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Economic abuse and women’s homelessness: whose responsibility is it?

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Presentation on theme: "Economic abuse and women’s homelessness: whose responsibility is it?"— Presentation transcript:

1 Economic abuse and women’s homelessness: whose responsibility is it?
Fiona Macdonald and Kathy Landvogt Spotlight on Economic Abuse project

2 Domestic and family violence
Domestic Violence Victoria (DV Vic) description:   Family Violence is the repeated use of violent, threatening, coercive or controlling behaviour by an individual against a family member(s), or someone with whom they have, or have had an intimate relationship including carers.

3 Domestic and family violence
Domestic Violence Victoria (DV Vic) description:   Family Violence is the repeated use of violent, threatening, coercive or controlling behaviour by an individual against a family member(s), or someone with whom they have, or have had an intimate relationship including carers. Violent behaviour includes not only physical assaults but an array of power and control tactics used along a continuum in concert with one another, including direct or indirect threats, sexual assault, emotional and psychological torment, economic control, property damage, social isolation and behaviour which causes a person to live in fear.

4 Domestic and family violence
Domestic Violence Victoria (DV Vic) description:   Family Violence is the repeated use of violent, threatening, coercive or controlling behaviour by an individual against a family member(s), or someone with whom they have, or have had an intimate relationship including carers. Violent behaviour includes not only physical assaults but an array of power and control tactics used along a continuum in concert with one another, including direct or indirect threats, sexual assault, emotional and psychological torment, economic control, property damage, social isolation and behaviour which causes a person to live in fear. …. Family violence can occur within any family relationship, including same sex relationships. It affects transgender people, the elderly and people with disabilities. While it can be perpetuated by any member of a family against another, it is more likely to be perpetrated by men (predominately by a woman’s current or ex-partner) against women and children.

5 Domestic and family violence and women’s homelessness
Domestic and family violence is overwhelmingly the primary reason that women seek homelessness assistance. Analysis of SAAP data shows that: For women with children – domestic and family violence was the reason for seeking assistance in 55 per cent of SAAP support periods. For unaccompanied women aged 25 years and over – domestic and family violence was the most common reason and was cited by women in 36.9 per cent of support periods. For women aged under 25 – relationship and family breakdown was the most commonly cited reason - in 21 per cent of support periods and domestic and family violence was the second most commonly cited reason per cent of periods (AIHW 2008, p. 37 cited by Tually et al. 2008). In there were 67,000 individuals, including 34,700 children seeking assistance for this reason (AIHW: Marcolin 2005 cited by Tually et al. 2008)

6 Power and Control Wheel
Domestic Abuse Intervention Project 1984 (www.duluth-model.org>)

7 Economic abuse Economic control or deprivation, financial abuse or control It is a form of domestic and family violence involving behaviours that negatively affect a person financially and undermine that person’s efforts to become economically independent (Weaver et al. 2009) The Commonwealth Family Law Act now defines family violence as ‘violent, threatening or other behaviour by a person that coerces or controls a member of the person’s family (the family member), or causes the family member to be fearful’ Examples of behaviour which may constitute family violence include : … (g) unreasonably denying the family member the financial autonomy that he or she would otherwise have had; or h) unreasonably withholding financial support needed to meet the reasonable living expenses of the family member, or his or her child, at a time when the family member is entirely or predominantly dependent on the person for financial support’. (Family Law Act 1975 s4AB)

8 Economic abuse - review of research literature
Preventing acquisition of economic resources through interfering with education, training and employment sabotaging transport (e.g. hiding keys or taking car, refusing to give a ride to work); failing to provide promised childcare; hiding work clothes; destroying documents (e.g. books for study, essays); stealing/withholding medication; physically restraining; harassing co-workers. Preventing acquisition of economic resources through other interference taking pay; interfering with receipt of other income (e.g. child support, income support); refusing to include a woman’s name on property titles; not allowing car ownership; preventing a woman having access to her own bank account/joint bank account; preventing access to financial information; and preventing involvement in important financial decisions.

9 Preventing use of resources/controlling access to economic resources
controlling a woman’s ability to make use of her own or shared resources; controlling how money is spent and limiting access (e.g. denying access to money for necessities such as food or allocating a specific amount of money and no more to be spent on household necessities); limiting access to and monitoring use of car; controlling a woman’s credit card, bank account access; monitoring all spending and making a woman account for all money spent. Refusing to contribute refusing to contribute to household expenses (including making woman solely responsible for household debts such as utility bills); refusing to earn income or claim incomes support or other benefits. Exploiting a woman’s resources and generating economic costs depleting a woman’s resources including stealing money and causing debts to be generated in her name; stealing, destroying or damaging household goods, belongings, house, car; pawning a woman’s property or shared property; running up debts in a woman’s name possibly leading to bankruptcy; obtaining credit in a woman’s name or in both names; forcing a woman to commit social security or tax fraud.

10 Estimating the prevalence of economic abuse
Economic abuse has not been included in surveys of violence. There is a poor awareness of abuse and a lack of recognition of its seriousness with implications for: ‘how readily women and others affected by non-physical forms of domestic violence will seek help and access specialised systems of support’ (VicHealth 2010, p 23); ‘how accurately we can measure the prevalence of violence against women across the spectrum of unlawful behaviours and across the diversity of women’s experiences (VicHealth 2010, p 23); and for our capacity to prevent women being subjected to domestic violence.

11 How common is economic abuse?
Overall studies suggest economic abuse may be very common among women who seek assistance because of domestic and family violence. Prevalence varies between studies due to different groups, different methods and different definitions of economic abuse. One Australian study found 80 per cent of 134 women who reported they had experienced domestic violence had been subject to economic abuse (Evans 2007). A USA study found that over 90 per cent of 120 women participating in a domestic violence support group had experienced some form of economic abuse (Postmus et al. 2012). Other USA research found 38 per cent of 485 women seeking support from domestic violence services reported that their partners had stolen money from them (Anderson et al. 2003).

12 Impacts of economic abuse
‘Economic abuse involves imposed economic dependence of the abused by the abuser, if not outright stealing by the abusive spouse’ (Outlaw 2009, p. 264) Economic dependence may be a critical obstacle to leaving the relationship while financial issues may also provide the impetus to leave abusive relationships (Adams et al. 2008; Braaf &Barrett Meyering 2010). Economic impacts of violence alone found to include impacts relating to employment, accommodation and household goods, social security and other material supports, debts, bills and banking, child support, legal matters, migration matters and health (Braaf &Barrett Meyering 2010).

13 Impacts of abuse: accommodation
loss of possessions; no assets in own name; immediate homelessness; insecure, unsafe or unsuitable housing; relocation to areas where isolated from friends, family and other supports and where children have to change schools or travel long distances to school; and costs of moving, storage fees and rental bonds.

14 Key targets for intervention
Systemic gender inequality.   Lack of affordable housing. Family violence policy responses to further improve options for women and children to stay in homes. Poor awareness and recognition of economic abuse and its dynamics and consequences. Family violence practice: additional focus on women’s longer-term well-being including financial well-being through integrated services.

15 Who else has responsibility?
Improved responses in the social security, family assistance and child support systems as recommended by the ALRC, including to stop the continuation of economic abuse as well as mitigating its impacts . Data and research on economic abuse including on women’s pathways through legal systems to regain economic security following domestic violence. Strategies for building women’s financial capability including opportunity through asset-building strategies including microfinance. Strategies to support employment participation in safe workplaces. Consumer credit regulation and practice, migration law


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