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An Initial Study of Coerced Debt in Abusive Relationships

This project is an innovative collaboration by Dr. Adrienne Adams, a community psychologist, and Angie Littwin, a law professor from the University of Texas at Austin School of Law to study a problem that occurs at the intersection of their fields. Consumer debt and domestic violence are connected in ways not previously imagined. A new type of debt labeled “coerced debt” is emerging from abusive relationships. Coerced debt occurs when the abuser obtains credit in the victim’s name via fraud or coercion. It ranges from obtaining unauthorized credit cards in victims’ names to coercing victims into signing loan documents to tricking victims into relinquishing rights to the family home. The purpose of the study is to advance our understanding of this problem by (a) exploring the prevalence of coerced debt among women seeking services from domestic violence agencies and (b) by using Life History Calendar interview methodology to understand the process by which debt unfolds, is discovered, and ultimately impacts victims’ financial wellness.
This project advances a new, timely area of inquiry with significant implications for research, practice, and policy. There is a broad demand for knowledge about coerced debt among advocates, service providers, lawyers, financial counselors, and policy makers. We will help meet this demand by disseminating our findings through scholarly journals, conference presentations, press releases, policy briefs, social media, and local presentations, workshops, and trainings.
Collaborators: Adrienne Adams, Deb Bybee
Start Date: January, 2013