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Coerced Debt in the Context of Domestic Abuse 

Recent studies have demonstrated that diverse forms of economic abuse occur within intimate relationships – often alongside other forms of physical, sexual and psychological abuse – with serious consequences for women’s physical safety and economic security. Often overlooked in this literature, however, is the role that debt plays as a means of exercising coercive control. As consumer lending has permeated British life, abusive partners have begun obtaining credit in the victim-survivors name through fraud, force and misinformation. This abuse is now commonly referred to as coerced debt and emerging research shows that the immediate and long-term impacts for victim-survivors can be devastating – damaging their credit records, depleting their savings, and compromising their ability to access employment, services, housing and safety. Yet despite this knowledge, very little is known about the nature, impact, and consequences of coerced debt for victim-survivors in Britain, or the role it might play in trapping them in abusive relationships. Consequently, policymakers, practitioners and financial institutions are currently ill-equipped to take the necessary steps to protect victim-survivors of coerced debt and prevent future incidents.  

To fill this gap in knowledge, the project uses semi-structured interviews with victim-survivors of coerced debt, domestic abuse advocates, criminal and civil justice professionals and the financial services industry to examine: (1) the occurrence of coerced debt in abusive relationships; (2) victims’ experiences of coerced debt and the consequences it has for their lives; (3) the links between coerced debt and other forms of domestic abuse; and (4) potential legal and financial responses to coerced debt in Britain. A feminist political economy framework guides this study and informs the analysis, enabling the research team to engage with wider questions about structural gender inequality, economic insecurity, neoliberal reform, austerity and debt. This knowledge will feed into broader academic and policy discussions about the importance of financial safety and economic stability for victim-survivors of domestic abuse.   

This project is conducted by Dr Clare Wiper in the Department of Social Sciences at Northumbria University. The project is funded by the British Academy/Leverhulme Small Research Grant (2021-23). 


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