Escaping financial abuse: How Dana said ‘I deserve better’
Financial abuse is a type of domestic violence that is often overlooked or dismissed. It involves controlling or manipulating someone’s access to money or financial resources. MyBudget client Dana experienced years of financial abuse from her now ex-husband, and we’ve recently sat down with her in our latest MyMoney MyStory podcast episode to talk through how she overcame this chapter of her life (link below).
As Dana discusses, financial abuse can leave victims feeling trapped and powerless, unable to leave their abuser or make decisions for themselves, extending their suffering and disempowering them from escaping. Sadly, Dana’s past situation is not uncommon.
But there is hope for those who are experiencing it. In this article, we will break down Dana’s journey of escaping financial abuse and how she came out the other side stronger than ever.
Understanding financial abuse and recognising the signs: Dana’s story
Financial abuse can take many different forms. In Dana’s case, she didn’t realise that her ex-husband’s actions were considered financial abuse. Victims may often have a joint account with their partner, which made matters especially difficult for Dana.
Prior to meeting her abusive partner at the age of 19, she had worked hard, had savings in her account and was in a stable financial situation. She married at 21 and had a child. Dana had become unable to work due to pregnancy complications, meaning her family was relying on her partner’s income at the time. However, the household income was disappearing, but not from your typical household expenses. It was being taken out of the bank account mere moments after it was being deposited. Even when Dana was waiting by an ATM to withdraw money from the account, by the time she made it to the ATM, the money was already gone.
Dana’s household spending was not higher than her household income— she and her family could not understand where the money was going. “I let him have access to my savings and it was gone.” To this day she still does not know exactly where it was spent; all she knows is that he had come home one day and all the cash was gone. A pivotal moment for Dana was the day she went out for lunch with her close friend. Dana made a conscious effort to choose the most affordable option on the menu. But when it came time to pay, she just could not afford it. “This was our reunion lunch and she had to cover me because I was so broke.” That was when her friend turned to her and said, “you don’t need to live like this. You deserve better.”
Seeking help and support
It was her friend who recommended she reach out to MyBudget for guidance. Dana realised it was finally time to take action. She told her husband at the time; “we’re going to MyBudget.” When telling her story, she mentioned, “I had made the appointment that day. I had less than $20, I put it in my car, made him get in the car with me, went to this appointment and we went through all of our finances”
“[The MyBudget agent] just looked us dead in the eyes and he’s like, you either have to go bankrupt because I can’t see another way out or you guys can’t do anything, like nothing. Everything’s got to give.”
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Dana gave her husband an ultimatum. He had to join MyBudget with her and commit to the strict budget, or end their marriage. “If you don’t do this with me, we’re done.” At that point, he assumed she was joking. He refused to join with her, and one month later, they filed for divorce.
Rebuilding financial stability and confidence after leaving an abusive relationship
Dana knew what she had to do, but she also knew how hard it was going to be. “When I first joined, I was on the phone to the lady bawling my eyes out. She just sat there and I think she listened to me cry for a good 10 minutes.” From there, she took the original advice given to her in her first meeting, which meant giving up everything for a year. She was extremely rigid with her budget, living only on the bare necessities. It got her through and she was able to clear away the debts that had been put under her name. For victims of family violence, prioritising keeping their children safe and avoiding further abuse was, and is, her priority.
Three years ago, Dana’s goals were to make sure that she would have money the next week for nappies or fuel. She said it was “so rewarding because I would have never imagined any of this.” She and her family can now afford to book their dream holidays, and following her passion for diving, she is going swimming with the sharks in Western Australia this year.
“I’m grateful for all the people that have willed me on. When I didn’t have the will to go, they picked me up and kept me going. Total strangers that I’m talking to through a phone are going, ‘you’ve got this’.”
Now, Dana is thriving. She is in a happy relationship with two beautiful children. She has financial freedom and is working toward her big dreams and financial goals. Her willpower is an inspiration to anyone; she pushed through a traumatic experience and chose to live a better life, even when her own world was against her.
Resources available for those experiencing financial abuse
When it comes to financial abuse, or any form of domestic abuse for that matter, it’s important to know that you’re not alone. There are discrete and confidential services out there that victims can speak to about their situations.
We’ve added a few options below:
Domestic Violence Hotline: The Domestic Violence Hotline is a national service that provides information, support and referral for people who are experiencing domestic or family violence, including financial abuse. The hotline operates 24/7 and can be contacted on 1800 737 732 or on their 1800RESPECT website.
Financial Abuse Service: The National Debt Helpline provides a free and confidential financial counselling service for people experiencing financial abuse. They can help you with managing your finances and connecting you with other services that can help. You can find more information about the National Debt Helpline on their website.
Financial Counselling: The Australian government provides financial counselling services to help people in financial distress, including those who have experienced financial abuse. Financial counsellors can provide advice and support to help people manage their finances and deal with debt, and you can find more information on MoneySmart’s financial counselling page.
Legal Aid: Legal Aid are available to assist people who are experiencing financial abuse. Legal Aid can help with legal advice, representation, and support for people who are dealing with financial abuse. You can find your nearest legal aid service by visiting the National Legal Aid website.
Community Legal Centres: Community Legal Centres provide free legal advice, information and assistance to people who are experiencing financial abuse. These centres can help with a range of legal issues, including debt, consumer law, family law and tenancy. You can find your nearest Community Legal Centre by visiting the National Association of Community Legal Centres website.
Dana is just one of 130,000 Australians we’ve helped live their lives free from money worries. If you’re experiencing financial abuse from a significant other, there is help out there. In addition to the services listed above, MyBudget is always just a phone call away. To have a chat with our friendly staff, give us a call on 1300 300 922 or enquire online.