Between July and September 2021, 9 556 people, were raped. This is 7% more than the previous year South African Police Services (SAPS) report. Of the nearly 73 000 assault cases reported during this period, more than 13 000 were related to domestic violence.

16 days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children kicks off today. This year’s theme is, ‘’The Year of Charlotte Mannya Maxeke – 16 Days of Activism – moving from awareness to accountability.”

In recognition of the next important 16 days, we are exploring the financial ways in which domestic partners inflict violence on women and the impact financial violence has on women and children.

What Is Financial Violence? 

Financial abuse/violence can be done in secret, by a perpetrator who gradually takes control over bank accounts and obsesses over every financial transaction. Financial violence/abuse can also be evident and aggressive. As an example, the abuser may prohibit their partner from working or spending their salary.

Frequently Used Tactics    

Below are some of the tactics that abusers usually inflict on their victims. Regardless of whether the perpetrator is using three tactics or one, it’s still considered financial violence. Here are some ways in which people are abused financially.

  • Evading child maintenance or child support.
  • Making divorce proceedings difficult to cripple you financially.
  • Emotionally blackmailing you into believing that you need to prove your affection by giving them money.
  • Aggressively demanding that you should hand over your salary, passwords, and credit cards.
  • They demand an explanation for every financial transaction you make.

Partners can also convince you to give up your financial independence by insisting on being the breadwinner and taking “care” of you and your loved ones.

Impact of Financial Violence

According to Good Therapy

‘’By the time an individual escapes economic abuse, they’ve likely had a serious blow to their financial health. They may have lost their savings, their house, or their job. If an abuser prevented the individual from getting an education or building a resume, the victim may have trouble making up for the lost time.’’

There are also some dire emotional consequences for a victim of financial violence:

  • Victims may have trouble trusting loved ones and isolate themselves. 
  • They may become paranoid about money and theft. 
  • They may suffer from anxiety after spending money. 
  • They may feel guilt when using money, especially when buying anything for themselves.

The Cycle of Financial Violence

Just like gender-based violence, financial abuse is far from ending. According to, Laura-Lee Gillion, a former student at the University of Cape Town (UCT), started a petition that has attracted close to one million signatures. This was after the brutal and senseless rape and murder of UCT student Uyinene Mrwetyana at the Claremont post office in Cape Town.

On 6 March 2020, the petition was handed over to the Presidency alongside anti-GBV activist group SA Women Fight Back (SAWFB). The Presidency was given 3 weeks to respond, and yet almost 2 years later no response has ever been received.

It is complacency from the powers that be, like in the above example that encourages abusers to continue with violence because there is no action from the authorities. 

Financial violence/abuse has been listed as a lesser severe form of domestic violence. This has caused financial abuse to not receive the same recognition as other more common forms of abuse. This leads to many children growing up without regular financial child support or maintenance from their biological fathers – which is financial abuse. 

While there may not be a lot of research on financial violence in South Africa, it is a well-known fact that the majority of men in South Africa are employed and hold the financial power; this, in turn, leaves women and children vulnerable financially, in the hands of men.  

What Needs To Be Done? 

While the journey to ending gender-based violence and financial violence is still long, there have been many solutions proposed to end what President Cyril Ramaphosa described as ‘’another pandemic.’’ 

Here are some solutions proposed for those in power:

  • Ensure young women and girls stay in school.
  • Educate young women and girls about the importance of maintaining their financial independence.
  • Create more jobs for women and pay them livable wages.
  • Eradicating the gender wage gap. 
  • Child maintenance must be strictly mandatory. 

How To Break-Free From A Financial Abuser.

Financial expert, Dana George shares the following tips on how to break free from a financially abusive partner:

  • Safety first, before you act on any plans of breaking free, make sure your safety will not be compromised. 
  • Tell someone you trust or the authorities. 
  • Get professional psychological help. Any kind of abuse can potentially cause trauma.
  • Cancel all your bank accounts. This will stop the financial bleed.
  • Gather important documents such as your passport, ID, qualifications, etc. abusers hold such things at ransom when they realise they are losing power. 

If you are in an abusive relationship or suspect someone is being abused, contact The Gender-Based Violence Command Centre (GBVCC) which operates under The Department of Social Development. 

The Centre operates a National, 24hr/7days-a-week Call Centre facility. The facility employs social workers who are responsible for call-taking and call referrals. The Centre operates an Emergency Line number – 0800 428 428. 

This is supported by a USSD, “please call me” facility: *120*7867#. A Skype Line ‘Helpme GBV’ for members of the deaf community also exists. (Add ‘Help Me GBV’ to your Skype contacts). An SMS Based Line 31531 for persons with disabilities (SMS ‘help’ to 31531) also exists. The Centre can refer calls directly to SAPS (10111) and field Social Workers who respond to victims of GBV.

For shelter, you can contact People Opposed to Woman Abuse (Powa). Powa provides counselling, both over the phone and in person, temporary shelter for and legal help to women who have experienced violence.


Tel: 011 642 4345