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Domestic violence experts explain why financial control is a form of coercive abuse

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Victims of domestic violence don’t just suffer from physical or emotional abuse – offenders often use financial control to take power away from their partners.

A landmark BankWest survey has found almost one in three Australians are victims or know someone who is, but don’t know where to go for help.

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For 16 years, Sheree Schonian dealt with an abusive partner.

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Sheree’s former partner wasn’t just physically abusive.

He controlled every aspect of her life, crippling her ability to live – and to leave him.

“I felt I had to rely on him,” she told 7NEWS.

She worked full-time; he didn’t work at all.

“He would sit up at 12 am, midnight, and wait for my pay to go in, to be able to gamble it away,” Sheree said.

“Even though I was earning all the money in the house, he held all of the cards.”

A landmark survey has found almost one in three Australians are victims of financial control, but many don’t know where to go for help. 
A landmark survey has found almost one in three Australians are victims of financial control, but many don’t know where to go for help.  Credit: bymuratdeniz/Getty Images

Sheree’s case is extreme, but financial abuse between partners is alarmingly common.

Tanya Elson from Ruah Community Services describes it as a “pattern of coercive control that creates dependence.”

Fifty-nine percent of abusers use all their partner’s wages for household expenses while spending their own money only on themselves.

Fifty-eight percent of abusers have destroyed, damaged, or stolen from their partner’s property and have refused to contribute to their household.

Fifty-four per cent of abusers hide their assets.

Domestic abuse can take many forms, including financial control.
Domestic abuse can take many forms, including financial control. Credit: 7NEWS

“Domestic violence is apparent in so many ways,” Elson says.

“It can be restricting someone’s access to finances, cutting off their money, telling them they’re fat and need to eat less, it can be threats and intimidation.”

On Thursday, the 16 Days campaign launches.

The campaign is a global initiative to raise awareness about the different forms that domestic abuse can take – and what to do if it’s happening to you.

“It’s 16 days of sustained action to learn about family violence – what it looks like, how to call out abusive behaviours,” Elson says.

You can find out more about the campaign here.

If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au.

In an emergency, call 000.

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