Couple sat arguing about money

Understanding financial abuse

Domestic and family violence can take many forms – it can include many different types of behaviour (emotional, physical, sexual, spiritual, verbal). One form of domestic violence which is often overlooked is financial abuse (also known as economic abuse).

Financial abuse can leave victims isolated and anxious, limiting their independence and their ability to effectively parent or look after basic needs.


Some forms and signs of financial abuse

  • Prevented from working
  • Prevented from studying
  • Made to account for all spending
  • Denied access to financial information and account details
  • Excluded from financial decision making
  • Provided an inadequate or small ‘allowance’
  • Coerced into signing documents or making false declarations
  • Denied access to joint property
  • Forced to be the sole income earner
  • Named as the sole account holder on all bills or mortgages
  • Deprived of funds needed for children’s education, food or social events
  • Forced to give access to their salary or pension to their partner.

Sometimes financial abuse can be gradual, and hard to recognise when it becomes problematic. It may even start out as a positive form of help at first, e.g. an offer to help with managing finances, but when this help becomes controlling or domineering and leads to a loss of control for the victim it becomes an issue.

For many women, financial abuse can be a major reason for remaining in an abusive relationship, as it can be very difficult to establish independence without adequate funds. This financial instability can also continue after a relationship ends, leaving the victim with ongoing debt or a bad credit rating.

If you think that you may be committing financial abuse or exerting another form of non-physical control, there are some steps you can take to stop it getting out of hand:

  • Learn about it: White Ribbon, MoneySmart, 1800 Respect and Verywell Mind and many other websites provide information that can help you better understand what financial abuse is and the damage it can do.
  • Look for the signs: The above list is a start, but remember signs can be gradual and hard to recognise. Understanding that financial abuse is a form of control is an important first step.
  • Consider other avenues of financial advice and support: It may help to remove your involvement in the financial matters of your partner. There are many services that can help people better manage their financial situation, including the National debt helpline and the Emergency Relief Helpline.
  • Talk about it: Discussing your concerns with a trusted friend, GP or a qualified counsellor can be the start of changing this behaviour. Counsellors on the Changing for Good program can help you better understand this behaviour and how you can stop it.


Further reading


If you’re experiencing family or domestic violence you can call MensLine Australia on 1300 78 99 78, access online counselling or visit 1800RESPECT.