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Rates of domestic and family violence in Australia have risen alongside pandemic lockdowns. Researchers from the Queensland University of Technology Justice Center surveyed 362 domestic family violence (DFV) agencies in 2020 and found that nearly two-thirds had seen an increase in the number of people seeking help.

As research and discussion around DFV grows in importance, numerous reports suggest that physical violence within intimate partnerships and family relationships dominates awareness. While this is understandable given the threats encountered in these circumstances, it can mean that less visible violent and controlling behaviors like psychological and financial abuse remain under the radar.

According to the domestic violence hotline DVConnect, financial or economic abuse occurs when a person uses money or things related to personal finances to hurt, intimidate, or control another person. This could involve actions such as removing access to bank accounts, limiting communications and transportation allowing someone to work or study, or even taking out loans in the victim’s name.

A new report from Allianz Australia has also highlighted how insurance policies can be used by perpetrators of domestic violence, and that many Australians do not understand how this could happen.

Allianz commissioned a survey via YouGov for the report, which found that 78% of respondents did not fully understand the risks associated with insurance products in domestic violence situations.

Of the 1,038 people surveyed, 41% did not know why they would need to tell their insurer if they were experiencing family or domestic violence.

How might someone use insurance in a domestic violence situation?

It can often be difficult to spot the signs of financial abuse – it can start with minor actions and increase over time to involve more manipulative tactics. When considering how insurance policies might be used in this process, harm or control can be inflicted in a number of ways.

If a partner’s name appears on an insurance policy you jointly own, they may be able to:

  • Change the amount of insurance on your home or car, or cancel the policy without your knowledge.
  • Remove your name from the policy.
  • Change the address listed for your home or vehicle.
  • Access your address details.
  • Demand half of a claim reimbursement.

These actions could affect you if you have to make an insurance claim, which can put you in financial difficulty at a time when you are already vulnerable. It could also provide an abusive partner with your location.

It is also important to remember that an insurance claim may be rejected by some providers if your property has been intentionally damaged by someone listed on the policy.

How can you prevent someone from abusing your insurance?

In accordance with its report, Allianz has developed a insurance and domestic violence toolkit. If you encounter DFV, the toolkit suggests:

  • Contact your insurer and tell them about the situation.
  • tell them about separate your insurance policies from an abusive partner (only if it’s safe to do so).
  • Ask about additional support, and the procedure for claiming damages caused by DFV. Some insurance companies consider exceptional circumstances and may still grant your claim even if the damage was caused intentionally by an abusive partner listed on the policy.

Sema Musson of Allianz Australia said the company wants customers to feel safe and supported by insurers.

“A house or a car are often people’s most important financial assets, and we need to ensure that there is information and specialist support available to help victims protect these assets so they are not financially ruined. by the authors.”

The cost of escaping domestic violence

In 2017, the Australian Council of Trade Unions calculated that it costs an average of $18,000 to leave an abusive relationship. This takes into account the costs of finding accommodation and going through the courts, and equates to 141 hours spent on these tasks.

The government’s $5,000 Abuse Escape Payment was launched earlier this year to help reduce the financial barriers many people face when trying to leave an abusive partner or home. But it’s not a crisis payment, so those considering applying for this support should be aware that it may take time to access it.

While all employees in Australia are entitled to five days domestic and domestic violence leaveworkplaces are not required to pay you during this leave period (although some may choose to do so).

If you think you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, call the National Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Counseling Service on 1800 737 732 or 1800RESPECT for help and advice.

If you’re looking to change policies or find coverage that’s just right for you and your property, you can start by comparing some of the car insurance options below.

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