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So-Called Honour Based Abuse/Violence

Scope of this chapter

This chapter contains information to help practitioners from all agencies to recognise and respond to Honour Based Abuse/Violence.

Related guidance

There is no statutory definition of HBAV. However, the National Police Chiefs’ Council (September 2019) have provided a definition which states that HBAV 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’.

HBAV does not cover one specific crime; it generally occurs in domestic settings and can involve a range of offending behaviours which are used against individuals, families or other social groups to control and protect perceived cultural / religious beliefs and honour. Any members of the family or wider community can be involved in the abuse. HBAV may include coercive and controlling behaviours, murder, fear of or actual forced marriage, domestic violence and abuse (including psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional), child abuse, rape, kidnapping, false imprisonment, assault, harassment, forced abortion and female genital mutilation. This list is not exhaustive.

These crimes cut across all cultures, nationalities, faith groups and communities. They transcend national and international boundaries; they are violations of human rights and there is no 'honour' in committing them. Offences of Honour Based Abuse/Violence are prosecuted under the specific offence committed for example common assault, grievous bodily harm, harassment, kidnap, forced marriage, rape and murder.

Honour Based Abuse/Violence may occur when the perpetrator(s) perceive that a person (or persons) has shamed the family or community by breaking an honour code. Honour Based Abuse/Violence can often be a form of domestic and / or sexual violence (see also Domestic Abuse Procedure and Children who are Victims of Modern Slavery, Trafficking and Exploitation Procedure).

The indicators of Honour Based Abuse/Violence may include:

  • Protecting perceived cultural and/or religious ideals (misguided or outdated);
  • Retaining wealth, property or land within the family;
  • To reinstate position or standing in community following perceived breach of family honour/code;
  • Perceived promiscuity or being LGBTQ+;
  • Assisting claims for residence and citizenship in the UK;
  • Alleged immoral behaviour including:
    • Choice of make-up or dress;
    • Possession and / or use of a mobile telephone;
    • Use of social media accounts;
    • Showing forms of intimacy in public;
    • Rejecting a forced or child marriage;
    • Being a victim of rape or other serious sexual assault;
    • Being a victim of child sexual exploitation or criminal exploitation;
    • Inter-faith relationships.

Apparent unsuitable relationships for example gay / lesbian / bisexual This could occur through:

  • Defying parental authority;
  • Becoming too 'westernised' in style of clothes, make-up, behaviour and attitudes;
  • Having sex, relationships and/or pregnancy outside of marriage;
  • Leaving a spouse or seeking a divorce;
  • Use of drugs; alcohol, or cigarettes;
  • Gossip – family honour can be damaged by rumour and gossip that is not true but believed to be true by members of the community;
  • Marrying outside of faith; and
  • Choosing to leave faith / religious group.

Children and young people can be victims of Honour Based Abuse/Violence either directly or indirectly. The consequences for the victim include:

  • Ostracism / disownment of the victim by their family and community in the UK or overseas;
  • Physical / emotional abuse of the victim;
  • Restriction of freedom/loss of independence for the victim including monitoring use of technology including social media;
  • Isolation from their family and community, but also being under 'house arrest' or kept from seeing friends;
  • Running away from home;
  • Internalisation of guilt / shame by the victim and feeling conflicted for wanting freedom of choice but also not wanting to hurt or shame their family;
  • Forced marriage (see Forced Marriage Procedure);
  • Being sent (or threatened) to live elsewhere, either in the UK or overseas;
  • Becoming homeless;
  • Moving to a refuge or B&B;
  • Being separated from their siblings;
  • Threats of / or actual violence towards family in country of origin; and
  • Honour Killing.

Notions of honour framed within culture and religion are used for justification of primarily (but not always) male violence against women and children.

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

Honour Based Abuse/Violence involving children means that they are at significant risk of actual physical harm, neglect and emotional harm through the threat of, or witnessing violence. Never under estimate how much honour matters to the perpetrators, families may feel shame long after the incident that brought about the 'dishonour' therefore the risk of serious harm to a child or young person can persist.

Online targeting of victims is being used more frequently as a means of controlling, stalking, tracking and exploiting them. Social media can be used to trace and locate victims by perpetrators. As well as manipulating profiles and audiences. In addition to the physical risks, a child or a young person may also suffer significant emotional harm through the threat of violence or witnessing this directed at a sibling or other family members.

Many children or young people may not anticipate the level of familial response to perceived ‘honour’ infringements.

Isolation is one of the biggest problems facing those who are experiencing or witnessing HBAV. Many children or young people who face violence will not even discuss their worries with their friends for fear their families may find out.

Children and young people in this situation can display a wide range of behaviours indicative to any level of abuse and neglect. Practitioners should make themselves aware of the potential indicators related to experiencing honour based abuse / violence directly or indirectly. These include:

  • Children and young people may go missing (from home and school) in an attempt to keep themselves safe;
  • Children and young people may be restricted in their movements and overly supervised;
  • Children and young people might not have access to the internet, mobile phones, and their passport or family members;
  • Children and young people might be forced to marry, or forced to live elsewhere;
  • Being withdrawn from education by those with Parental Responsibility and /or requests for extended leave;
  • Poor mental health including self-harm and suicide attempts;
  • Unreasonable financial control, for example confiscation of wages/income;
  • Parents with uncertain immigration status will have an impact on children and young people - Fear of deportation, homelessness, financial issues, separation from parent.

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. See ‘One Chance Rule’ below.

Honour Based Abuse/Violence places children and young people at risk of possible physical and emotional harm. Some cases have resulted in the child or young person being murdered. Therefore Honour Based Abuse/Violence should be considered as a potential risk factor in any assessment undertaken in all circumstances. All agencies need to be aware of Honour Based Abuse/Violence, its indicators and potential outcomes. It is important that staff from all agencies understand the difficulties that children and young people face when living with the threat or consequences of Honour Based Abuse/Violence. In addition, they are likely to have no experience of living outside the family and may face rejection and harassment by the family and the community.

Information or a referral about Honour Based Abuse/Violence may be received from the child or young person, from a friend or relative, or from a statutory, voluntary or faith organisation.

If a child or young person tells a practitioner about honour based abuse / violence in respect of themselves or another family member, remember the ‘One Chance Rule’:

Never turn a person away! You may only have ONE CHANCE to speak to a potential victim and may only have ONE CHANCE to save a life!

The practitioner should:

  • See the child or young person alone in a safe and private place to obtain their views and feelings and explain confidentiality fully, including the need to share with other professionals;
  • Record carefully; caution is required about how information is recorded and shielded within the organisation to ensure the child and young person’s safety;
  • NOT make contact with the family or community leaders, and should not under any circumstances, tell the family or their social network about what the child or young person has said;
  • NOT use family members or members of the community to interpret on behalf of the child or young person;
  • Make a referral to the relevant Children's Social Care Services, who in partnership with the Police will undertake a Section 47 Enquiry;
  • Take immediate action if they suspect the child or young person is at risk of immediate significant harm.

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.

Although currently there is no specific criminal offence of "Honour Based Abuse/Violence" perpetrators may be prosecuted for a variety of offences, such as threats to kill, conspiracy, forced marriage offences, breaches of associated orders, assault, coercive/controlling behaviour, stalking & harassment, kidnap, abduction, rape and murder.

Keep an open mind and consider all potential offences when thinking about Honour Based Abuse/Violence.

If the person is under 18, or is an adult identified as at risk the Police will:

  • Make a multi-agency referral;
  • Ensure immediate safeguarding is addressed and review during the course of the investigation/case;
  • Gather information, record and investigate any disclosed crime/s;
  • Speak to victims/potential victims alone and listen to what they have to say;
  • Ensure other potential victims are safe including siblings, partners and family members;
  • Follow the 'one chance rule'. There may be only once chance to speak to a potential victim and only one chance to save a life;
  • Inform Children's / Adults Social Care Services using the appropriate pathways;
  • Ensure that if needed an accredited interpreter is used - 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;
  • Follow the guidance as per GMP Force Policy;
  • Not mediate or negotiate with perpetrators.

Honour Based Abuse/Violence places a child or young person at risk of Significant Harm therefore should initially be investigated under Section 47 Enquiries.

When a referral has been received by Children's Social Care Services in relation to a child or young person who is suffering or likely to suffer honour based violence a Strategy Discussion/Meeting must be convened within 24 hours. This should be chaired by a Team Manager from Children's Social Care Services, and involve Police and Health representatives as a minimum, with other professionals from education and advice taken from specialist based organisations invited. Consider the local services and charities that can be invited to contribute to safeguarding the child or young person The strategy meeting / discussion should recognise the Police responsibility to initiate and undertake a criminal investigation where appropriate.

When assessing the risk of harm, a full family history must be compiled from sources that do not alert family members or the wider community. It is also important to consider any additional potential victims such as sibling, partners and friends. No contact should be made with the family in the first instance. A strategy meeting must be held and an agreed safe multi-agency plan must be in place. Following the strategy meeting / discussion, Children's Social Care Services and the Police should arrange to see the child or young person on his / her own in a secure and private place away from potential perpetrators. If required use an approved and trained interpreter in the preferred language of the child or young person. Care must be taken when identifying an appropriate interpreter to ensure the safety of the child or young person. Under no circumstances should family members be used to interpret.

Children's Social Care Services must:

  • Give the child or young person advice on personal safety;
  • Consider the possible need for immediate protection and placement away from the family other family members may not be an option;
  • Discuss with Police any concerns for the safety of any other child or young person and any suspicion that a crime may have been committed;
  • Be mindful of what information is shared with the family. As sharing information given by the child or young person could place them at increased risk. Consider that family members and wider community may be the perpetrators;
  • Remember the 'one chance rule'.

It should be noted that Honour Based Abuse/Violence does not stand alone; it is inexorably linked with domestic abuse and consequently any planning and / or interventions should also fit with existing domestic abuse guidance, policy and procedures.

REMEMBER - Cases involving suspicions of Honour Based Abuse/Violence are NOT suitable for a Family Group Conference to be arranged because of the risk of physical danger and emotional manipulation which the child or young person may experience as a result.

Where an Initial Child Protection Conference is convened, great care must be taken to manage information about the whereabouts of the child or young person. The social worker and his / her manager must discuss the arrangements with the Conference Chair and consider whether the family should be present or not, or at the same time as the child or young person, as threats may be made.

It is important for all agencies to obtain as much information as possible when a child or young person is first referred, as there may not be another opportunity. A record should be taken of the child or young person's immediate personal details and the family details. Do not approach family members or wider community to obtain information. Full details of the account should be recorded, including as much detail of any threats or hostile actions against the child or young person.

A record should also be made of the details of the person making the initial referral, including contact details and their relationship to the child or young person.

No aspect of the account should be discussed with the child or young person's family or friends, and / or information should not be shared with other agencies without the express consent of the child or young person, unless it is necessary to protect the child or young person. See Data Protection, Information Sharing and Confidentiality Procedure for further details.

Think very carefully about the need to disclose information and to whom it may be disclosed to. Disclosure may lead to the child or young person's estrangement from the family and increase the likelihood of the child or young person suffering Significant Harm. If approached, parents may deny that the child or young person is at threat of Honour Based Abuse/Violence, and may move the child or young person, expedite any travel arrangements and bring forward any perpetration of Honour Based Abuse/Violence. Information shared with the family should be carefully considered to prevent further danger or greater risk to the child or young person. Information recorded in any assessment needs to be sanitised if it is to be shared with the family.

In Honour Based Abuse cases, being transparent is outweighed by the potential risk to the victim.

All agencies should take particular care to ensure that members of their staff DO NOT:

  • Use family members, friends, neighbours or community leaders as interpreters;
  • Send the child or young person back to the family home against their wishes;
  • Approach the child or young person's family or friends or others within the community without their explicit consent;
  • Notify the family in advance of enquiries;
  • Attempt to mediate or negotiate between the child or young person and the family;
  • Breach the child or young person's confidentiality, unless this is necessary to ensure they are safeguarded.

When a referral is received, the child or young person should be spoken to in a secure, safe and private place, on their own. The child or young person may want to be seen by a person of the same gender, and may also want to talk to someone from their own community - or may not want to speak to someone from their community. When arranging to see the child or young person, thought should be given to where and when this should happen to minimise the potential risks. The person speaking to the child or young person should:

  • Listen carefully and record what they say, remember 'the one chance rule';
  • Discuss the range of options available to them and the possible consequences of each course of action;
  • Develop a "cover story" - a plausible alternative reason for the child or young person to be at the social work office, police station etc, in case they are seen there;
  • Consider if there is the need for a 'safe word' for future contact.

At all times confidentiality and discretion are vitally important.

Information about the child or young person and their whereabouts must be kept confidential. Access should preferably be restricted to named members of staff. This includes both paper-based and computer records.

Before making any enquiries, consider whether there is a risk that the family will become aware that these enquiries are being made.

When considering disclosure of confidential information to another person or agency, the child or young person should be informed, the reasons explained, and their consent sought. There may be a need to share without their consent where the risk deems it necessary.

You should be aware that some families will be intent on finding the child or young person and often private investigators have been used to do this. Many times the family may approach a third party such as a local Councillor or MP with an apparently reasonable request to contact the child or young person; do not provide information without checking with a manager and the child or young person first.

Children and young people should be offered support regarding safety / escape plans and the option to provide a sample of their DNA, passport number, finger prints and photograph with the Police. It is essential to devise a way of contacting them discreetly without placing them at increased risk of harm. This should include a ‘safe word’ to ensure that contact has been made with the right person. Consideration should also be given to the possibility that written communications including emails social media, messaging may be intercepted and that telephone communications may be detected, for example, through the phone bill.

A child or young person who wishes to leave the family home will need a leaving strategy. This will include issues such as - Where could they go in an emergency? If the child or young person is in immediate danger, it may be necessary to consider admission to local authority accommodation, an Emergency Protection Order or Police Protection. In this situation it is not appropriate to rely on the extended family to provide a place of safety unless the child or young person can identify a relative in whom they have absolute trust. It may be necessary to place the child or young person outside their community and in a different local authority area. Be mindful of location services within phones and other technology which can be used to find an individual.

If the child or young person wishes to remain in the family home A safety plan should be put in place with them; looking at how to seek help if they have concerns about increased risk to their safety; having an escape plan; having access to a phone; knowing relevant contact numbers for help.

A child or young person may be taken overseas to protect honour and they may be forced to marry. Any such concerns should be taken seriously and listened too. As much of the following information should be gathered so that action can be taken:

  • Any addresses where the child or young person may be staying while overseas;
  • Potential spouse's name;
  • Date of proposed wedding;
  • Addresses of extended family members in UK and overseas, landmarks or geographical location;
  • Details of travel plans, the route to be taken including return date, and people likely to accompany them;
  • Note of their passport number ID card/ travel documents and the date and place of issue;
  • Consider applying for a Forced Marriage Protection Order (FMPO);
  • Consider other emergency powers Emergency Protection Order (EPO), or Police Protection Power (PPO);
  • Have any offences been committed?
  • We should not be in position where the child or young person is going abroad if we suspect forced marriage.

If there is a clear risk of Honour Based Abuse/Violence or forced marriage and the risk is imminent, it may be necessary to take emergency action to remove the child or young person from their home in order to protect them and prevent travel abroad.

Children or young people may run away from home to escape the threat of violence may face particular difficulties. This risk can be increased for them being a victim of crime, sexual exploitation or criminal exploitation. The first consideration must be for the child or young person's safety and welfare.

Any child or young person who has run away from home should be spoken to on their own to establish the reasons why. Issues related to Honour Based Abuse/Violence may come to light at this time. If the child or young person is at risk of Honour Based Abuse/Violence, it may not be in their best interests to disclose any information to their family, friends, or members of their community until their continued safety has been secured.

Ensure that the ‘One Chance Rule’ is adhered to and the voice of the child or young person is heard!

Last Updated: June 17, 2024