Warning: this article contains details that some readers may find distressing.
Six years ago, Jane was able to escape from domestic violence. She had been working tirelessly to support her children and a husband who claimed to have no money. When she left, she discovered he had been earning more than $250,000 a year.
“I had become so tired and so browbeaten just through the process of managing it day by day that I thought, how do I move myself out of this situation?” she says. “It took so much energy to actually pick myself up and take my children.”
Like many victims of family violence, Jane appeared on paper to have it together. She is a former dean of a university, and has a master’s degree. But in private, she was subject to years of financial, emotional and physical abuse that left deep scars on her family.
“I had to stop working because I had a traumatised daughter,” Jane says. “Even now, she still has moments where her trauma becomes so much it is unmanageable. The impact of the financial abuse permeates through everything.”
Australia’s domestic violence laws repeatedly fail victims of abuse. The understanding and management of trauma – suffered by parents and children – is lacking.
For Jane, financial abuse meant she had no choice but to work herself to the bone, frightened by the fallout if she didn’t. Her solicitor husband had withheld his high earnings and left Jane to manage the strain of supporting the household.
“Psychological abuse and financial abuse are part of the same cycle,” she says. “I actually collapsed and had to go to hospital because I had absolutely flogged myself, working incredibly hard with two small children. After we separated, and I received the child support statements, I realised that while