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Understanding coercive control and economic and financial abuse

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These factsheets provide further information about coercive control and its impacts.

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What is coercive control?

Coercive control is when someone uses patterns of abusive behaviour against another person. Over time this creates fear and takes away the person’s freedom and independence. This dynamic almost always underpins family and domestic violence.

Coercive control can be used against anyone, but is mostly used by men against women. Coercive control can happen in intimate partner relationships, even after they’ve ended. It can also happen in family relationships.

Nobody has the right to control you, hurt you or make you live in fear.

What is economic and financial abuse?

Economic and financial abuse involves someone controlling your ability to get, use or keep your money or economic resources.

People who use coercive control might use economic and financial abuse as part of their abusive behaviour.

Recognising the signs

Coercive control can be hard to spot because the abuse can be subtle and targeted. People experiencing coercive control may not realise they are being abused.

Coercive control can involve a range of different behaviours, including physical and non-physical abuse.

Some of the signs of coercive control and economic and financial abuse include someone:

  • Monitoring your spending and not letting you choose how to spend your money
  • Forcing you to buy things or sign contracts
  • Making you lend or give people your money or belongings
  • Creating debts in your name
  • Stopping you from accessing your bank accounts, making you give them your account details, or not telling you information about your money
  • Making it hard for you to get or keep a job
  • Not making child support payments after relationship separation
  • Making demands for further, and/or excessive, dowry payments.

You might feel:

  • Scared to talk about money
  • Trapped or insecure because you can’t access your money to leave, or your partner has put you in too much debt
  • Like you can’t make decisions about your own money.

Case study

Tania and Chris have lived together for five years. At the beginning of their relationship Chris was very romantic and would often surprise Tania with flowers and gifts.

When they first moved in together, Chris would ask to see Tania’s shopping receipts and kept commenting on how bad she was at saving money. Over time this impacted Tania’s confidence, and she eventually agreed to transfer her pay into Chris’ bank account and let him manage their shared finances.

Chris gives Tania a small budget each week, but it is never quite enough to cover their basic needs. When Tania brought this up with Chris, he said they couldn’t afford to spend any more. This didn’t seem right to Tania, but Chris got so angry when she asked him what the rest of her pay was being spent on that she let it go. Afterwards Chris apologised for getting so angry and told her how much he loved her, and that he was saving their money so they could one day get married and buy a house together.

Recently, Chris made Tania sign documents putting the lease for their house and the loan for their shared car in her name alone. When Tania asked why Chris wasn’t signing them too, he got so angry that Tania thought he was going to hurt her, so she signed the papers. Tania doesn’t want to be responsible for such big financial commitments, but now feels trapped in that situation.

What can I do?

Everyone deserves to live free from family and domestic violence. If you think you or someone you know might be experiencing coercive control, contacting a confidential support service for advice is a good first step.

In an emergency, call 000.

For support contact:

1800 737 732 (available 24/7)

National Disability Abuse and Neglect Hotline
1800 880 052

Men’s Referral Service
1800 943 539

For more information about coercive control and the National Principles to Address Coercive Control in Family and Domestic Violence on the Attorney-General's Department website.