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The Role of Coerced Debt in Abusive Relationships in Britain (2021–2023)

This project is conducted by Dr Clare Wiper in the Department of Social Sciences at Northumbria University. The project is funded by a British Academy/Leverhulme Research Grant. To contact Dr Wiper, please email: clare2.wiper@northumbria.ac.uk

Recent studies have demonstrated that diverse forms of economic abuse occur within intimate relationships, with serious consequences for victim safety, autonomy, and economic sustainability. Often overlooked, however, is the role that debt plays as a means of exercising abusive control. As consumer lending has permeated British life, violent partners have begun using debt coercively to damage victims’ credit records, compromising their ability to access jobs, housing and services. This form of abuse comprises coercive control, identity theft and economic abuse (Littwin 2012) yet very little is currently 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, advocates, criminal justice professionals and financial advisers to examine:

  • the occurrence of coerced debt in abusive relationships
  • victims’ experiences of coerced debt and the consequences it has for their lives
  • the links between coerced debt and other forms of domestic abuse
  • the potential legal and financial responses to coerced debt in Britain.

A feminist political economy framework guides this study and will inform 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 academic and policy discussions about the importance of financial safety and stability for survivors of domestic abuse. 


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