Safeguarding comes in many different forms in all educational settings. We often have a focus on the children in our settings, but equally, there are young people in their teens and potentially staff in their early adult life who may need protection from different types of abuse and violence. In this article, we focus on the safeguarding categories of honour-based abuse/violence and forced marriage.
What are honour-based abuse and violence?
Honour-based abuse is a term which refers to a collection of practices used to control the behaviour of people within families (or other social groups) in order to protect perceived cultural and religious beliefs, values and social norms in the name of ‘honour’. It can include violence, threats of violence, intimidation and coercion (including psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional abuse) against a person who is alleged to have breached a family’s or community’s code of behaviour, thereby bringing perceived ‘dishonour’ or ‘disrespect’ on the family or community.
The victims of honour-based violence (HBV) are predominantly women although not exclusively, and there are usually a number of perpetrators or potential perpetrators who are involved in abusive and controlling behaviours. These can range from controlling finances and whom people are allowed to see and speak to, to acid attacks and murder. It can also be difficult to collect evidence in honour-based abuse cases if families effectively ‘close ranks’ and protect perpetrators.
Consent to legally marry someone must be given freely and in full by both parties. Forced marriage is a criminal offence in the UK, as is deceiving someone into leaving the UK in order to force them into marrying someone. For an offence to be committed, the perpetrator forcing someone to marry must:
- Have used violence, threats or any other form of coercion for the purpose of causing another person to engage in a marriage
- Know the victim does not consent to the marriage or does not reasonably believe that she consents to the marriage
The statistics related to honour-based violence and forced marriage in Britain make chilling read:
- 5,105 cases of honour-based violence
- 1,196 cases relating to possible forced marriage
- 700 – 800 calls a month to Karma Nirvana’s specialist HBV and forced marriage helpline
- 12 ‘honour killings’ each year
But internationally, there are many more with 1,000 killings occurring in India and 1,000 in Pakistan, part of the 5,000 killings which happen internationally each year. And even those are considered to be under-estimates which hide the true scale of the problem.
Most people experience abuse for 2 years or longer before seeking any kind of support and 68% of victims at risk of HBV were at high risk of serious harm or homicide. Victims were also 7 times more likely to have experienced abuse from multiple perpetrators compared to those not identified as at risk from HBV.
What to look out for
There are certain communities that are at greater risk of this kind of abuse than others and it is a CULTURAL problem rather than a RELIGIOUS one. The incidence of abuse in the following communities is higher than in other Western communities:
- South Asian
- Romany and Traveller communities
- Middle Eastern
- Southern and Eastern European communities
According to one police leaflet:
“Girls and women are most at risk of HBAV and are vulnerable following a refusal or breakdown of an arranged or forced marriage, termination of an unwanted pregnancy or defying parents. HBAV can also affect boys and men. HBAV might also be committed against people who become involved with a boyfriend or girlfriend from a different culture or religion; and whose attitude and behaviour (clothes, activities, and career) might not be considered traditional within a particular culture. LGBTQ+ and disabled people are amongst the most vulnerable.”
Talking about this situation is one of the most difficult things for victims to do and police forces are trained to understand that sometimes, people have only ‘one chance’ to speak out, so it is vital that if disclosures are made, staff know where to direct people for help or how to get support for the victims. They may have only one chance to save a life.
How to help
If you suspect that someone is at immediate risk, then you should call 999.
If a person is experiencing or afraid that they are at risk of honour-based violence or forced marriage, there are people that they can speak to who will be able to provide help and support, in confidence.
It is important to pass any disclosures on to the setting’s Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL) immediately and in the case of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), it is the person’s duty to call the police too. It is very important that contact is not made with the community or parents of the people at risk as this could exacerbate the problem, but referrals should be made to the appropriate safeguarding institutions.
There are a number of charities and helplines that can help people if they are worried about honour-based abuse.
Karma Nirvana runs the national helpline for honour-based abuse and it is a freephone number: 0800 5999 247. The line is available Monday to Friday, 9 am-5 pm. Alternatively, if it is not safe to call the helpline, you can email them at: firstname.lastname@example.org
True Honour was formed in 2015 with two clear aims – to help stop abuse and to save lives. Their goal is to support victims of honour-based violence, forced marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM) and they have confidential one-to-one support available on 07480 621 711. True Honour also engages with police forces, educational institutions and other agencies to try to educate them about the issues and the problems that victims face coming forward.
Wales has a Live Fear Free helpline on 0808 80 10 800 or you can access its website at: https://www.gov.wales/live-fear-free/honour-based-violence-and-forced-marriage
The Halo Project is another charity offering help and advice through its website at: https://www.haloproject.org.uk or its specialist support line on 01642 683 045.
Freedom Charity is another charity bringing awareness, help and support to victims of forced marriage, honour-based violence and female genital mutilation.
It is important for everyone to know that they do not have to suffer in silence and that help and support are available, even if it is difficult to come forward initially. Explaining this to your teams and using posters and advice sessions may just be the prompt that people need to come forward.