I had £20,000 debt wiped by bank after abusive ex-partner took out loans in my name | The Sun

I had £20,000 debt wiped by bank after abusive ex-partner took out loans in my name | The Sun

March 5, 2023

AS her husband drove her to a pawn shop to sell her engagement and wedding rings so that he could have the cash, Natalie Curtis had a moment of realisation.

She had been the victim of physical and financial abuse for over six years but in January in 2018 she reached crisis point.

“I was so broke. We had no food, not even a bag of dry pasta. I had not money to even get to work and my husband was furious,” she told The Sun.

“He demanded money and I had none. I told him he’d used all my cash and credit cards and had spent the money he’d taken out in loans.

“He dragged me to a pawn shop to sell my engagement and wedding rings, so that he could have the cash.”

“This was the moment that I realised it wasn’t love.”

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Just a few months later the now 42-year old health and safety specialist from Hornchurch, Essex, made legal history as one of the first survivors of economic abuse in Britain to gain a custodial sentence for her abuser and  then  to have some of her debts written off.

The number of victims seeking help for financial abuse has more than doubled since the start of the cost-of-living crisis, according to the Surviving Economic Abuse (SEA) charity.

But a growing number of people who were pushed to borrow money by an abusive partner, are succeeding in getting their  some debts written off by lenders.

Money Advice Plus, which works in partnership with the economic abuse charity, said that in more than two-thirds of cases, financial abuse victims were successful in having some of their debts cancelled.

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It comes as new rules are expected this Spring which will make financial abuse that occurs after a couple have separated a criminal offence.

“The statutory guidance which will be announced has taken two years to become law. It can’t come soon enough for victims of economic abuse.

"This will spearhead more change in the next decade for financial abuse victims,” says Dr Nicola Sharp- Jeffs, Founder and CEO of Surviving Economic Abuse.

“The increase in people seeking advice for economic abuse compounded by the cost of living crisis means these new laws  have never been so needed . The rise in victims is deeply concerning.”

'Cash went in then out'

Natalie, who had a good job earning £45,000 a year, met her former husband in 2012 through work.

They quickly moved in together and he told Natalie that because he was self employed the bills needed to be in her name.

“He was very charming. He told me his self-employed status meant he could not get credit.”

The couple were meant to get married in 2015 but during an argument Natalie's abuser body slammed her against the wall breaking her femur.

“He came with me to the doctor, and hospital visits and I said nothing. No one thought to ask me why he was doing all the talking.

“I knew I should leave but I couldn't find the strength and I lived in fear of his anger.”

He then sprung a surprise wedding on her in December 2016.

“He then went to my phone, used my banking app and applied for a number of loans totalling £20,000.”

“I had a good credit rating and they were approved without my knowledge.

But as soon as the money was in her account, he organised for the cash to be transferred to him.

“When I saw the vast sums of cash come in and go out I confronted him.

"He told me he needed the cash for the wedding and his work and he’d pay me back."

Then two weeks before they were due to marry, he announced that he was quitting work.

Natalie went through with the wedding, picking up overtime when she could.

“All the bills were in my name. I had to meet all the payments for the loans he'd taken and when I got paid all my money went out the same day.

“I had nothing, but he was still asking me for money… If I said I couldn’t afford it, he’d just go ballistic.”

The abuse escalated when her husband coerced Natalie into taking out finance on a £60,000 BMW.

“I remember sitting next to him at the dealership saying nothing. I was praying the finance wouldn't be approved but it was.

“No one questioned why it was in my name but I was saying nothing and he was doing all the talking and deal making.

“There was absolutely no way I could afford it. The day we went to the dealership, he went mad, yelling that I was going to sign those papers whether I wanted to or not.”

“I was working every hour and he was forcing me to use my credit cards to pay for groceries and fuel.”

By now Natalie had a salary which including overtime and benefits was more than £50,000 but she couldn’t keep up with all the bills and payment for debts being run up in her name.

She had completely run out of cash – and that was when he demanded that she pawned her jewellery.

“I was emotionally and financially destitute. My life was out of control due to his financial abuse.

"I was powerless I felt I was look in watching it happen unable to stop the slow motion crash.

“I was relaying on relatives to handouts to pay basic bills. It was humiliating knowing I was earning a good wage.

"I felt like I was enabling an addicts' financial fix.”

Lloyds wiped £20,000

After her epiphany she asked a friend to help her flee the house and she went to the police.

In October 2018 her now ex-husband was given a three-year jail sentence and made subject to an indefinite restraining order after pleading guilty to controlling and coercive behaviour, including economic abuse.

Experts advised Natalie to declare herself bankrupt, but she decided to fight back.

“I‘d secured a ground-breaking legal victory for all survivors of economic abuse and I thought there had to be another way to regain control over my finances then going bankrupt,” she said.

“I met with the Surviving Economic Abuse Charity and they helped me use the updated  2021 Financial Abuse Code of Practice signed by the majority of Britain banks and major lending groups to get some of my money back.”

As a result almost £20,000 of debt was written off by Lloyds Bank after she spoke to their specialist abuse team.

'I was making history'

However, some of the other debts – such as the £60,000 BMW – were trickier to resolve.

She tried to return the car but was told that she needed to pay off £14,000 first.

Eventually, just before Christmas in 2020 Natalie had paid off enough to make her eligible to return the car and have the remaining debt cleared.

However, for Natalie, she has still taken amazing steps to lead the way for many other victims of abuse.

“It’s opened the floodgates for other women and men who have been victims of sustained financial abuse to go to their banks and have the same thing done for them.

“It was life changing for me. Like many survivors the conviction is the first step.

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“Then you’re left with vast debt your abuser ran up in your name and you either have to pay it off or go bankrupt.

“It’s like they are still abusing you. I didn't realise it at the time but I was making history and survivors like myself are now being given the power to properly take control of our lives again.”

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