Emma ended up with tens of thousands of dollars in debt, which she is still paying off.
She is a victim of economic abuse and BNZ’s managing director of customer care, Martin King, said Emma was not alone.
“We’ve had people who have been coerced quite heavily and we’ve also heard of threats against their family, their pets, their children, if they don’t take on the debt.”
But economic abuse could take many forms, King said.
“We actually opened the first account anyone had and they were in their 50s. They had never had a bank account because they had never been allowed to and they had never had a bank account. bank card, they had never been able to spend their own money.”
King said they are also closely monitoring online banking transactions.
“We had a particular case where a person received not particularly kind words every day related to a payment of one cent for four years – every day, in his bank account, he received money from his ex- partner.”
In such cases, the bank helped the victims to open new accounts.
But they can also take action against perpetrators.
“We have closed accounts and terminated relationships with the people sending these payments,” King said.
Holly Carrington of domestic violence organization Shine said economic abuse does not happen in isolation.
“It’s important to understand that where there is economic abuse, it’s almost always part of a larger behavior where one person is controlling someone else,” she said.
Economic exploitation has been added to the legal definition of domestic violence.
Carrington said there were no official figures on its extent – but around one in three women have experienced physical or sexual abuse from an intimate partner or ex-partner.
“I would expect the economic damage to be of the same order, probably just as common, if not more so.”
Emma expects to be debt free this year.
“There’s a lot of closure hanging over the end of that debt and I can’t wait for that part to be over.”
She wants other victims of economic abuse to know it’s not their fault – and there are people who will listen and help them.
Research is ongoing at the moment to get a better idea of the impact of economic abuse in New Zealand.
*Names have been changed to protect the identity of individuals.