Financial violence can happen to wealthy people, to people living comfortably and to very poor people. It has nothing to do with how much money is available, it’s about how money is used to control someone. A study by RMIT estimated that at least 16% of women and 7% of men in Australia were aware of having experienced financial violence.
Violence is not just physical assault. Violence is about power. That Andrew didn’t hit Emma does not mean he wasn’t violent, it just means he used financial and emotional violence to exert power over her. The result was the same. Emma was frightened, isolated, trapped in a relationship she wanted to leave and will spend years trying to recover.
Help is available to people suffering financial violence. The royal commission into family violence recognised the dangers of economic abuse and made recommendations to address it. Banks, essential services and financial advisers are doing more to support their employees to recognise and act on the signs, and improve how they respond to debts accrued in the context of family violence. But the most important step is for the victim themselves to understand it as abuse.