Mamamia has launched a new campaign called #ItWasInvisible to shine a light on the unseen stories and signs of financial abuse, along with finance and community partners.
This article contains references to domestic abuse and may be triggering for some readers. If you or someone you know is affected by domestic violence, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732).
The feature image used is a stock photo.
Emily* still remembers the day she bought the blue dress.
She had just lost her baby weight, and hadn’t spent any money on herself in a long time, when she came across the dress on a sales rack.
She was excited to have picked up such a good bargain; a beautiful maxi dress for everyday wear. At the time she was a married woman, with kids of her own, but Emily was still wearing a lot of the same clothes she wore as a teenager, living under her parents’ roof.
When she arrived home and showed the dress to her husband, his response was swift and brutal.
Emily is just one of thousands of people who have experienced domestic and financial abuse.
“I came home and I showed it to him and he was so angry,” she told Mamamia. “He told me I had to return it and I told him I couldn’t. So, he took the dress to the shop and abused the sales lady.”
When the saleswoman explained to Emily’s now ex-husband that she couldn’t give him a refund for a sales item, he threatened to attack the store manager’s car.
“You see that car outside? Do you think your manager would be more upset if you gave me $100 or if I demolished that car?” he asked.
“So that’s how he got his money back and I didn’t get the dress in the end,” Emily explained.
Emily was just 19 when she got married. She was studying graphic design at the time, but her new husband quickly convinced her to give up her studies.
“The first thing that happened – which I didn’t even recognise as abuse – he told me to quit my studies,” she explained. “I was studying graphic design and his exact words to me were ‘I will provide, you will not have to work a day in your life’.”
As a 19-year-old TAFE student, going straight from her parents’ home to her father-in-law’s house, Emily said this seemed too good to be true. At that age, she says, you’re not thinking about your future, about savings and superannuation, about the fact that one day you may have to escape your current situation.
Emily’s husband set them up with a joint account and she was given a weekly allowance. As they went on to have three kids together, that allowance did not increase.
“I still had to cover the childcare service with it, and whatever food we needed, and whatever clothes they needed,” she explained.
Emily found that asking for any extra money would just lead to an argument, so she would spend less and less on herself to be able to cover the kids’ expenses.
“For childcare I had to pay cash. So I would take a little more than what I needed and put that aside for little bits and pieces here and there,” she said.