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Seeking Help Family, Friends and Partners Mental Health Trauma and PTSD

Financial Abuse and Signs of Coercive Control

Trauma can come in many forms - including control and abuse in relationships. 

Those of us who have witnessed or experienced abuse, violence or control in our household understand how it can impact our mental health. We each have the right to live in a safe and free environment - control in any type of relationship is unacceptable. However, it’s not always easily recognised. It often gets worse over time and we may be conditioned from previous experiences. “Coercive control is when any person that you have a personal relationship with behaves repeatedly in a way that makes you feel controlled, dependent, scared or isolated,” says Diane Young, trauma therapist at South Pacific Private. 

If we’re feeling unsafe in our own home or in the presence of people who are supposed to love and care for us, we may experience a range of emotions and feelings, including sadness, anger, hurt, fear and powerlessness.

Research shows that women in particular are more likely to experience financial abuse, and 98 per cent of women who report physical and sexual violence also suffer from financial abuse. It can be incredibly isolating and make seeking help and safety extremely difficult. 

According to Young, this is precisely how the perpetrator wants us to feel. “Coercive control has us second-guessing ourselves and our decisions,” she says. “Survivors of coercive control often talk of unfathomable cruelty and violence, and orchestrated campaigns of control.”

The Signs of Coercive Control

There are a range of warning signs to look out for, which may indicate that the person is trying to control you:

  • Monitoring your activities with family and friends
  • Constantly checking up on you
  • Questioning your behaviour
  • Setting time limits when you are out with friends
  • Isolating you from family and friends
  • Banning you from seeing certain people
  • Stopping you from working in certain places
  • Controlling how you spend your money or limiting access to money
  • Controlling how you dress or style your hair
  • Telling you what you should eat
  • Making disparaging comments about your figure
  • Putting you down in public
  • Allowing you no privacy

Young says that often those who experience control and financial abuse in their adulthood are survivors of early childhood trauma and domestic violence compounds their life experience. “They may witness their partner then go onto abuse and dominate their children,” she says. “Frequently they will risk their lives to defend their children but this often results in the children being punished,” she adds. “They are demoralised, hopeless and terrified to speak up or leave.”

At South Pacific Private, we treat trauma in all its forms - including control and abuse in relationships. “For victims of domestic violence this is imperative as the ongoing abuse will compound their emotional and physical safety,” says Young. Our program helps survivors become more aware of the unacceptable behaviour and control that they have been enduring. We take the time to address the unresolved trauma and build up resilience and self-esteem.

For more advice, and to reach out for help in ending a domestic violence situation or to seek support for yourself or others in dealing with the trauma, please contact:

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