Honour Based Violence

Did you know?

  • Families really do kill in the name of 'honour' (known as 'izzat' in some communities)
  • Every year, there are around 5000 honour killings worldwide
  • There are 12-15 honour killings a year in the UK

What is Honour Based Violence (HBV)?

‘Honour’ can be described as the reputation or social standing of an individual, a family or a community. It is usually based on judgements on behaviour or lifestyle. 

Honour Based Violence is a form of Domestic Violence, which is a category of safeguarding abuse under the Care Act 2014. HBV often goes hand in hand with forced marriage although HBV can also occur when there is no evidence of a forced marriage. Both HBV and forced marriage are violations against human rights. The Crown Prosecution Services describes HBV as:

"A crime or incident which has or may have been committed to protect or defend the honour of the family and/or community"
Family ‘honour’ is highly valued in some cultures. Some people will go to extreme lengths to protect their family honour. Ensuring the safety of the victim is therefore vital. This abuse could happen in the UK or in the victim’s country of origin. 

Sexual abuse is sometimes part of HBV cases. If a woman/girl has been sexually abused, it may be perceived as ‘shame’ for the family. Families mistakenly believe that forcing a sexual abuse victim into a marriage restores family ‘honour’.

Who is at risk?

HBV and forced marriage not only impact women - men can also be victims. The Forced Marriage Unit reports 14% of their work is with male victims. Male victims are less likely to report abuse due to shame that they will be exposed as weak. In some societies a man’s social status is often proved by their ability to ‘control’ women in their close networks. 

Anyone can be at risk of HBV, but higher rates are associated with Turkish; Kurdish; Afghani; South Asian; African; Middle Eastern; South and Eastern European; Gypsy and the travelling communities.

A learning or physical disability may make it more difficult for an adult at risk to report abuse or leave an abusive situation. Their care needs may make them dependent on their carers. They may not want to be a burden to their families or upset their carers so they may feel pressured into doing something they would not otherwise accept. 

What is perceived as damaged ‘honour’ for families?

•    Challenging parental authority
•    Being involved in sexual relationships/getting pregnant outside of marriage 
•    Having relationships with partners of other ethnicities/ faiths
•    Involvement with drugs, alcohol, smoking, clubbing
•    Returning home late at night, “roaming”
•    Adopting a ‘westernised’ style (clothing, make up, behaviour, attitudes, lifestyle)
•    Seeking divorce
•    Being the centre of gossip/rumours
•    Confusion about gender identity

Parents (who may/may not have care and support needs) can also be victims of HBV from their children/family, although this is less common. For example, a child may feel their parent is not behaving in an unacceptably liberal lifestyle within their community. 

How does Honour Based Violence present?

A number of actions can constitute HBV. Here are some examples of the common forms:
•    being disowned by the family/community
•    physical abuse from family members (mostly parents, spouse, in-laws)
•    victim forbidden from leaving home, leading to isolation 
•    loss of independence, being ‘escorted’ by family members outside of the house
•    forced marriage often seen as a solution to protect the family’s ‘honour’
•    extreme cases also result in the perpetrators murdering the victim

What kind of pressure is involved in Honour Based Violence cases?

Pressure from victims’ families can often lead to the victims feeling guilt and shame about their chosen lifestyle or inability to maintain family honour. Victims often worry about being judged by their family/community. This pressure can lead to internal conflicts which victims may face over a long time silently.  Victims of HBV can often feel trapped by hiding their physical and emotional abuse. Feeling trapped is a significant vulnerability factor for mental health problems. This can often lead to self-harm and suicide attempts. Studies have also found that many victims are not aware of mental health services available to them or are restricted from using services by their alleged perpetrators. Some victims are unable to access services if they are escorted everywhere by family members. For other victims who are aware of the available services, they feel that getting help would expose their lifestyle which they had been trained to believe was ‘shameful’. 

Victims often tolerate the abuse as they fear reporting this may mean that their personal details will not be kept confidential. This is particularly when the victim’s family are registered with the same GP practice as the victim. In many cases, victims (particularly women) are known to tolerate HBV towards them if they have children.  The perpetrators, mostly immediate family members, causing this harm to the victim are often under pressure from their own wider family about the way their family member was ‘shaming’ their community. The community may not approve of the lifestyle adopted by an individual. Although, this never excuses the perpetrators’ crimes, it helps to understand the complex family dynamics underlying honour based violence.

What’s the procedure? 

Ensuring the victim’s safety is vital. If you suspect a service user is at risk of honour based violence:
•    Discuss the case with your line manager.
•    If the victim has care and support needs, raise a safeguarding adults concern 
•    Open a Section 42 Safeguarding enquiry. Record the type of abuse as ‘domestic violence’.
•    Contact the police if there is imminent risk to the victim. 
•    See the victim on their own (even if they attend with someone else) and NEVER use any of their family members/community as    interpreters. The victim may be reluctant to have professionals involved because of family loyalties and ties. A decision should be taken in the service user’s best interest in those instances. A risk assessment and mental capacity assessment can be carried out. 
•    Ensure you record the reasons for your decisions.
•    If the victim does not have care and support needs, refer them to Domestic Violence floating support services. 
•    Refer to the SafeLives Dash Risk Checklist
•    Reassure the victim about confidentiality and advise them on their basic legal and human rights.
•    If the victim is being sent back to the care of her family, full details of the perpetrator should be recorded included name, whereabouts, details of siblings, overseas addresses. There are likely to be multiple perpetrators in HBV cases in which case details of all those that may be involved should be recorded.
•    Find out and record name and addresses of any support networks already available.
•    Where there is risk of forced marriage related to the HBV, contact the Forced Marriage Unit.  
•    With consent, the victim can be directed to local or national support groups, counselling services that work with victims of HBV.  
•    If there is risk to younger siblings, contact the Children’s Services Contact Team (CSCT) on 020 7527 7400.
•    Consider whether the victim will need an advocate to ensure a personalised approach suited to their particular needs. 

What to do if you are worried about someone?

If you are worried about someone who may be suffering from Honour Based Violence contact the Adult Social Care Access Team on 020 7527 2299 or complete the online safeguarding concern form.


Useful links

Sharan Project- http://www.sharan.org.uk/ 
Asiana Network- http://ashiana.org.uk/  
IKWRO- Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation, http://ikwro.org.uk/  
Karma Nirvana - Charity helping victims and survivors of honour based violence, http://www.karmanirvana.org.uk/  
Forced Marriage Multi-Agency Practice Guidelines 
True Honour- https://www.truehonour.org.uk/