify. Panecki says the line between a healthy money relationship with your partner and an abusive one is crucial to know - not only to protect yourself, but also to recognise the signs in others.

So, what exactly are some of the signs of economic and financial abuse? 

  • Controlling access to someone's bank account - including limiting someone's spending, limiting their ability to access shared funds or to access their own funds (financial abuse)
  • Getting a partners' salaries paid into the perpetrator's accounts so the perpetrator controls their partner's money and income (financial abuse)
  • Taking out loans and debt in a partner’s name without them knowing (financial abuse) 
  • Controlling someone’s spending - including not allowing a person access to credit cards, or giving a person a really limited and restricted amount of money for themselves (financial abuse)
  • Not allowing someone to work or earn an income (economic abuse)
  • Not allowing someone to study (economic abuse)
  • Sabotaging their employment and education opportunities (economic abuse)

Panecki has dedicated her career to helping survivors of financial abuse. Every day, she speaks on the phone to survivors who have sought the help offered through the Financial Independence Hub. From speaking to those who have been left with nothing, she has noticed common trends in their experiences with financial abuse. 

She says it is common for financial abuse to start subtly and for there to be a slow progression to more serious forms of abuse. Once the signs are impossible to ignore, it can be extremely hard to leave, she says. 

“It takes a long time to recognise the signs. And then often when people think about leaving, that's when it's become so serious. It's a risk that someone takes when they leave.

“Often they're left without housing, finances, relationships, friendships that can support them to leave.”


Video via Mamamia.

So what can people do to protect themselves from financial abuse, before it has started?

“The number one tip would be to for everyone to be aware of what financial abuse is, what the signs are, what it looks like, the nature of it, and the difference between a healthy and respectful money relationship and an abusive one."

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Panecki adds there are three key principles for healthy money relationships. They are: ability to share, transparency and having an equal voice in your relationship.

For those who have found themselves in a financially abusive relationship, there are, of course, ways to move forward.

“The first step would be to focus on contacting a professional service in the domestic violence field to help maximise their safety and to access appropriate support, and to make sure that they have something like a safety plan in place so that if they are thinking about leaving, they do have the supports in place so they are safe when they are going to leave 

“The professionals will link the person to other services like housing and other services that will meet their essential needs that will help them with holistic support and care.”

One of the services available is the Financial Independence Hub delivered by Good Shepherd and funded by the Commonwealth Bank which provides tailored support for all survivors of financial abuse, regardless of who they bank with. 

The service is designed by people who have previously experienced financial abuse as a result of domestic and family violence, with the purpose of providing support for survivors of financial abuse to achieve long-term financial independence. 

"The hub service is completely free and offers a range of support to people all across Australia," Panecki says.

“If a person is on their recovery journey, they can access our Financial Independence Hub to focus on their long term financial recovery, to help provide specialist support to people, to build their confidence and capability in managing their own finances, including one-on-one coaching sessions. And we can also support assistance and referrals to various other support services.”

Starting from scratch is difficult, Panecki says, but also completely achievable. 

If you are experiencing domestic violence, please know that support is available. Call the National Sexual Assault and Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service, 1800 RESPECT, on 1800 737 732. If you are in immediate danger, call 000.

Feature image: Getty

COMMONWEALTH BANK
Through the CommBank Next Chapter initiative, the bank has partnered with Good Shepherd, a leader in financial inclusion products and services, to launch the Financial Independence Hub. The hub offers a tailored financial coaching program to help people impacted by domestic and financial abuse establish a pathway to long-term financial recovery – regardless of who they bank with.