Money, power and family violence: the silence of economic abuse

Money, power and family violence: the silence of economic abuse

Sociologist Supriya Singh unpacks the nuances of economic abuse in her TEDx Talk ‘Money and its Morality’, revealing the devastating effects of staying silent about money in relationships.

Drawn from the first-hand experiences of women who have survived economic abuse – an often-overlooked dimension of family violence – Singh’s talk is a rallying cry for the importance of talking about money with intimate partners.

A sociologist of money and Honorary Professor in the Graduate School of Business and Law, Singh said economic abuse is inherently gendered, with women most often the ones who suffer.

“Even when a woman knows a man is controlling her life through money, she seldom recognises it as family violence,” Singh said.

“Economic abuse – denying a woman money, appropriating her assets, sabotaging her work – is a form of family violence, and we need to recognise that and legislate accordingly.”

This kind of coercive control occurs across cultures, in forms ranging from joint accounts to remittances, revealing how easily money can turn from a medium of care to a medium of abuse.

She said money is a difficult topic of conversation for most couples as it’s tied to issues of power and dependence in our relationships.

“Despite the difficulty, it is important to talk about money with partners as we often take for granted our own expectations, family experiences and cultural norms,” Singh said.  

Migration makes it even more challenging as couples are faced with different cultural models of how money is managed within intimate relationships.

Singh said open discussion about money must continue across all life stages – children, unemployment, and retirement – and that this practice must be passed down from parents to children in order to break cycles of silence and assumptions around money.

“I learnt from the stories of the women I interviewed that major social change will only happen when we learn how to talk about money in intimate relationships.”

Her forthcoming book Domestic Economic Abuse: The Violence of Money will be published by Taylor & Francis later this year.


Story: Grace Taylor

12 April 2021


12 April 2021


  • Research
  • Business
  • Legal & justice

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