Mrs S lives with a disability and was dependent on her spouse as a result of a stroke 20 years ago. She was referred to Caxton’s Seniors Legal and Support Service after carers at a respite centre noticed she had a black eye. Mrs S experienced physical, psychological and financial abuse from her husband throughout their long marriage and Mrs S’s husband controlled all finances, monitored the mail and would not allow her to use the phone or leave the house other than as arranged by him.
Domestic violence occurs when someone in an intimate relationship (boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife) or an ex-partner uses fear to control the other person. There are different types of domestic violence and one type is financial abuse, which can include many things, like controlling and preventing access to money, stopping someone from getting a job or forcing them to get loans they don’t want. In Mrs S’s case, her husband did not give her access to their joint bank account which was a means of control as Mrs S was unable to do anything that cost more than a small amount.
Once Caxton stepped in, our social worker, Mrs S and her community service coordinator worked together to develop a detailed safety plan. The safety plan was highly involved as all steps had to be taken without the knowledge of Mrs S’s husband in order to reduce the risk of Mrs S being assaulted once again. She urgently needed new housing on a ground floor in order to accommodate her disability.
With help from Caxton’s social worker and the community worker Mrs S needed to:
- arrange identification documents
- secure a lease on a one-bedroom unit and furnish it
- undergo an urgent assessment by the Aged Care Assessment Team (away from the marital home) so that subsidsed in-home aged care services could commence
- access money, carefully timed for the morning she moved out so as not to alert her abuser
- establish an alternative postal address to enable secure communications; and
- update Centrelink arrangements.
Caxton’s social worker provided Mrs S with significant emotional support and psycho-education as well as practical assistance, such as transport to appointments.
Fortunately, Caxton Legal Centre could use our Vera Raymer Trust Fund to pay for Mrs S’s bond and two weeks rent in advance, an essential step which enabled Mrs S to move to a safe location as the rest of the measures to facilitate her independence played out. Caxton’s lawyer communicated Mrs S’s intention to separate to her husband and arranged for her to access funds from the couple’s joint bank account.
Mrs S is now gradually regaining her confidence in managing her own affairs and can proceed with her divorce in an environment where she is free from abuse and control. She has access to her own income, including superannuation, and phone, and can plan social arrangements.