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What is coerced debt? Am I experiencing economic abuse?

Economic abuse is when a person uses access to money or other resources to control another person. It is often part of a larger pattern of aggression or threats.

Coerced debt is when someone:

  • Forces a partner, ex-partner or family member into debt or
  • Builds up debts in their name

This can be painful and scary, but you are not alone. Help is available.

What is economic abuse?

Economic abuse is a form of domestic abuse.

It is a way to control a person’s behaviour, actions, feelings and thoughts.

What is coerced debt?

Coerced debt is a result of economic abuse.

It is usually part of a pattern of controlling or coercive behaviour.

Abusers may make their victims borrow money or take out debts using:

  • Mental and physical violence
  • Threats
  • Blackmail
  • Cutting off access to their own money or other resources. Such as utilities

How can we help you if you are a victim of coerced debt?

When you come to us for debt advice, tell us if you have coerced debts so we can help you in the right way.

We can support you whether you want the coerced debts written off, or you just want to pay them back and move on.

Our dedicated support team will work with you to get what you need. No-one needs to know you are speaking to us.

We also work with organisations who are experts in this area. We can refer you to them if that is what you would like us to do. But we never do anything without checking it is okay with you.

Ready to get help? Get started online today.

How do I know if it is abuse?

It can be hard to recognise abuse at first. It often starts small or seems innocent. You may find ways to explain it or blame yourself.

Abusers do this on purpose to wear down your defences and make you doubt your senses.

”megaphoneCall 999 if you think you are in danger of harm.

What are the warning signs of coerced debt?

Look out for these signs if you are worried this is happening to you or a loved one.

1. Has your partner, or another member of your family, ever done any of the following?

  • Taken out credit in your name? Such as a mortgage, loan or credit card
  • Made you buy something you didn’t want to buy on credit?
  • Put bills in your name?

2. If they did any of the above, was it done –

  • Without your consent?
  • Without telling you?
  • After you asked them not to do that?

3. Do they threaten you to do things?

  • Sometimes
  • Quite a lot
  • On occasion

We are sorry if you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions. They are all signs of economic abuse. We urge you to find somewhere safe to go to and to seek help with the debt.

mum at the table with bills

Are you dealing with debts you did not want?

We can help with free and confidential advice.

Get help now.

How can StepChange help me?

Debts taken out in your name are not your fault. But they may still need to be paid.

We can help you come up with a plan to:

  • Contact the people you owe
  • Understand your budget
  • Come up with a solution
  • Refer you to specialist support, if that is what you would like

It may be possible to apply for your coerced debts to be written off

Our partner organisations can explain how to do that and support you through the process.

When you get in touch with us, you can sure that:

  • Any conversation you have with us will be completely confidential
  • We will work around your schedule to make sure:
  • You are in a safe place to talk
  • You only need documents you can safely access
  • Any contact from us is private or hidden

Find out more about how we can offer additional support.