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Economic Abuse and Water Utilities: Exploring Victim-survivor Experiences in Victoria


Eliza Venville, Becky Batagol and Paul Satur

Utility-related economic abuse is an understudied form of family violence. In 2017, new protections were introduced into the Victorian water industry standards to increase support for victim-survivor water customers. Comprising eight semi-structured interviews with victim-survivors (n=4), water sector employees and stakeholders (n=2), a community lawyer (n=1) and personal advocate (n=1), our exploratory study is the first in Australia to draw on lived experience to better understand water utility-related economic abuse and how victim-survivors seek help. Thematic analysis of qualitative data generated three themes: barriers to victim-survivor awareness of water utility support measures, receipt of inconsistent assistance from water utilities, and the impact of effective water utility support. We describe how water utility-related economic abuse was experienced by victim-survivors and suggest strategies to improve water utility support. Our research highlights an often overlooked dimension of economic abuse with implications for essential service utilities in Australia and beyond.

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