A tale of economic abuse that hits the homeless
HERE'S one woman's story, which I'm sure will resonate with many other homeless woman:
Janet (not real name) is in her early 60s. This is her story:
He - let's call him Jack, was charming with a ready smile. His politics leaned towards the left, always sticking up for the poor and less educated. He was the son of a single mother, who had sacrificed everything to pay for his convent school fees and elocution lessons. In return, he had housed and practically clothed her since receiving his first pay cheque. He had married young and after an early divorce, stayed close to his now adult children. He was into the third decade of his second relationship, but it had soured (because, he said, of the partner's lazy ways) many years before and basically led a single life. The narrative held a myriad of heart-warming angles and perfectly promoted his generous, caring nature.
All perfect - not for long. Janet was introduced to Jack through her friends, a young couple, who purchased a business from him. Initially, all was well, in fact nearly too good to be true, and they were happy to make the introduction. But within 12 months, their relationship with Jack and business were showing major fault lines. On the other hand, Janet's relationship with him was, she thought, flourishing. The couple communicated with Janet their worries and asked her to take heed. But by that time, she was completely taken in by him and believed his versions of many stories. Ultimately, she learned they were not the first couple whose business dealing with him had faltered. Janet also watched as he parted with family members who didn't see to eye with him, and as time went on, sadly, watch others being taken in. But she had met his mother and adult children and their families who were decent enough to encourage her belief in his authenticity.
After four years, they moved in together onto his property. He didn't work but explained that he was a 'businessman' who looked for his own projects to make work. Of course, when the money ran out he noted that in many ways they were not 'united'. She was a hard worker with her own weekly income and he struggled on alone. She loved him; she told him she would sell her home and in the meantime, allow him to put his name on the account her wages went into. She said the money from the sale of her beachside unit could go straight to his considerable mortgage - the money would pay for about a quarter of the mortgage. In return, he promised to include her name on the family trust which held the property they lived on and not to worry, if anything happened, the fact they had lived together meant she was entitled to her share. Ultimately, her name wasn't included on the Trust document, he blamed this on the unreasonable cost it would incur. Trusting the absolute integrity of the man she lived with, she never questioned a thing.
Four years later, the money from the sale of her house had gone and the bank wanted further mortgage payments. He had an affair and literally packed her belonging, paid for three months in a storage shed, walked into her office and put the storage receipt and keys to the shed on desk. The same as many people he had done business with, he had gained their trust, taken money, not provided the return and then with a myriad of self-serving excuses, dumped them.
She said even after that, she trusted him to give back her money, and she didn't have funds for solicitors anyway. In the early days, he kept her at bay with a few payments of a $1000 and kept visiting her with promises. She was emotional, shell shocked, shattered.
Eight years later, she rents, he lives on his same property, and she sees him around the area with other women.
*A report published on 'The Conversation' website defined economic abuse as:
A hidden form of intimate partner abuse. Victims are often unaware it is happening - until they are in the process of separation and divorce, or are experiencing severe financial stress. Economic abuse occurs between intimate partners when one controls or manipulates the other person's access to finances, assets and decision-making to create dependence and control.
It is a powerful abuse tactic, which leaves victims financially incapacitated - a major reason why people don't leave abusive or violent relationships. Economic abuse is recognised as a form of family violence in law in Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics interviewed 17,050 women and men in Australia in 2012 about their experiences of violence in the community and in their homes. For the first time, data included items that measured economic abuse, but these were hidden in the emotional abuse statistics. However the ABS survey revealed that of the 15.7% of women and 7.1% of men who experienced economic abuse in their lifetimes, the risk peaked between the ages of 40 and 49. In this age group, 20.9% of women and 10.3% of men reported economic abuse. The ABS did ask respondents if these tactics were used to "prevent or control your behaviour with the intent to cause you emotional harm or fear". This caveat is important as economic abuse, like other forms of intimate partner violence, is a pattern of behaviour, which often starts with seemingly innocuous or caring behaviours, for example: "Don't worry, I'll look after all the banking." Victims often don't recognise financial control in their relationship as abuse.