Economic Abuse Between Intimate Partners

Economic abuse occurs ‘between intimate partners when one controls or manipulates the other person’s access to finances, assets and decision-making to create dependence and control. It is a powerful abuse tactic, which leaves victims financially incapacitated — a major reason why people don’t leave abusive or violent relationships.’ Jozica Kutin.

Jozica Kutin from RMIT University in Melbourne has undertaken significant research on economic abuse. Refer to the full (Report)

It is only recently that the government and domestic and family violence services have had access to data and information specifically on economic abuse.

RMIT University researchers analysed ABS data that identifies, for the first time, the extent of economic abuse in Australia.

The ABS defined economic abuse when a partner:

  1. stopped or tried to stop you knowing about or having access to household money
    2. stopped or tried to stop you from working, earning money, or studying
    3. deprived you of basic necessities (such as food, shelter, sleep, assistive aids)
    4. damaged, destroyed or stole any of your property.

The researchers also included an additional item:

  • stopped or tried to stop you from using the telephone, internet or family car.

Despite these advancements, the ABS data does not include items on debt generation, or being coerced to sign contracts, or be guarantor. The researchers refer to these as common tactics of economic abuse.

However, the ABS did ask respondents if these tactics were used to “prevent or control your behaviour with the intent to cause you emotional harm or fear”. The researchers believe that this caveat is important as economic abuse, like other forms of intimate partner violence, is a pattern of behaviour, which often starts with seemingly innocuous or caring behaviours.

The researchers were also interested in which factors were significantly associated with economic abuse. They found that 63% of women who were experiencing high financial stress and 24% of women who had a disability or long-term health condition had a history of economic abuse, compared to the population average of 15.7%.

The research identifies significant challenges for prevention strategies. Victims are unlikely to see themselves as victims, and are unlikely to identify with domestic violence services or websites unless other forms of abuse are occurring.

Thanks to Women’s Health Network for their work.

Penny Webb, CEO