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Definition

Honour Based Abuse is a collection of practices, which are used to control behaviour within families or other social groups with the aim of protecting perceived cultural and religious beliefs and/or honour. Such abuse can occur when perpetrators perceive that a relative has shamed the family and / or community by breaking their honour code.

For young victims it is a form of child abuse and a serious abuse of human rights.

Honour Based Abuse can be distinguished from other forms of abuse, as it is often committed with some degree of approval and/or collusion from family and/or community members. Women, men and younger members of the family can all be involved in the abuse.


Risks

Children may find themselves in an abusive and dangerous situation against their will with no power to seek help. The usual avenues for seeking help – through parents / carers or other family members may be unavailable. Honour Based Abuse manifests itself in a diverse range of ways including:

  • Rape;
  • Physical assaults;
  • Kidnap;
  • Threats of violence (including murder);
  • Witnessing violence or abuse directed towards a sibling or indeed another family member; and
  • Forced Marriage (see Forced Marriage Safeguarding Practice Guidance).

In addition to the physical risks, a child may also suffer significant emotional harm through the threat of violence or abuse or witnessing this directed at a sibling or other family member.

Online targeting of victims is being used more frequently as a means of controlling and exploiting them. Victims can find it difficult to leave abusive relationships or ask for help if their immigration status is uncertain. They may face a number of issues such as a fear of deportation, bringing ‘shame’ on their families, financial difficulties and homelessness, or losing their children.

The notion of shame and the associated risk to the victim may persist long after the incident that brought about dishonour occurred. This means any new partner of the victim, children, associates or their siblings may be at serious risk of significant physical harm and/or emotional harm by both their family and the community.

One of the greatest risks to the victim is agencies either not recognising the risks of Honour Based Abuse or backing off believing that the issue is culturally or religiously related. The fear by agencies of acting inappropriately regarding cultural beliefs is a significant concern and can put the life of the victim at risk.

Staff need to receive training which should cover not only how to recognised the signs regarding Honour Based Abuse, but how to have the confidence to deal with cases and not feel threatened by the family members or even their own agencies.

Behaviours that could be seen to cause dishonour may include the following (but not necessarily in all families):
  • Inappropriate make-up or dress;
  • The existence of a boyfriend, particularly if they are not from their caste or a perceived unsuitable relationship e.g. a gay/lesbian relationship;
  • Rejecting an arranged / forced marriage;
  • Pregnancy outside of marriage;
  • Being a victim of rape;
  • Inter-faith relationships (or same faith, but different ethnicity);
  • Leaving a spouse or seeking divorce;
  • Kissing or intimacy in a public place;
  • Alcohol and drugs use; and
  • Adopting Western youth culture.

It is important to be mindful that young people may be subject to Honour Based Abuse for reasons which may seem improbable or relatively minor to others.


Indicators

It is likely that awareness that a child is the victim of an honour based crime will only come to light after an assault of some kind has taken place e.g. an allegation of domestic abuse or it may be that a child is reported as missing. There are inherent risks to the act of disclosure for the victim and possibly limited opportunities to ask for help for fear of retribution from their family or community.

There may be evidence of domestic abuse, including controlling, coercive and dominating behaviour towards the victim. Self-harming, family disputes, and unreasonable restrictions on the young person such as removal from education or virtual imprisonment within the home may occur.

Young people may be fearful of being forced into engagement/marriage.

Other warning signs may be female genital mutilation, sexual abuse and forced marriage. (See Female Genital Mutilation Safeguarding Practice Guidance and Forced Marriage Safeguarding Practice Guidance.

Continual assessment and review is paramount as circumstances can change very quickly, for example, following disclosure to the police the risks to the victim and others who are supporting the victim may increase.

Young people may face significant harm if their families / communities realise that they have asked for help. All aspects of their safety need to be carefully assessed at every stage. Initially this needs to address whether it is safe for them to return home following a disclosure. The young person will need practical help such as accommodation and financial support, as well as emotional support and information about their rights and choices.


Protection and Action to be Taken

Children may face Significant Harm if their families realise that they have asked for help. All aspects of their safety must be carefully assessed at every stage.

Some families go to considerable lengths to find their children who run away, and children who leave home are at risk of significant harm if they are returned to their family. They may be reported as missing by their families, but no mention is made of the reason. It is important that practitioners explore the underlying reasons before any decisions are made. Initially this needs to address whether it is safe for them to return home following a disclosure.

Any suspicion or disclosure of abuse against a child in the name of honour should be treated equally seriously as any other suspicion or disclosure or significant harm against a child. However, there are differences in the immediate response required. Bearing in mind the specific practice issues set out below, where the concerns about the welfare and safety of the child are such that a referral to Children’s Social Care should be made, the Any Contacts with Children's Social Care (including Information Sharing and Referrals) Procedure should be followed.

In cases of suspected Honour Based Abuse, consent from parents / carers must not be sought, as it may increase the risk of serious harm to the victim. Experience shows that the family may punish them for seeking help.

Relatives, friends, community leaders and neighbours should not be used as interpreters – despite any reassurances from this known person.

In cases of abuse in the name of honour, it is essential to consider other siblings in the family as they may be experiencing, or at risk of, the same abuse.

Interpreters should be on the approved list. Relatives, friends, community leaders and neighbours should not be used as interpreters in case they are linked to the group suspected of carrying out the crime – despite any reassurances from this known person.

In cases of abuse in the name of honour, it is essential to consider other siblings in the family as they may be experiencing, or at risk of, the same abuse.

Accurate record keeping in all cases of abuse in the name of honour is important. Records should:
  • Be accurate, detailed, clear and include names, dates and times;
  • Use the person’s own words in quotation marks;
  • Document any injuries;
  • Only be available to those directly involved in the person’s case. Honour Based Abuse cases should not be discussed in open plan offices, team meetings or open forums.

Practitioners must take care that information which increases the risk to the child is not inadvertently shared with family members.

Due to the serious nature and level of risk, any Honour Based Abuse related incident must be discussed with a senior colleague immediately.

As the risk to the individual is so great in these cases an immediate referral must be made to the Police.

The need for secrecy is paramount, therefore any referral and information sharing must be on a need to know basis. Record keeping and minutes from meetings will only be circulated to those that are directly involved in the case.

Addressing the needs of the individual is key, as victims of Honour Based Abuse will require a tailored response dependent on a number of factors including e.g. language and cultural barriers, how long they have been in the country, their social and family networks and their economic circumstances.

The ‘One Chance Rule'

All practitioners working with victims of Honour Based Abuse need to be aware of the ‘one chance’ rule. That is, 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 these cases. If the victim is allowed to walk out of the door without support being offered, that one chance might be wasted.


Further Information

Forced Marriage

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)

Forced Marriage Guidance (Home Office) information and practice guidelines for professional protecting, advising and supporting victims. This includes Multi-Agency Statutory Guidance for dealing with forced marriage and Multi-Agency practice guidelines: Handling cases of forced marriage. 

Legal Guidance – not specifically about children.

Forced Marriage and Honour Based Violence Screening Toolkit

Honour Based Violence – the Government's reply to the Home Office Committee 2007-2008.

SafeLives Dash risk checklist for the identification of high risk cases of domestic abuse, stalking and ‘honour’-based abuse.


Amendments to this Chapter

In July 2017, this chapter was reviewed and further detail added in line with the ‘Protocol on the handling of ‘so-called’ Honour Based Violence/Abuse and Forced Marriage Offences between the National Police Chiefs’ Council and the Crown Prosecution Service’ (November 2016).

Links have also been added to Forced Marriage Guidance (Home Office) and to SafeLives Dash risk checklist for the identification of high risk cases of domestic abuse, stalking and ‘honour’-based violence.

End.