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2.23 Honour-based abuse

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Also see Forced marriage.

 

Contents

Definition

‘Honour’-based abuse is the term used to describe incidents or crimes which have been committed to protect or defend the honour of the family and/or the community. The abuse could  include forced marriage, domestic and/or sexual violence, rape, physical assaults, harassment, kidnap, threats of violence (including murder), witnessing violence directed towards a sibling or another family member, and female genital mutilation (FGM).

Abuse committed in the context of preserving ‘honour’ is different to domestic abuse as it often involves a wider network of family or community pressure and can include multiple perpetrators.

Murders carried out in the name of so-called ‘honour’ are sometimes called ‘honour’ killings’. These are murders in which predominantly women are killed for perceived immoral behaviour, which is deemed to have breached the ‘Honour’ code of a family or community, causing shame. 

Possible indicators that a child/young person or adult is at risk of/subject to honour-based absue

A child who is at risk of ‘Honour’-based abuse is at significant risk of physical harm (including being murdered) and/or neglect, and may also suffer significant emotional harm through the threat of violence or witnessing violence directed towards a sibling or other family member. 

Indicators of honour based abuse can include:

  • Broken communication between a potential victim and friends
  • Absence from education (or training/workplace)
  • Criticism of a potential victim for ‘western’ adoption of dress or make-up (either directly or indirectly)
  • Excessive restrictions in leaving the house or being accompanied outside the home in older children
  • Depressive or suicidal tendencies in an otherwise happy child or young person.

The perceived immoral behaviour include: 

  • Inappropriate make-up or dress
  • The existence of a boyfriend / girlfriend or a perceived unsuitable relationship e.g.;
    • a homosexual relationship
    • inter-faith relationships
    • same faith relationship but different ethnicities
  • kissing or intimacy in a public place
  • rejecting an arranged or forced marriage
  • pregnancy outside of marriage
  • being a victim of rape
  • leaving a spouse or seeking divorce.
  • Alcohol or drug use

It is important to be mindful that children & young people may be subject to honour based abuse for reasons which may seem improbable or relatively minor to others.

Murders in the name of ‘so-called ‘Honour’’ are often the culmination of a series of events over a period of time and are planned. There tends to be a degree of premeditation, family conspiracy and a belief that the victim deserved to die. 

Incidents, in addition to those listed above, which may precede a murder include: 

  • physical abuse
  • emotional abuse, including:
    • house arrest and excessive restrictions
    • denial of access to the telephone, internet, passport and friends
    • threats to kill
  • pressure to go abroad – victims are sometimes persuaded to travel to their families country of origin under false pretences, when in fact the intention could be force them into marriage or to kill them.

Children sometimes truant from school to obtain relief from being controlled at home by relatives. They can feel isolated from their family and social networks and become depressed, which can on some occasions lead to self-harm or suicide. 

Families may feel shame long after the incident that brought about the dishonour which occurred, and therefore the risk of harm to a child can persist. This means that the young person’s new boy/girlfriend, baby (if pregnancy caused the family to feel ‘shame’), associates or siblings may be at risk of harm. 

Protection and action to be taken

When receiving a disclosure from a child, professionals should recognise the seriousness/immediacy of the risk of harm.  

For a child to report to any agency that they have fears of ‘Honour’ based abuse in respect of themselves or a family member requires a lot of courage, and trust that the professional/agency they disclose to will respond appropriately. Specifically, under no circumstances should the agency allow the child’s family or social network to find out about the disclosure, so as not to put the child at further risk of harm.  

Authorities in some countries may support the practice of ‘Honour’ based abuse, and the child may be concerned that other agencies share this view, or that they will be returned to their family. The child may be carrying guilt about their rejection of cultural/family expectations. Furthermore, their immigration status may be dependent on their family, which could be used to dissuade them from seeking assistance.  

Where there is a disclosure of suspicion of ‘Honour’ based abuse, staff in all agencies/organisations must respond immediately by referring to Children Social Care, or where there is imminent risk, directly to the police. 

Referring agencies should make an assessment of risk of harm using a dedicated assessment tool e.g. DASH.

The social care and police response should include: 

  • seeing the child immediately in a secure and private place
  • seeing the child on their own
  • explaining to the child the limits of confidentiality
  • asking direct questions to gather enough information to make a referral to LA children’s social care and the police, including recording the child’s wishes
  • encouraging and/or helping the child to complete a personal risk assessment
  • developing an emergency safety plan with the child
  • agreeing a means of discreet future contact with the child
  • explaining that a referral to children’s social care and the police will be made
  • record all discussions and decisions (including rationale if no decision is made to refer to children’s social care)
  • documenting any injuries disclosed

Professionals must not approach the family or community leaders, share any information with them or attempt any form of mediation. In particular, members of the local community must not be used as interpreters. 

All multi-agency discussions should recognise the police responsibility to initiate and undertake a criminal investigation as appropriate. 

Multi-agency planning should consider the need for providing suitable safe accommodation for the child, as appropriate. 

If a child is taken abroad, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office may assist in repatriating them to the UK. 

One Chance rule

One Chance rule indicates that practitioners working with victims of forced marriage and honour-based violence need to be aware they may only have one chance to speak to a potential victim and thus they may only have one chance to save a life.  This means that all practitioners working within statutory agencies need to be aware of their responsibilities and obligations when they come across forced marriage cases.

Disclosure about adults at risk of honour based abuse

Adults affected by honour based abuse or violence should be reviewed under the safeguarding adults at risk process, but any adult assessment must address any potential risk of honour based abuse or violence to anyone living in the family as well as the extended family network. For details of safeguarding adults processes access the West Midlands Regional Safeguarding Adults Information Hub

Issues

A child who is at risk of ‘Honour’-based abuse is at significant risk of physical harm (including being murdered) and/or neglect, and may also suffer significant emotional harm.

When receiving a disclosure from a child, professionals should recognise the seriousness/immediacy of the risk of harm.

For a child to report to any agency that they have fears of ‘Honour’-based abuse in respect of themselves or a family member requires a lot of courage, and trust that the professional/agency they disclose to will respond appropriately. Specifically, under no circumstances should the agency allow the child's family or social network to find out about the disclosure, so as not to put the child at further risk.

Professionals should respond in a similar way to cases of ‘Honour’-based abuse as with domestic violence and forced marriage (i.e. in facilitating disclosure, developing individual safety plans, ensuring the child’s safety by according them confidentiality in relation to the rest of the family, completing individual risk assessments etc.).

While honour-based abuse can happen in any community, victims from black or ethnic minority groups, (where abuse is perpetrated by extended family members or relate to forced marriage issues) may be more isolated due to religious and/or cultural pressures, language barriers, having no recourse to public funds or fear of bringing shame to their ‘family ‘Honour’’. 

Further information

Below are some examples of national support agencies. For a more extensive list please see page 67 of the HM Multi Agency Practice guidelines.

Child Line: 0800 1111
A service for any child or young person with a problem.

Citizens Advice Bureau
Offering free, confidential and impartial information on, for example, benefits, immigration, family and personal matters - see local telephone directory.

Karma Nirvana - National Honour Based Abuse & Forced Marriage Helpline for professionals and members of the public 0800 5999247
Website: karmanirvana.org.uk
Email: info@karmanirvana.org.uk

Language Line: 020 7520 1430
Can provide an interpreter on the telephone immediately in 100 different languages, 24 hours a day.

Local Women's Aid refuge services: Womens Aid
Refuge projects, which can include advice centres, drop-in centres, outreach services.

NSPCC Asian Child Protection Helpline: 0800 096 7719
A free confidential service for anyone concerned about children at risk of harm, also connects vulnerable young people, particularly runaways, to services that can help.

NSPCC Child Protection Helpline: 0808 800 500 Text Phone: 0800 056 0566
A free confidential service for anyone concerned about children at risk of harm, also connects vulnerable young people, particularly runaways, to services that can help.

24hr Women's Domestic Violence and Abuse Helpline - 0808 200 0247 (freephone)

Victim Support - 0845 303 0900

Roshni – A West Midlands BAME Forced Marriage and Honour Based Abuse Helpline 

This page is correct as printed on Thursday 26th of May 2022 07:32:51 PM please refer back to this website (http://westmidlands.procedures.org.uk) for updates.
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