One in five domestic violence survivors unable to repay debt, with victims owing an average of £ 3,272
One in five survivors of domestic violence is unable to repay debts to victims of financial abuse average £ 3,272 in debt, according to a new study.
One in four survivors of indebted financial abuse have racked up debts of more than £ 5,000 – researchers claiming a significant portion of personal debt in the UK could be the direct result of economic exploitation.
The report, which was also carried out by Co-operative Bank, found that around £ 14.4 billion in the UK can be attributed to some form of economic abuse.
Activists have defined financial abuse as a partner who steals your money, tries to control your spending, prevents you from working, prevents you from accessing your own bank account or that of your joint bank account, or accumulates debt in your name.
Lisa King, Refuge, said: “Economic violence is a huge problem facing women across the country and, as our report shows, can leave women in debt for many years with their lives. ability to leave their abusive partner affected.
“The long-term impacts of debt resulting from economic abuse should not be ignored – and steps should be taken to ensure that women are able to rebuild their financial stability and gain economic independence after the abuse.
“Domestic violence is not just about physical violence and our report should be a wake-up call that action must be taken to address all forms of domestic violence. ”
She noted that the banking and financial sector can take “simple steps” to offer women greater protection, as she urged them to do so.
While one in four survivors struggled with their finances due to economic abuse, the numbers were significantly higher for those who began to experience financial abuse during the Covid crisis – with around a third claiming they were struggling with debt and could not afford basic living costs.
In 40 percent of cases, the victim of domestic violence will not be able to repay the debt that she has accumulated for years if she does. While 45 percent of survivors said they couldn’t get a credit card due to financial abuse.
Maria Cearns, Co-operative Bank, said: “Something we have learned from our ongoing interactions with vulnerable clients who have experienced some form of economic abuse is that the ramifications of the abuse may continue to grow. have a profound impact on someone’s financial well-being for years to come.
“It was a realization for us that some of the survivors we interviewed five years ago as part of our initial study would still be subject to long-term debt, damaged credit scores and limited access. financial products and services, due to circumstances that were completely beyond their control.
Experian, the leading credit referral agency, is working with activists to improve access to credit reports and improve mechanisms for survivors to tell lenders their debt is the result of domestic violence.
John Webb, Head of Consumer Affairs at Experian, said, “Survivors of economic abuse who have had accounts opened fraudulently can suffer long-term financial consequences. Experian’s Fraud Victims Team can help victims dispute these accounts with all lenders on their behalf.
“Survivors of economic exploitation may have fraudulent accounts opened in their name, without their knowledge or without their permission. However, victims of economic abuse can also be forced to open accounts, which can also be disputed as fraudulent.
“It is important that survivors of economic exploitation can clear up their credit reports by deleting fraudulent accounts in order to access financial services while rebuilding their lives. “
It comes after a recent report from Refuge found that nearly two in five people living in the UK have experienced financial abuse from their current or former partner. The researchers, who interviewed more than 4,000 people, found that around 20 million people had experienced financial abuse from their partners, including being denied access to money or a bank account, as well as by going into debt in their name.
The study found that nearly a million people – ten percent of all those who have been the victims of financial abuse – are currently in a relationship with someone who subjects them to financial abuse. Researchers have warned of the coronavirus recession, the end of the leave scheme and soaring unemployment could give abusers more chances of perpetrating financial abuse.
Anyone in need of help or support can contact the National Domestic Abuse Hotline, which is open 24/7 365 days a year on 0808 2000 247 or through its website. https://www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk/