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Coerced Debt in the Context of Domestic Abuse: A UK Case Study

Dr Clare Wiper

Wednesday 20th September, 5pm-6pm

Recent studies have demonstrated that diverse forms of economic abuse occur within intimate relationships, with serious consequences for women’s safety and economic security. Often overlooked, however, is the role that debt plays as a means of exercising coercive control. Drawing on data gathered from 78 interviews with women victim-survivors of domestic abuse and relevant stakeholders, this presentation demonstrates how abusive male partners build debt coercively in their victim’s names in order to damage their credit records, deplete their savings, and compromise their ability to access jobs, services, housing and safety. This form of economic abuse – commonly referred to as coerced debt – heightens women’s exposure to prolonged and escalating violence, yet there are few financial or legal remedies for coerced debt in the UK, and a widespread lack of understanding of this abuse among academics, policymakers and key stakeholders, including the police. To complicate matters, coerced debt does not require physical proximity and can continue, escalate and even begin post-separation; an issue that demands full attention as of April 2023, when the controlling and coercive behaviour offence in England and Wales was extended to cover post-separation abuse. Overall, this presentation will draw attention to the urgent need for new and improved understandings of, and responses to, coerced debt in the UK and beyond. 

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