Patricia Billie Miller


Patricia Billie Miller



April 24, 2024

Senator Miller Leads Passage of Legislation to Prohibit Coerced Debt

Senator Patricia Billie Miller, Senate Chair of the legislature’s Banking Committee, led passage Wednesday of a bill meant to prohibit coerced debt, a form of economic abuse, in which an offender makes another person liable for indebtedness as a means of control.

Senate Bill 123, An Act Concerning Coerced Debt, originated in the Banking Committee and passed the state Senate on Wednesday. It will now head to the House for consideration during the final two weeks of this year’s legislative session.

“No one should be bound by financial ties deliberately intended to entangle them in an abusive relationship,” Senator Miller, D-Stamford, said. “This form of abuse is disproportionately directed at women and SB 123 takes important steps to ensure that victims can reclaim their financial autonomy.”

Senate Bill 123 defines coerced debt as debt in the name of a domestic violence victim, incurred by force or under duress, threats, intimidation, or undue influence.

The bill provides relief to victims of coerced debt by creating a process by which creditors can be required to pause their collection activities. The proposal provides these victims a legal means to establish that their debt is coerced and ask a court to relieve them of their financial obligation to pay it. Claimants like debt collectors could then seek to hold abusers accountable for any unpaid debt.

Coerced debt often includes tactics like forcing a partner to open a credit card or overspend using an existing card. An abusive partner may also coerce a victim into borrowing money to pay for a product or service and then deny them access to their purchases. This can include products like vehicles or services like utility payments.

These practices often damage the credit scores of domestic abuse victims, restricting their independence and creating barriers to housing, employment, and educational opportunities.

“By defining and protecting against coerced debt, we are empowering survivors to sever those ties without the burden of unjust debts placed upon them under duress,” Senator Miller said.

Economic abuse is often reported by domestic violence survivors, according to the members organizations with the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence. For instance, 90% of the survivors served by the Susan B Anthony Project in Torrington have experienced some type of economic abuse with between 65% and 75% reporting types of coerced debt.

This abuse is not exclusive to Connecticut. A 2019 survey by the Center for Survivor Agency & Justice found that 52% of 1,823 women who called the National Domestic Violence Hotline reported experiencing coerced debt.

Connecticut joins the states of New York and North Carolina in considering policies to prevent this abusive behavior and these bills follow similar laws adopted in California and Minnesota.

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