What is economic harm?
Economic harm (often called financial or economic abuse) is recognised as a form of psychological abuse within the Family Violence Act. It involves behaviour towards a person that controls, restricts or removes their access to money, economic resources, and/or participation in financial decisions. It is experienced in many close personal relationships, particularly intimate partner relationships. It may also include forms of elder abuse.
The voice of experience
Human relationships are complex. There are many things to navigate in a close personal relationship, and one of the most common challenges is money and finances. Discussions about money will surface at some point and are not only necessary, but can be difficult regardless of how healthy a relationship is. There is however, a difference between “money problems” that a couple works on together to resolve, and the financial controlling that can lead to economic harm.
... you may be experiencing economic harm.
Understanding economic harm
What does the behaviour look like?
Other behaviour may be occuring, particularly if a person is trying to leave the relationship –which can be the most dangerous time. This could be such things as money or resources being withheld to prevent you leaving the relationship; the car is damaged so you can’t go; your employment situation becomes difficult due to constant harassment; child support is not being paid; court processes are intentionally dragged out etc.
The impact of economic harm
Economic harm has both short and long term consequences. The impact is complex, and cuts across many environments, often leading to years of debilitating economic and social conditions.
The impact on children
In families where harm is occurring, it is often hoped that children are protected by not seeing or hearing what’s happening. There are however psychological, emotional, environmental and economic factors associated with harm that can have a significantly negative impact.
Children’s basic and developmental needs can be disrupted or limited, along with their social and educational opportunities, due to lack of access to finances. Parents or caregivers can become emotionally unavailable and children may need to negotiate issues that occur at home. They can be left feeling responsible, confused and isolated. Their confidence and self-esteem can become eroded, impacting their overall wellbeing and psychological recovery. In the long term, economic abuse can negatively affect a child’s mental wellbeing, and lead to social and/or behavioural issues, depending on their age, the level of harm and the length of exposure.
If you suspect economic harm is occurring, and want to chat with someone, family violence agencies are best placed to provide support and guidance.
It is important to take some form of action to stop or address economic harm, but only when it is safe to do so. As it is a form of family violence, we would strongly encourage you to access support to create a plan. Often other forms of violence may also be occurring, and if not, things can still escalate quickly into more controlling behaviours that further impact financial and economic opportunities and can compromise personal safety.
If your safety is at immediate risk, please ring the New Zealand Police – 111
Women’s Refuge New Zealand – 0800 733 843 (crisis line)
Shine (Auckland) – 0508 774 633
Aviva (Christchurch) – 0800 28482 669
Shakti – 0800 742 584 (24 hours)
Are you ok? – 0800 456 450
Family violence Information Line – 0800 456 450 (9am-11pm every day)
Gandhi Nivas – (Auckland) 0800 426 344 Support for men
Men’s Health – Support for Men
He Waka Tapu – 0800 Hey Bro (439 279) for support to stop using violence
Downloadable pdf versions of the information on this website.
Published by the Good Shepherd network in New Zealand and Australia –