Statistics on coerced debt

Forcing or coercing someone into debt is a common form of economic abuse.   

If you are experiencing economic abuse and have been coerced into debt, we have information that may help you.

Victim-survivors of domestic abuse are left with an average individual debt of more than £20,000.

Coerced debt in the general UK population 

  • One in ten adults in the UK says that a partner has put debts in their name and that they had been afraid to say no.1
  • Domestic abuse charity Refuge estimates that there is £14.4 billion of debt related to economic abuse in the UK.2

Coerced debt among victim-survivors of domestic abuse

  • SEA’s Economic Justice Project found that 95% of survivors of domestic abuse experience economic abuse. Of those, 60% have experienced at least one form of coerced debt.3
  • During the pandemic, 77% of frontline professionals in the domestic abuse sector reported that victim-survivors had raised concerns around getting into debt.4

Amount of coerced debt faced by victim-survivors

SEA runs the Financial Support Line and Casework Service with Money Advice Plus. It is a tailored service giving financial advice specifically to victim-survivors of domestic abuse.

Data from the Financial Support Line and Casework service found that, in 2022:

  • victim-survivors had an individual average debt of more than £20,000 
  • victim-survivors had an average of 7 debts each  
  • each individual debt was worth more than £3,000 on average.5  

Experiences of coerced debt

Of the clients supported by the Financial Support Line and Casework Service in 2022:

  • 56% said their partner made them get a credit card, loan, or buy something on credit against their wishes 
  • 48% said their partner had built up debt in their name, eg by using their credit card, internet account or phone 
  • 36% said their partner had a loan or credit card with their name on it or had bought something using their credit 
  • two thirds said they felt forced to buy things or pay bills for their partner.5

Research by Refuge into economic abuse among victim-survivors of domestic abuse found that 38% had to borrow from friends and family.6 

The impact of coerced debt

“He stole my credit history. He took my perfect credit history, which means my credit history is now horrific.” (Victim-survivor)

Refuge’s research with victim-survivors of domestic abuse with coerced debt found that:

  • 21% said they had debts they did not know how to repay
  • women were left with higher levels of debt as a result of economic abuse compared to men
  • women were left paying off debt for longer than men
  • 45% had been unable to obtain a credit card
  • 32% had only been able to access a credit card with a high interest rate  
  • 30% had been unable to obtain a personal loan 
  • almost a quarter had been unable to buy a home.6 

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1 Sharp-Jeffs, N. (2015). Money Matters. Research into the extent and nature of financial abuse within intimate relationships in the UK. Refuge and Cooperative Bank. 2015.

2 Refuge. Know Economic Abuse. 2020.

3 Surviving Economic Abuse. Recognising and responding to the scale of coerced debt: Final evaluation of the Economic Justice Project. 2020.

4 Surviving Economic Abuse. The Cost of Covid-19. 2021.

5 Surviving Economic Abuse and Money Advice Plus. Financial Support Line and Casework Service data. 2022.

6 Refuge. Know Economic Abuse. 2020.

Last updated March 2023

Further support

If you are experiencing economic abuse, you are not alone. We have more information that can support you to take steps towards safety and begin to regain control of your finances.