2.4 Honour Based Violence and Abuse: Guidance
The National Police Chief Council's definition of honour-based abuse (also called honour-based violence) is: “An incident or crime involving violence, threats of violence, intimidation, coercion or abuse (including psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional abuse), which has or may have been committed to protect or defend the honour of an individual, family and/or community for alleged or perceived breaches of the family and/or community’s code of behaviour.”
These are violent crimes 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. Whilst women and girls are the most common victims of honour-based violence, it can also affect men and boys.
Professionals should be alert to the fact that in cases of honour-based violence the partner can also be at risk and therefore appropriate consideration should be given to their safety and welfare.
Professionals should respond to honour-based violence in a similar way to cases of domestic abuse and forced marriage:
A child who is at risk of honour-based violence 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.
Honour-based violence cuts across all cultures and communities, and cases encountered in the UK have involved families from Turkish, Kurdish, Afghani, South Asian, African, Middle Eastern, South and Eastern European communities. This is not an exhaustive list.
The perceived immoral behaviour which could precipitate honour-based violence include, but are not limited to:
Honour-based crimes are often the planned culmination of a series of events over a period of time. 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:
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 dishonour 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.
Victims from black or ethnic minority groups, where the violence 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’.
Victims with a learning or physical disability may be more vulnerable to violence. Vulnerabilities may include:
Disclosure and response
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 violence 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. 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 violence, 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 violence, staff in all agencies/organisations should respond immediately by referring to social care First Response Team, or where there is imminent risk, directly to the police.
Staff in all agencies should make full records of any conversation with the young person and ensure that they complete an accurate account of what is said.
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:
Professionals should 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 should 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.