Bankwest’s annual Hidden Costs Report into financial abuse in WA has revealed a rising prevalence of abusive behaviours, with several indicators surging year-on-year as economic pressures in the community intensify.
The Hidden Costs survey canvassed more than 1000 WA adults and was commissioned by Bankwest to raise awareness of a covert epidemic impacting those in more vulnerable circumstances across the state.
Financial abuse is often a hidden cost of Family and Domestic Violence (FDV), and occurs between a person and their partner, or intimate partner, when money is used as a means to gain power and control over that person.
The release of the Hidden Costs Report, conducted independently by YouGov, aligns with the WA Government’s 16 Days in WA ‘Ending violence against women’ campaign, which Bankwest has supported since its inception.
The Hidden Costs Report found a third of respondents had experienced financial abuse – up four per cent on 2021 – with the most common behaviour being a partner refusing to contribute financially to them or their family (51%).
The other most common behaviours experienced were a partner not disclosing hidden assets (50%), and someone using their partner’s wages for all household expenses, while spending their own pay only on themselves (49%).
The report also highlighted rising concerns among Western Australians for those around them, with nearly one third (29%) aware of – or holding concerns for – someone experiencing financial abuse (up from 25% in 2021).
The increased reported prevalence of financial abuse coincided with an increase in awareness, with more than nine-in-10 Western Australians familiar with the term – a significant climb on previous years (85% 2020, 88% 2021).
The report also showed an increase in those admitting to having been a perpetrator of financial abuse, with 15 per cent confirming they had knowingly (7%) or unknowingly (8%) committed behaviours listed in the survey.
Male respondents (20%) were twice as likely as females (10%) to admit to having been financially abusive.
Hidden Costs revealed a concerning lack of understanding of the impact of abusive behaviours amongst men, who were on average 15 per cent less likely to correctly identify listed behaviours as examples of financial abuse.
Men (36%) were more likely than women (30%) to have experienced financial abuse, but community perception was strongly weighted to women most commonly being the victims (41%) and men the perpetrators (58%).
There was also a clear disparity in the perception of difficulty in escaping a financially abusive situation, with women (65%) far more likely than men (50%) to say it would be ‘hard’ to seek help.
A quarter (23%) of women who had experienced financial abuse said they had not sought support, with perpetrator retaliation (91%) and discovery (86%), and believing it was not a significant issue (85%) the leading barriers.
The vast majority (80%) of Western Australians believed financial abuse was a widespread community problem, but a lack of awareness of support options had a similar number (75%) unsure of where to turn for help.
Bankwest Chief Operating Officer Louise Tovey said: “Bankwest has been part of the fabric of WA for more than 125 years, and we’re committed to supporting the communities in which we live and work.
“We’re dedicated to playing a leading role in the fight to raise awareness for, and stamp out, Family and Domestic Violence and financial abuse, which is why we've supported the 16 Days in WA campaign since its inception.
“Financial institutions can often be among the first contacted by someone experiencing family and domestic violence or financial abuse, so our colleagues often witness first-hand the devastation it can inflict on lives.
“Despite its prevalence, financial abuse can be difficult to recognise and, as the Hidden Costs Report has shown, it’s common for victims and survivors to stay silent because of a number of perceived barriers to seeking support.
“We want customers and the community to know we’re here to help, and we can support them in seeking information and support via Bankwest’s Financial Abuse Hub, which connects to services such as 1800RESPECT.
“This year’s 16 Days in WA campaign is themed, ‘It’s everybody’s business’, which is poignant, as Hidden Costs has shown financial abuse can impact anybody, making it critical that we work together to end this silent scourge.”