Kate’s abusive husband and his family have accumulated $ 86,000 in loan and credit card debt in his name.
Another woman ran up a Centrelink debt of $ 4,000 because her abusive partner gave her the wrong information about her income.
A third woman was rounded up with $ 10,000 in traffic fines her ex-husband incurred while driving his car.
The three women suffered serious economic abuse when their spouses “militarized” government or industrial structures, according to a Victorian report.
The Transforming Financial Security project helped 137 clients resolve their legal and financial issues between mid-2018 and the start of this year.
A report on the project, managed by WEstjustice and McAuley Community Services for Women, will be released on Thursday.
He revealed that the attackers used rental bonds, loans and credit cards, as well as traffic violations as part of their models of control over victim-survivors such as Kate.
She was subjected to severe physical, emotional and economic abuse, and every aspect of her life and finances was controlled by her husband, who used her as a “human line of credit”.
He would be abusive to her if she didn’t sign loan or credit card applications for him, but she didn’t have any money of her own.
By the time she got involved in the project, she didn’t even know how much debt she was. Thanks to project workers negotiating with financial institutions, the debt was canceled.
“It was the biggest fight of my life,” Kate, her real name, told Guardian Australia.
“[When the debt was cleared] that was the day I really enjoyed the feeling of moving on.
The project worked to improve procedures with a range of government and industry agencies, including the Victoria Department of Housing, VicRoads, banks, insurers and toll road operator Transurban, to ensure victims domestic violence can negotiate more easily to be released from debts related to their abuse.
Over $ 900,000 was saved for clients on debt and legal fees over the course of the project, at an average of $ 11,311 per client (not all clients required financial or legal assistance).
“We also played an important role in fixing their tarnished credit records, which meant they were no longer blocked from accessing essential services such as mobile phone and internet contracts, as well as future borrowing, due to a bad credit rating, “according to the report.
“This has enabled many victim-survivors to begin their post-separation journey to recover from economic abuse. “
Of the clients, more than half had an income level indicating that they were living below the poverty line, and 45% had children. The project also heard from clients – 61% of whom were born abroad – that their spouses were using their migration status as part of their financial exploitation.
Dacia Abela, lawyer and program manager for WEstjustice, said the philanthropically funded program should be government funded so that it can be implemented as widely as possible.
She said this has successfully ended the “benchmark ride” experienced by many women and provided a way out for women who often feel they have to stay in or return to violent relationships because of economic abuse. mean they can’t afford. be alone.
“We have this amazing model that has been tried, proven and codified, and can be delivered on a large scale,” said Abela.
“If it’s more widely available and more visible, it will give people more confidence that they can leave this relationship and get that help when they need it most.”
Kate has since found safe accommodation with her children and retrained to work as a family violence case manager.
She works, she says, to help women stop blaming themselves.
“[I] keep forcing mothers and daughters to… break this chain.