Financial Advice Blog

How to safeguard your finances when escaping domestic violence

Domestic violence does not discriminate — it affects women of all backgrounds, ages, education levels and income brackets. Deciding to break free from the cycle of abuse is both terrifying and overwhelming. We hope to lessen this burden in a small way by providing five steps you can take to navigate the financial side of escaping domestic violence.

Far too many Australian women and children are living in constant fear, walking on eggshells in thier own home, terrified of the one person who is supposed to cherish and protect them. Domestic violence does not discriminate — it affects women of all backgrounds, ages, education levels and income brackets.

Police are currently responding to a domestic violence incident every two minutes. One in three women has experienced physical violence since the age of 15. Every four days, a woman is killed by an intimate partner. There are way too many women living with violence because they can’t afford to move.

While financial constraints and the current housing crisis can make the decision to leave a violent situation seem daunting, resources are increasingly available to support those in need. The recent launch of a $230 million emergency package by the NSW Government to address domestic violence marks a step forward. Though huge challenges remain and there is a long way to go, these initiatives demonstrate a growing commitment to providing domestic violence victims with the help they need to find safety.

Deciding to break free from the cycle of abuse is both terrifying and overwhelming. We hope to lessen this burden in a small way by providing five steps you can take to navigate the financial side of escaping domestic violence.

Step 1: Prioritise your safety

Your safety comes first, always. If you’re in immediate danger, reach out to organisations like 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) for support and assistance. They can help you devise a safety plan and connect you with resources, including temporary accommodation and access to financial resources if needed. Don’t hesitate to ask for help — it could save your life.

Step 2: Lock down your privacy

Abusers are increasingly using technology to control and monitor their victims. Take control by changing all your passwords and PINs, especially on your email and phone, and avoid using the same password for multiple accounts. Consider using password management tools to enhance security. Adjust your phone’s privacy and location-tracking settings to prevent your abuser from tracking your movements. Be vigilant about shared devices, as they may provide access to sensitive information. Your safety and privacy are non-negotiable.

Step 3: Contact your bank

Most banks offer domestic violence support services. Reach out to them to help you establish your own transaction account. This account serves as a safe haven for emergency funds and can eventually become the hub for directing your salary and government payments, once it’s safe to do so. Your bank may also provide vital assistance by offering emergency funds to aid you in getting back on your feet. To maintain privacy and security, consider opting to receive your statements and letters online. Alternatively, if you prefer paper statements, you can ask a trusted friend if you can nominate their address as your mailing address.

Step 4: Gather financial documents

Knowledge is power. Dig through your files to gather important financial documents, including marriage and birth certificates, mortgage or rental details, and information on assets like property, share investments and superannuation. Give these documents to a trusted friend for safekeeping, or if there is a safety risk of a partner discovering they’re missing, take photos.

Step 5: Seek legal advice

Schedule a free consultation with a family lawyer to understand your options. Contrary to what your abuser may claim, you have legal rights, including a fair share of assets acquired during the relationship. In New South Wales, Women’s Legal Service provides a free community legal service for women. Funded by the Commonwealth Government, its services include a Domestic Violence Legal Service, a special legal advice and advocacy service for women subjected to domestic violence. Don’t let intimidation tactics deter you from getting advice.

Step towards freedom

Leaving an abusive relationship is a courageous act of self-preservation. While the journey may seem daunting, remember that you have the strength and resilience to overcome any challenge. By taking one step at a time to safeguard your finances, you’re laying the foundation for a brighter future — one free from fear and abuse. You deserve happiness, safety, and financial security, and with the right support, you will get there. You are not alone, and there is hope on the horizon.

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