Starting this week, Britain’s longest running soap will feature a storyline depicting economic abuse to over five million viewers.
The character of Yasmeen Metcalfe has long been a victim of coercive and controlling behaviour, but now, after her husband Geoff’s death, we will learn she is a victim of economic abuse, too.
Alongside our partners at Money Advice Plus, SEA is extremely proud to have advised the Coronation Street script writers on making sure the storyline delivered an accurate, realistic and responsible portrayal of economic abuse and a victim’s experiences, including interactions with lenders and banks. Dr Nicola Sharp-Jeffs OBE, SEA’s founder and CEO, has called reaching such a large audience a “pinch-me moment”.
Shelly King, who plays Yasmeen, has praised the show for continuing the abuse storyline after Geoff’s death, and said that it would be “morally wrong” not to show how the abuse can continue after the perpetrator is no longer around.
[Spoilers Alert!] Viewers will discover that Geoff has left Yasmeen in mountains of debt after he forced her to take out loans when they were together. Soon, Yasmeen has bailiffs at her door, and when she appeals to her bank for help, they will confirm that the debt is her responsibility.
At SEA, we know this is not an uncommon situation. Abusers coerce their partners into taking out loans, credit or mortgages, often through means of intimidation and/or the threat of sexual and physical violence. SEA’s Economic Justice Project found that 60% of domestic abuse victims have been forced into debt , and annually, victims are left facing £23.5 million of coerced debt, an average of £4,500 per victim. When victims approach lenders, they are often met with a similar response to what Yasmeen faced: if their name is on the dotted line, there’s nothing that can be done.
SEA has worked with banks, building societies and creditors, such Lloyds Banking Group and Natwest, to try and transform this response, inform and educate lenders around economic abuse and coerced debt, and ensure that perpetrators are the ones held responsible for outstanding payments, not victims. We know this can be done and we are determined to see a change in consumer law that will better protect victims.
In the meantime, we are thrilled that awareness of economic abuse has reached Weatherfield, and we’re delighted to play a small part in helping this storyline reach millions of people. For some, this will raise awareness of what economic abuse is. Sadly, for others, this will be a storyline in their own lives. If that’s the case, we hope Yasmeen’s story helps them see that they are not alone, and help is out there.
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