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Escaping financial abuse - who to turn to for support

22 June 2021

The following article refers to issues of Domestic and Family Violence. If you need support, contact 1800RESPECT.

Call Triple Zero (000) if you are in immediate danger.

Contact your local police if there are threats to your safety or there are threats to your friends or family members

Escaping finacial abuse

Asking for help isn’t always easy. If you’ve recently realised that you are in a toxic or harmful situation, you may find yourself struggling to come to terms with it. This is especially true of financial abuse, where the signs are less obvious and the perpetrator is often a spouse, partner or another close family member. You may find yourself feeling as though you’ve failed in that relationship, or wondering if you’re just being weak or overdramatic.

But, reaching out for help doesn’t make you weak — quite the opposite. It makes you exceptionally strong and is also the important first step towards regaining your freedom and control.

The good news is, there are plenty of trustworthy people you can reach out to in challenging times. Not only can they lend a listening ear, but they can even help give you the resources to get you safely back on your feet again.

Read on for a list of people, support and resources you can reach out to if you or someone you know is experiencing financial abuse.

Support from trusted friends and family

Your inner circle can be a great place to start when it comes to seeking help. It’s best to confide in someone you trust to keep your situation confidential, and who can listen without judgement.

For your own safety and comfort, try to have this conversation in a quiet, private space — ideally in person. You can also use Facebook Messenger’s Secret Messages or an app like Signal that has encrypted, disappearing messages if you are concerned about your messages being read.

Where possible, it’s a good idea to communicate with your loved one about what you are hoping to get out of the conversation. Do you just want to confide in someone without them, are you seeking a safe place to shelter, or do you want them to help you seek further assistance? By communicating this upfront, you can help your loved one best support you in your time of need.

Support helplines

There are many support helplines you can call if you are experiencing financial or other forms of abuse. Not only are many of these open 24/7, but they’re free and completely confidential.

Your support operator will listen to you judgement-free, and point you in the right direction to get the appropriate help for your situation. Many of these organisations also offer messenger chat support if you are concerned about the privacy of a phone call.

Some support helplines in Australia include:

1800RESPECT: A confidential information, counselling and support service for people impacted by domestic or family violence and abuse. Phone: 1800 737 732

Lifeline: A service for anyone across Australia experiencing a personal crisis or contemplating suicide. Phone: 13 11 14 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week)

WIRE: A free information, support and referral service for women, non-binary and gender-diverse people. WIRE also conducts research about financial abuse. Phone: 1300 134 130

Free app resources

If you have safe and private access to a mobile phone, an app can be a great starting point. They don’t require you to make a phone call or leave the home in order to seek assistance and support.

Some helpful apps include:

Penda An app launched by the Women’s Legal Service Queensland. It aims to break the cycle of domestic and family violence by combining helpful information with nationwide referrals. You can use it to find financial and legal aid, housing and mental health assistance. You can download it for iOs here and Android here.

Arc A free app that enables people to identify patterns of abusive behaviour. It has been developed for people experiencing family violence, to provide key information and reduce the number of times they have to repeat their story to the police or court. You can download it for iOs here and Android here.

However, if an abuse perpetrator has access to your phone, consider asking a trusted friend or family member to download one of these apps onto their phone on your behalf instead.

Housing shelters

If you find yourself in a situation where you feel unsafe at home and have nowhere else to go, there are always options. From community housing to emergency shelters, there are organisations that take in men, women and children all around the country.

St Vincent De Paul’s or The Wesley Mission’s websites are a great place to start, as they have a directory of short-term accommodation in each state.

You can also try these local resources:

ACT:

OneLink: A central information hub for human services, including homelessness, disability and family support services. Phone: 1800 176 468        

NSW:

Domestic Violence Helpline: A toll free line for anyone experiencing domestic abuse, anywhere in NSW  Phone: 1800 656 463

Link2Home: A service that makes referrals to homelessness services across NSW. Phone 1800 152 152

QLD:

Homeless Hotline:  A 24-HOUR phone information and referral service for people who are experiencing homelessness or are at risk of homelessness. Phone: 1800 47 47 53

DVConnect Womensline: A 24/7 response line that can provide emergency transport, accommodation, counselling and other services to women in domestic violence situations  Phone: 1800 811 811

WA:

Women's Domestic Violence Helpline: A 24/7 telephone support and counselling service for women experiencing family and domestic violence, who can help with finding refuge. Phone: 1800 007 339

Salvo Care Line: Provides a network of services for people experiencing a crisis, including referrals to emergency accommodation. Phone: 1300 363 622

SA:

Homelessness Gateway: A 24/7 hotline connecting people in crisis to advice, services and emergency accommodation. Phone: 1800 003 308

Trace-A-Place: A service for young people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless: Phone: 1800 807 364

Northern Territory

Shelter Me: A comprehensive online directory and guide to homeless services for people in the NT

Domestic Violence Crisis Line: A 24/7 general and domestic violence crisis counselling service who may be able to provide housing recommendations. Phone: 1800 800 098

Tasmania

Safe at Home Family Violence Response and Referral Line: Provides information, counselling and housing referrals. Phone: 1800 633 937

Housing Connect: A 24-hour service that can provide immediate support and emergency accommodation. Phone: 1800 800 588

All information and links at the time of writing were correct but may be subject to change.

Financial aid organisations

In financially abusive situations, it’s not uncommon for victims to lose access to their bank account or funds or have large amounts of debt accrued in their name. This can make it more challenging to leave, as they are worried about being without a safe shelter for themselves or their children.

Thankfully, there are some great free organisations out there to help you gain back financial independence. These include:

Financial Counselling Australia: Provides free and confidential access to professional, non-judgemental financial counsellors. They can provide guidance, support and advocacy to those who are experiencing financial difficulties

National Debt Helpline: Offers free counselling to those who are in debt due to abusive situations and other difficult situations. As a not-for-profit, they do not offer loans — they work only in your interest to help get you back on track Phone: 1800 007 007

Good Shepherd Microfinance: Provides fair and affordable financial schemes and loans to those on low incomes. This includes their No Interest Loan Scheme (NILS), to help people in tough situations afford essential goods and expenses. Phone: 13 64 57

The Salvation Army: Provides free financial counselling and coaching to help you create a money plan to get back on top of your financial matters again. They can also help you deal with non-complex debts such as bills or rental arrears. Phone: 13 SALVOS (13 72 58) or visit website to find nearby centre

Legal aid organisations

Seeking legal assistance can be an important step in regaining a sense of justice and control. However, it can also be expensive and add additional financial strain on top of an already stressful situation. The good news is, there are resources that can offer free or heavily subsidised legal help. Here are some organisations that may be able to assist with you resolving legal matters.

There are Legal Aid organisations throughout Australia that provide free legal assistance to those who are not able to afford it. They offer services free confidential legal advice, representation in court for eligible clients and family dispute resolution. Every state has its own Legal Aid institution, so you find your local centre in this directory here

Community Legal Centres also give free legal advice and provide help with problems not covered by Legal Aid. They have more than 180 community legal centres across Australia where you can gain face-to-face assistance. You can see a list of statewide locations here

The Family Relationship Advice Line is a nationwide hotline that can refer you to a service which can provide free information and simple advice about family law. You can call them on 1800 050 321.

Whether you’re in need of personal support, a safe place to sleep, financial or legal assistance, there are people, organisations and resources available to help.

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