One of my team has a case involving a vulnerable young woman who has been forced to pay off debts with sexual favours. Danielle is terrified of the loan shark who lives on the same estate. He has made threats to her partner and children, which has made her get help. Danielle is also living with crippling anxiety and depression – we make a referral to her GP for counselling and mental health support. We have also referred her to Citizens Advice for debt advice. The loan shark is under investigation.
The way loan sharks operate is to entice people by pretending to be their best friend and doing them a favour – it can be really easy to fall into that trap. These criminals initially offer money to mothers, who in some cases are seeking to feed their children, without fully informing them of the extortionate interest rates and despicable repayment methods. They will use violence, intimidation and even force women into performing sexual services and prostitution to pay off their debts.
It is extremely upsetting to hear stories of women who have experienced unimaginable suffering as a result of borrowing money. The sad reality is that this is not just a shocking one-off story and it is happening more frequently since the pandemic hit.