The research, conducted by Deloitte and commissioned by Commonwealth Bank, estimates the direct cost of financial abuse in 2020 to be $5.7 billion.

Financial (or economic) abuse is a non-physical form of domestic and family violence (DFV) described as controlling someone's ability to acquire or use their own money, or manipulating their finances for one's own benefit.

More than 623,000 Australians were victims of financial abuse in 2020, representing roughly 380,000 women and 240,000 men.

The 'staggering' cost was broken into four main categories: withholding or controlling victim's income or finances ($3.2 billion); refusal to contribute to shared household bills ($1.2 billion); refusal to contribute to shared expenses for children ($0.6 billion); and liability for joint debt ($0.6 billion).

Financial abuse also cost the economy an estimated $5.2 billion in the form of productivity costs ($4.6 billion); mental health costs ($0.2 billion); and deadweight losses ($0.4 billion).

Commonwealth Bank has launched a new campaign - CommBank Next Chapter Commitment - to raise awareness of and end financial abuse. 

Commonwealth Bank CEO Matt Comyn said the campaign will see CBA, its customers and the community come together to end financial abuse by providing tools, advice and access to support services.

"Since we began work on financial abuse in 2015, we now better understand the extent of this issue and the devastating impact it has on victims, survivors and the community," Mr Comyn said.

"It will take a community effort to address this hidden epidemic and this new commitment is one way we are playing our part. We want to help create a brighter future for all Australians, a future free of financial abuse."

CEO Our Watch Patty Kinnersly said violence and abuse is not always physical.

"Using money or finances to hurt or control someone is abuse, but it can be hard to identify, and often misunderstood," Ms Kinnersly said.

"To prevent this, we need to address the underlying gender inequalities that drive financial abuse and other forms of violence against women."

Ms Kinnersly said financial insecurity is a 'significant barrier' for women seeking help and leaving abusive relationships.

"Financial institutions can play a critical role in stopping violence against women by empowering people to recognise abusive and controlling behaviour, and ultimately help prevent financial abuse in the first place," she said.

"Our Watch is pleased to see CommBank is taking action through the CommBank Next Chapter Commitment and helping to shed light on this pervasive social issue."

Image by Mathieu Stern on Unsplash

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