As Her Majesties Inspectorate Constabulary (HMIC) publish findings of the way the Police handle honour related crimes in the UK, we at The Sharan Project welcome recommendations to ensure more is done to support victims from this hidden crime.
The Sharan Project works to support South Asian women who have been disowned, forcedly or voluntarily left home due to abuse or persecution: this can include forced marriages, domestic violence, honour abuse and cultural conflict. We have been working closely with HMIC throughout this inspection and we are delighted that this report has adopted some of the recommendations we made through the consultation process.
The Report throws a light on problems areas such as lack of information sharing between frontline agencies, developing a national framework and non recording or mislabelling Honour Based Abuse (HBA) crimes. It also highlights a disparity in the way police forces address honour based abuse and this is often evidenced by the experiences of victims of abuse.
Polly Harrar, Founder of the Sharan Project recalls some of the cases she has handled:
“Our clients tell us they want to feel ‘listened’ to when they take the courageous step to report to the Police, I recall one incident where I accompanied a client to a Police station to report fears of honour reprisals and she was told to ‘come back when something happens’
However, in another case, we worked with the Police to rescue a young woman being forced into a marriage, the sensitivity and understanding of honour based abuse displayed by the officers was crucial to ensure our client felt she could safely leave and rebuild her life. The follow up support she received from the officers further ensured that she felt supported and safe”
“This report is a welcomed first step to addressing the issues faced by victims and whilst more needs to be done, there are examples of good practice that we are encouraged by to ensure our clients are supported. “
Whilst the report shows clear areas for improvement, we all have a role to play and by working in partnership, we can ensure all victims have a fundamental right to be believed and receive the most appropriate support for their situation.
We recognise the crucial role of the Police, however, we are also aware of the practice of ‘self-policing’ by certain communities, this is a significant factor in addressing HBA as it limits the options for victims and those affected (e.g. witnesses, siblings, children, family members) in accessing support from the police. Whilst this practice is often hidden, there is evidence that groups of individuals or communities take it upon themselves to decide on the ‘punishment’ of perceived or actual acts of so called dishonour. This is an area that we feel requires further awareness through education and is key to unlocking confidence between communities and the police.
We are also concerned about the current protection provisions available to victims and have seen an increase in cases where Protection Orders are applied but not monitored, often leaving the victim in an unsafe environment and subjected to further honour based abuse and violence.
We work with several national MET forces and also act in an advisory capacity through our Information Line. HBA is often a fluid series of actions and can accelerate as well as dissipate over an undetermined period of time so engaging with victims to monitor their situations through regular contact and reporting is critical to minimise risk.
We look forward to hearing how the Government will seek to support these recommendations to ensure all statutory agencies and specialist services such as The Sharan Project can continue to support victims of honour related abuse.
A full copy of the Report can be found here
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