Shine is joining Good Shepherd this International Economic Harm Awareness Day in recognising economic abuse as one of the major forms of family violence.
International Economic Harm Awareness Day is this Saturday, November 26.
In New Zealand, one in two women experience physical, sexual or psychological abuse from an intimate partner in their lifetime¹. Overseas research shows that most people who experience family violence experience economic abuse.² Economic abuse is currently only included as a sub-type of psychological violence in New Zealand law.
Economic abuse can include stopping a partner from working or studying, coercing them to take on debt, putting them on an allowance, forcing them to work or not giving them access to financial information, with the effect of entrapping that person and making them dependent. This is typically part of a wider pattern of coercive control where the person experiencing violence is isolated, monitored, controlled and psychologically abused, along with actual or threatened physical or sexualised violence.
Shine Family Violence Education Director Christopher Hill says naming and identifying economic abuse is the first step.
“Our understanding of economic abuse has grown massively in recent years. The impact of being economically and financially controlled is enormous: people are entrapped by the poverty that economic abuse causes, their dignity is affronted by having to make impossible choices between necessities, and their autonomy in society is threatened when they are stopped from working or studying. When people manage to leave an abusive partner, abuse can continue or escalate through, for example, refusing to make debt repayments.
“This matters now more than ever. People experiencing violence have fewer and fewer options with the rising cost of living and the housing crisis. Fewer housing options have made it harder for our clients to find ongoing accommodation after refuge, and family and friends are less able to help than they were before.
“People using abuse can also use the cost of living as an excuse to ramp up scrutiny over their partner’s spending, preventing them from spending money on necessities like sanitary items or interrogating them over every receipt. Children are directly impacted as they miss out on the basics if the spending of their protective parent is coercively controlled and monitored,” says Christopher Hill.
Internationally, economic abuse has been linked to homelessness³. After leaving an abusive person, the person experiencing violence can be left with debt and a poor credit score that can make it difficult to find a place to stay.
Economic and financial abuse can be hidden in plain sight as people experiencing family violence do their best to manage the violence. This could mean having to get by when there isn’t enough money for both food and nappies because they have been put on a strict allowance. Or having to make excuses at work because their partner has destroyed their work clothes, sabotaged their car, or continually made them late to work.
Family violence is a gendered issue and economic abuse can also be hidden through our gender and cultural norms. For example, a woman who is forced to leave her job and stay at home may just seem like someone in a traditional, not abusive, relationship.
Being aware of the different forms that economic abuse can take is a first step to being able to recognise possible signs, respond safely to people experiencing economic abuse, and offer to connect them with support.
“Many organisations are taking steps in the right direction, with several banks and insurance companies providing extra support to people experiencing family violence, and wiping debt where a person has been saddled with joint debt after an abusive partner has refused to pay their share. There is also growing recognition among utility companies that family violence can be present for their customers.
“Shine commends these organisations for the steps they are taking as our understanding of this issue develops,” says Christopher Hill.
Shine provides companies with DVFREE Customer Response Training, so that customer care staff are able to recognise the signs that someone may be experiencing domestic violence and economic abuse, and know how to respond safely and refer them for further support.
¹ 1 in 3 (35%) New Zealand women have experienced physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence (IPV) in their lifetime. When psychological/emotional abuse is included, 55% have experienced IPV in their lifetime (Fanslow & Robinson, 2011).
² A survey of IPV survivors enrolled in the Allstate Moving Ahead financial literacy program found that nearly all survivors (99 percent) experience economic abuse, including financial control and exploitation, such as having their earnings taken or being given an allowance.” The Economic Cost of Intimate Partner Violence, Sexual Assault, and Stalking – IWPR