How to recognise economic harm

July 5, 2021

Economic harm doesn’t leave visible marks. Like other forms of violence, it can be subtle – beginning with the smallest breach of trust and build over time. 

Economic harm can affect anyone. It is experienced in the context of power and control.

The impact can be devastating and can influence financial security long after it’s over.

To support and protect people from economic harm, it’s important to be able to recognise the signs and know how to respond.

What does economic harm look like?

Economic harm can take form in all shapes and sizes. It can easily go unnoticed to begin with.

Below are some examples that may cause concern. Individually these may mean very little, however several together can show a pattern of behaviour that indicates economic harm may be occurring:

No access to your own or family money or bank account
Unequal decision making in how household money is spent
No knowledge of family debts
Needing permission to use your own or family money
Pressure to sign financial documents
Having to explain spending for everyday items and basic needs
No control over credit history
Being coerced or forced to give up work, go to work, or stay home
Money or resources are being withheld to prevent the relationship ending
Having bank statements or other financial records taken or read without your knowledge
Expected to pay bills or for another person's obligations
Having your work responsibilities disrupted
Being harassed at work by calls, texts or someone stopping by
Prevented from working through keys being hidden, the car battery being disconnected, the car gets taken without knowledge
Threatened to be cut off financially when disagreeing
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How to spot it when you’re not involved

Money is often a taboo topic which means it’s easier for economic harm to slip under the radar.

Below we’ve listed a few examples of what you might notice about someone else.

They don't seem to know how much money they have
They have taken out a debt that seems out of character
They don't have a disposable income
They avoid or stop attending social activities
They are unable to return text messages or phone calls
They continually wear old or worn clothing in a way that is inconsistent with their partner's grooming
They work when they don't want to
They go without food or don't see a doctor when needed
They need new clothes but make excuses to go without
They don't have or constantly need money for basic items like bus money, toilet paper - even though they have an income to cover those items
They stress out about money when they have just been paid
They have a partner who seems to spend a disproportionate amount of money on their own wants
They take less care of their appearance when it was once important
Threatened to be cut off financially when disagreeing
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The most important factor to keep in mind is that someone who is experiencing economic harm may not feel comfortable or safe to have a conversation with their partner about what is happening with their money.

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Finding support

Our Economic Harm Specialists can provide support with the financial challenges of family violence. They have experience in financial capability and advocacy, and working with those who have experienced family violence/economic harm. 

To speak to an Economic Harm Specialist, call 0800 466 370 and select option 4.

You can also contact our Economic Harm Specialists by completing our online form.


If you suspect economic harm is occurring, other forms of family violence may also be present or if you need to speak to someone about relationship difficulties family violence agencies are best placed to work with you.

Family violence agencies will be able to establish whether other forms of abuse are occurring, and we would encourage you to call one of the agencies.

It is important to take some form of action to stop or address economic harm, but only when it is safe to do so.

More information about economic harm

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Economic Harm Explained

Economic harm is behaviour towards a person that controls, restricts or removes their access to money, economic resources or participation in financial decisions. Economic harm,
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The Impact

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
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