The long-term financial impact of economic abuse

The impacts of economic abuse can be devastating and long-lasting. Survivors are often left with debts, bad credit ratings, limited financial options and poor mental health for many years. These impacts can make it difficult for those experiencing economic abuse to leave the perpetrator.

Our Know Economic Abuse report and campaign with Refuge highlights that approximately £14.4 billion of personal debt in the UK could be the direct result of economic abuse. On average, a survivor will owe £3,272 in debt, with one in four (24%) having debts over £5,000. Women survivors of economic abuse were in significantly more debt than men survivors, with an average debt of £3,818 compared to £2,926.

How does economic abuse lead to long-term debt?

Long-term debt can develop in a number of ways. Often, those who experience economic abuse see their partners make significant financial decisions – like buying a new home or a new car (13%) – without discussing it with them first.

Perpetrators will also run up debts in a partner’s name, either under duress (11%) or without their consent or awareness (10%). In some cases, these debts have particularly high-interest rates, which makes them difficult to manage.

The devastating impact of long-term debt

One in five (21%) survivors of economic abuse will be faced with debts that they are unable to repay. In 40% of cases, it will take a survivor years to pay off the debt, if they are able to at all.

Beyond the debts themselves, one in four survivors (26%) will also end up with a negatively impacted credit rating as a result of economic abuse. This can impact their ability to leave their abuser, regain their economic independence and rebuild for the future.

For example, 45% said they had been unable to get a credit card and 32% said that they had only been able to access a credit card with a high interest rate. Almost a quarter had been unable to buy a home as a consequence of their damaged credit rating.

Where you can get help

We and other banks are here to help and support people who have experienced economic abuse.

Since 2018, banks and buildings societies have been signed up to the Financial Abuse Code of Practice meaning that if a customer has experienced economic or financial abuse, they can tell their bank and know that they will:

  • Talk to a bank colleague who has the skills and training to support customers who have experienced financial abuse. 
  • Support the customer and minimise the need for the customer to tell their story more than once, and aim to limit any distress for the customer. 
  • Identify what next steps are available and help the customer regain control of their finances, and also signpost any other support options or organisations that could help.

Other places to get help

If you have experienced economic abuse, or if you are unsure but want to find out more, we want you to know we are here for you. We can help by providing a range of specialist support, as well as access to resources.

Visit our economic abuse help and support page to find out more.