Many people wouldn’t have pictured Lydia* as someone experiencing domestic and family violence.
From the outside, everything looked fine. With three dependent children, Lydia and her husband Sam* owned multiple properties and cars in both names and were both educated with high savings. And yet, Lydia didn’t have freedom or access to their money.
In our first meeting with Lydia after she was referred to YWCA’s Wingecarribee Domestic and Family Violence Service, she opened up and told us that she needed to account for all outgoings and was given a $25 per week allowance for incidentals. This was the only money she can spend without being fearful of her spouse’s interrogation.
While on paper, Lydia was financially stable and therefore ineligible for social housing, Centrelink benefits, Legal Aid or other government supports, in reality she had no accessible money at all. This meant she had no choice but to remain with Sam, feeling frightened, frozen and stuck.
Financial control is a form of domestic and family violence that is often difficult for people to understand. It occurs when money is used to gain power and control over another person. It can include not having access to a bank account and include an inability to buy necessities for the family. Financial control can trap women in an abusive relationship and may also impact on their ability to stay safe if they decide to leave.
We supported Lydia through careful consideration of the circumstances and supports needed for her to either leave the violence or remain safe at home. We worked together to unpeel the layers and find options to get the best outcomes. It was clear that for Lydia to be able to live freely with her children, independent finances were needed to allow her to find safe accommodation.
Months of extensive and intensive casework resulted in Lydia and her children safely leaving the abusive home to live independently. We supported Lydia with legal and court support, financial counselling as well as practical, emotional and parenting support. Now in their new home, Lydia and her children are ready to begin intensive trauma counselling and therapy to heal from their experience.
While our work with Lydia has officially concluded, we are always here if she ever needs us.
*Not their real name
Wingecarribee Domestic and Family Violence Service provides support for families and their children impacted by domestic and family violence and works with people experiencing or at risk of experiencing, vulnerability in the Wingecarribee local government area (Bowral, Southern Highlands NSW).
The program aims to increase child and family safety through family capacity building using a case management model that promotes confidence in parenting and self-determination. Women and children accessing the program have access to safety planning, evidence-based parenting support, legal and court support, material aid and referrals that link to services and community connections.