Practice blog

'Honour'-based violence and risk

Dr Lis Bates researches gender-based violence at the University of Bristol. She is currently working on a project developing what justice means to victims of domestic and sexual abuse, and a European project to address sexual violence amongst refugees.

Lis’s interest lies in connecting research to policy and practice. Prior to 2016, she worked as Head of Research for SafeLives and, before that, for parliamentary select committees on Home Affairs and Education, running national inquiries on domestic abuse, immigration, crime and child welfare. Between 2010 and 2017 she completed her PhD study on ‘honour’-based abuse and forced marriage in England and Wales, analysing 1,500 cases known to the police and domestic abuse agencies.

Why risk assessment?

Perhaps the most famous case of ‘honour’-based violence (HBV) in this country remains the 2008 murder of Banaz Mahmood. And that’s because Banaz’s case really stirred things up. It drove the police to overhaul their response and write the first national HBV policing policy. The major failing in the police response to Banaz’s request for help was that they did not understand the context and therefore the risk signs of HBV. Consequently, they thought that her assessment of the threat to her own life was “hysterical” and unfounded. Her brutal murder a few days later showed just how misguided this was.

A key aim of risk assessment is to identify the contexts of abuse and help understand the threats to the victim. It enables professionals to help the victim safety-plan, manage risks and access the right interventions. Risk tools such as the 24-question DASH-RIC (used by police and domestic abuse services in England and Wales) draw on research from previous cases, and what victims say, to develop a checklist of questions professionals can ask to assess risk.

More HBV cases are high risk

HBV is much less prevalent than domestic abuse, but there are still a sizeable number of cases in this country each year. Annually, around 1,800 incidents are reported to the police in England and Wales (HMIC, 2015).[1] Of course, these numbers are just what are visible – the tip of the iceberg.

SafeLives Insights data published as part of the current Spotlight on 'honour'-based violence and forced marriage shows that HBV cases were more likely to score high-risk (68%) than non-HBV domestic abuse cases (55%).

Some HBV cases score more highly than others

The dynamics and risk factors for domestic abuse are quite well understood. However, little research has been done on large sets of cases to identify risk factors for HBV. My PhD research (as yet unpublished) addressed this gap, looking at almost 1,500 cases of HBV identified by the police and domestic abuse services in this country.

My study developed a new ‘typology of HBV’, with three types based on the relationship between victim and perpetrator, and number of perpetrators. In Type I the sole perpetrator was a current or ex intimate partner (very similar – arguably identical –  to other domestic abuse cases). In Type II the perpetrator was one or more of the victim’s family members, generally their birth family. Type III involved a current or ex intimate partner perpetrator, and in addition one or more of the victim’s family members – most commonly their in-laws.

When cases were divided into these types, risk diverged. Type II scored lower, with only 52% high risk (as measured by Insights data), compared with 66% in Type I and 74% in Type III. This correlation between risk and type was statistically significant. Despite this, all three types were equally likely (around 30% of cases) to go to Marac. See figure below.

The key difference was that cases which did not involve an intimate partner perpetrator (Type II) scored lower risk, but went to Marac at the same rate. This is intriguing, on both counts.

So what?

What might be going on here?

Are the risks posed by family members (compared with intimate partners) less visible, or their dynamics less understood – and so these cases under-scored on risk? It could be that tools like the DASH-RIC, initially developed from analysis of intimate partner violence, are less well-equipped to identify risks from family perpetrators. For example, items on child contact, separation, pregnancy, or prior criminal history may be less relevant in familial HBV cases, and thus the sum total number of ‘yeses’ fewer. It is true that family member perpetrators can be an ‘unknown quantity’ in terms of risk, since (unlike many intimate partner perpetrators) they often do not have a prior police record and therefore it is harder to draw on past behaviour to judge the risk they pose. Some HBV cases also have characteristics which might lead to them being judged lower risk. For example, in my Type II, a female perpetrator (often the victim’s mother) was more likely to be involved (alongside a male relative). Is it possible that professionals scored cases involving a female as less risky (perhaps because a mother can traditionally be seen as a protective factor)?

If this picture is true, some items on risk assessment tools may need revisiting, especially for familial HBV – but professionals may be right to elevate these cases to Marac.

On the other hand, perhaps risks posed by family members can be less than those from an intimate partner. In some cases, family members can be protective as well as risk factors – and these cases usually lack certain elements such as sexual violence or the victim having children. If so, some Type II cases may be mistakenly elevated to Marac unnecessarily, perhaps reflecting local policies – such as referring all HBV cases – which operate in some areas.

These new figures and understandings about different types of HBV case – and the questions they pose about risk factors – are just the start of a much-needed conversation. But that conversation is timely, in light of this SafeLives Spotlight, and the current review of the DASH-RIC. I would love to hear the thoughts of front-line professionals, of HBV campaigners, Marac chairs and so on. What do you think these case types mean for risk, and for policy and practice responses?

Lis can be contacted at lis.bates@bristol.ac.uk.

Visit our Spotlight homepage for more insight and guidance for professionals encountering 'honour'-based violence

 

[1] In the ten months to 31 January 2015, a total of 2,600 incidents of HBV, forced marriage and FGM were recorded by 41 out of 43 forces in England and Wales. To make the figures comparable to other annual reports, if these data for ten months were uprated to 12 months (using a simple multiplying factor of 1.2), the annual number of incidents would be 3,120 incidents. 60% of these were HBV (the rest were forced marriage or FGM) – this would equate to 1,800 incidents. HMIC (2015) The depths of dishonour: Hidden voices and shameful crimes. An inspection of the police response to honour-based violence, forced marriage and female genital mutilation. Available at: http://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmic

 

The Problem with Forced Marriage Legislation

Maz Idriss is a Lecturer in Law at Manchester Metropolitan University. In 2015, Maz wrote an article in the Criminal Law Review about the criminalisation of forced marriage in England and Wales. In this short blog, he discusses some of the points arising from that article about whether the forced marriage legislation has had the desired effect of combating this major human rights violation. For an audio version of this blog, scroll to the bottom of the page, or visit our Soundcloud profile

A forced marriage occurs where one or both spouses are forced into marriage without their consent, or where consent is ostensibly given; there has been duress or coercion. Forced marriages are somewhat different to ‘arranged marriages’ where parents and relatives may help in the selection or choosing of marriage partners, although the ultimate decision to enter into marriage lies with the person/s entering into a marriage contract. 

However, there may sometimes be ‘slippage’ or a ‘blurred line’ between what is an ‘arranged’ and what is ‘forced’. Parents and relatives may present a range of marriage partners for a person to choose from, but if one analyses the dynamics and nature of those relationships, certain marriage scenarios may be more ‘forced’ when presented as ‘arranged’. For the purposes of this blog, I will solely be focusing on ‘forced’ marriages – those cases where consent is clearly absent. 

It is fair to state at this juncture that there are no accurate statistics on forced marriages in the UK. There are statistics available from the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) that provides a glimpse of the nature and the extent of the problem. The latest statistics by the FMU in 2015 (as of 8 March 2016) state that the FMU gave advice or support in 1,200 cases, with 80% involving female victims and 57% of cases involving South-Asian communities. 

Yet these statistics do not reflect the extent to which forced marriages exist – as a hidden crime and a form of domestic abuse, commentators agree that it is underreported and any statistics that are cited are likely to be substantially less than the actual incidences that take place. What explains underreporting? This could be for a number of reasons – victims may fail to report their abuse due to a number of fears – they may be scared to report their families to the authorities and may be scared of the repercussions if they do report their abuse. 

Forced marriage reforms 
In June 2014, the government introduced the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, which amended the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007 and the Family Law Act 1996. It created a new separate offence of Forced Marriage as well as criminalising breaches of Forced Marriage Protection Orders (FMPOs). FMPOs under the 2007 Act were previously only a civil remedy. An FMPO stipulated certain conditions aimed at protecting victims from forced marriage, including a prohibition of forcing a person into marriage, not to take a person abroad to take part in a forced marriage and the surrender of passports (including the victim’s). If an FMPO was breached, it was considered a contempt of court and a person was liable to serve a custodial sentence of up to 2 years, a fine or both. The FMPO nevertheless was ‘civil’ in its nature as was treated as a breach of an order of the court. 

However, under the June 2014 reforms, breaches of an FMPO now constitute a breach of the criminal law (although it also retains its civil/family law nature, as FMPOs are issued in the family courts). If the police or the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decides to instigate criminal proceedings, a breach of an FMPO can now result in a term of imprisonment of up to 5 years, although it depends on which route is taken – civil or criminal. Victims who have experienced breaches of FMPOs have dual routes to choose – they can either choose to enforce breaches in either of the civil or criminal jurisdictions (but not both). 

The offence of Forced Marriage separately can also result in perpetrators being sentenced up to 7 years for forcing a person into marriage (even if there is no FMPO in place). 

However, have these reforms worked? The new offences empower victims to make complaints and to rely on the state to positively end their ordeals. Criminalisation in both areas is a positive step because it demonstrates that the government has a strong intention to challenge what it sees as a major human rights violation. Criminalisation under the 2007 Act was not pursued because the original drafters and proponents of the legislation had hoped that the civil remedy would curb instances of forced marriage without the criminal law. However, in the lead up to the 2014 reforms, the FMU had consistently reported over 1,200 cases on average, which some suggested showed that the 2007 Act had lacked ‘teeth’ to address the problem. Now that we have criminalisation for breaches of FMPOs and a separate forced marriage offence, the government has argued that it provides a major deterrent and perpetrators will think twice about committing this horrendous act because of the substantial custodial sentences and penalties involved.  

Furthermore, as breach of FMPOs and forced marriage now constitutes separate criminal offences, the police no longer have to ask the civil court’s permission to arrest perpetrators for contempt of court – as separate criminal offences, the police can investigate a complaint and make arrests as soon as a complaint is made (whether by a victim or a third party). This is a positive step because the police can now, on its own volition, investigate complaints and make arrests as a state agency with the responsibility to protect members of the public from crime. With just the private civil jurisdiction, family members may exert pressure upon the victim not to pursue civil remedies – now that both offences constitute crimes under the criminal law the police can now investigate a matter itself. 

The consequences of criminalisation 
However, a major concern about criminalisation is whether victims retain a sense of control over proceedings. With the civil remedy alone, the victim was able to decide what course of action to take. With criminal proceedings, there is the possibility that control will be taken away from victims – with the police and CPS deciding to go ahead with criminal prosecutions, potentially ignoring the wishes of victims. This could lead to catastrophic consequences, especially if the victim states that they may be harmed or even killed for shaming the family if a prosecution is brought. While the CPS prosecution guidance on its website on forced marriages state that the views and opinions of victims will be considered, there is no guarantee that a prosecution will not be brought if the victim disagrees. Thus, victims may feel that power and control to initiate proceedings (and which route to pursue) is taken out of their hands. 

Furthermore, the new law is complicated by the fact that perpetrators are often family members, including parents and loved ones. While victims may want to escape forced marriages, some may not want to see their mothers or fathers prosecuted because of the love and emotional attachments involved. Thus, some victims may choose to tolerate forced marriages to avoid parents being prosecuted. The ‘shame’ and ‘dishonour’ associated with bringing a prosecution against family members may also dissuade some from coming forward and reporting crimes. Criminalisation may also prove ineffective due to the burden of proof in criminal proceedings, which is much higher than the civil jurisdiction – there is no guarantee that prosecutions will be successful because the CPS will have to prove to the jury ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ that an offence has been committed. In the latest figures provided by the CPS in its VAWG Crime Report for 2015-2016, there was a 60.4% prosecution success rate for forced marriage, honour-based violence and female genital mutilation. If prosecutions are unsuccessful, what further danger does this pose for victims within their wider familial settings and community networks? 

There is also a concern that the new law may stigmatise certain communities and increase racial hostility against those who are perceived to practice forced marriages, namely South-Asians and Muslims. This may have a negative effect and prevent victims from reporting forced marriages for the fear of confirming racial stereotypes and increasing Islamophobia at a time when Islam and Muslims are under attack for supposedly being responsible for committing acts of terrorism, forced marriage, honour-based violence and grooming offences. 

In the first year of the new reforms between June 2014 and June 2015, The Guardian also reported that there was only one successful prosecution under the new offence of forced marriage – and that was not a traditional case of forced marriage one would normally associate with the offence either. This was a case in Wales of a married man who committed rape, voyeurism, forced marriage and bigamy – it was not a case of parents forcing a child to marry a person against their will. In this sense, the legislation has proven far from being effective. As noted earlier, despite criminalisation the FMU still reported in 2015 that it dealt with over 1,200 cases of forced marriages. Perpetrators have not been deterred by the substantial sentences available for breaches of FMPOs and for forced marriage. 

In pursuit of preventative measures 
In my 2015 article (and in another article that I wrote for the International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice in 2017), I argued that criminalisation was unnecessary due to the small number of breach hearings for FMPOs and the fact that most FMPOs (prior to the 2014 reforms) appeared to be complied with. While I understand the importance and the declaratory effect of the law, criminal justice responses are not the only option. Preventative measures and responses to deal with the problem of forced marriages must also be pursued. This includes aiming education and awareness at local communities, schools, colleges and universities about the wrongs and ills of forced marriages and information about where victims can access support. There must be increased funding from the government to support these initiatives by specialist support organisations and activists. The government must not rely solely on a criminal justice response, which it seems to have done. 

In relation to education and awareness, initiatives should also be aimed at men in order to destabilise patriarchal ideologies that supports men’s oppression of women. Again, this should be led by specialist support organisations and activists, but with the support and assistance of more men. The battle to end forced marriages and honour-based violence (as the two are inextricably linked) cannot be won by feminists and women alone – men (in particular, South-Asian men) must be prepared to stand up and to be counted and argue that forced marriage and honour-based violence are anything but honourable. We need to shift the narrative and make people realise that forced marriages and honour-based violence are dishonourable acts and expressly go against the tenets of Islam. In this way, we can inform and challenge the causes of forced marriages, as well as challenge the racist stereotypes that exist. Victims do not benefit from forced marriages; similarly no one benefits from attacks on other people’s religions and cultures. 

 

 

Visit our Spotlight homepage for more insight, stories and resources for professionals encountering 'honour'-based violence and forced marriage. 

Breaking the Silence within Communities and Service-Providers

Afrah Qassim is the Founder and Director at Savera UK, a Merseyside-based charity, working to safeguard those at risk from horrific incidents of honour-based violence, female genital mutilation and forced marriage. Since Savera UK was set up in 2010, the charity has been dedicated to tackling domestic abuse within BME communities, raising awareness among professionals and practitioners about these harmful practices. Savera UK has made an outstanding contribution to protecting some of the most vulnerable and marginalised individuals in our local communities. For an audio version of this blog, scroll to the bottom of the page, or visit our Soundcloud profile

From our research and ongoing interaction with Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) communities, it is apparent that the greatest fear that some families have is the Westernisation of their young people, specifically their daughters. This fear is due to culturally constituted notions of honour and shame within the community and daughters (and women in general) are expected to act honourably. The dominant patriarchal culture in many of these communities dictates what is considered honourable (although not all community members hold such beliefs). Due to the fear of Westernisation, there has been a surge in traditional and cultural practices that are, in many cases, no longer practised in the countries from which the families originate. Harmful practices such as forced marriage, 'honour' based violence and female genital mutilation remain at the heart of many communities, despite criminal justice remedies being available. The number of domestic abuse cases reported to the police by women from BME communities is increasing but the resources and expertise to deal with them is reducing year-on-year. This is evidenced in the recent HMIC report, The Depths of Dishonour: Hidden Voices and Shameful Crimes, 2015)

Furthermore, from our engagement with BME communities, an oft-cited reason for not reporting abuses nor asking for the support they need is for fear of bringing shame and dishonour upon their families and community. Sadly, another reason many do not make the reports is the fear of being misunderstood by services. For these reasons, charities such as Savera UK are essential in tackling and addressing issues such as:

Lack of representative data: the lack of data collection has stopped us from understanding the bigger picture of how to prevent these harmful practices both within the UK and further afield. In 2004, the United Nations urged all governments to collect data around harmful practices, but the statistics are commonly gathered through crime and prosecution numbers.

Education & communication: a lack of funding has resulted in budgetary cuts in training and development that are so key to understanding the issues surrounding harmful practices, as well as developing and coordinating a multi-agency approach.

Specialist support: survivors of harmful practices still have great difficulty in receiving the appropriate counselling or therapeutic support. Those who have received such service provision feel that their cultural traditions are misunderstood by those who merely have generic counselling.

No resources, nor access to public funds: women with insecure immigration state can be reluctant to approach for help, in fear of being exposed and refused support.

Although I have outlined above some key issues, these are only a handful of those that Savera UK faces as a charity on a day-to-day basis. The individuals who seek our help experience first-hand the gaps in service provision that exist; we are trying to bridge those gaps, so that those who need the support, do not need to search endlessly for it. However, there are many issues that Savera UK cannot even begin to address as a lone entity e.g. the justice system; it still needs to understand the issues surrounding harmful practices and the impact it has on survivors who have the courage to stand up to their perpetrators; perpetrators who could be their own family, or community. Furthermore, work also must be done to re-engage communities and raise awareness within them to highlight and promote the rights individuals have. More work must be done with community leaders who can have a strong influence in making positive changes and have the ability to challenge dominant attitudes within the community towards such issues. Most concern we now face is the lack of funding, which prevents further development.  

Visit our Spotlight homepage for more insight, stories and resources for professionals encountering 'honour'-based violence and forced marriage.

Reflections of an Idva on 'honour'-based violence

Tina Ciccotto is a Senior Independent Domestic Violence Advisor (Idva) at Victim Support in the borough of Tower Hamlets in London. Tina was trained as an Idva, Isva and most recently also completed the Safelives Service Manager training. Here Tina reflects on the role of managing cases in relation to ‘honour’- based violence which are quite prevalent in the borough. Tina also delivers training and raises awareness to professionals within the borough. For an audio version of this blog, scroll to the bottom of the page or visit our Soundcloud profile.

Tower Hamlets is the sixth smallest of the 32 London boroughs and yet it is the fourth most densely populated. We are extremely diverse with the single largest ethnic group being Bangladeshi (32%), bringing it up to 46% when considering other Asian populations. In fact, Tower Hamlets has the largest Bangladeshi population in England (Ethnicity in Tower Hamlets, Analysis of 2011 Census data, Tower Hamlets Council). Tower Hamlets consistently has one of the highest rates of reported domestic abuse across London(Metropolitan Police Crime Figures, available at: http://www.met.police.uk/crimefigures/ (last accessed 11.01.16), and ‘honour’ - based violence, including forced marriage,accounts for a quarter of our referrals.

When I started working as an Idva for Victim Support, I was aware that pride/honour was important to people in all societies.However,it was not long before the word “izzat” (Hindi, Urdu and Bengali refers to the concept of honour) became apparent in our daily work and I soon realised that it was often linked to family members or acquaintances who mistakenly believe someone has brought shame to their family or community by doing something that is not in keeping with the traditional beliefs of their culture.This honour came with a price: violence and abuse. There are many factors we have come across in our service which are viewed as dishonourable and may be considered as bringing shame and dishonour on the individual, their family and their community such as:

  • defying parental authority
  • “westernised” dress, behaviour and attitude
  •  pre-marital sex or extra-marital affairs
  • the existence of a “non-approved” relationship
    •  rejecting a forced or arranged marriage
    • leaving a partner
    • seeking divorce particularly when a dowry may be large.
    • Rumours and gossip.

The repercussions of this perceived damaged ‘honour’are both extreme and diverse: ostracising from one’s family and community, kidnapping and house ‘arrest’, including restriction of movement within and outside the home and excessive restrictions on home life (not allowed a phone, to use internet or develop friendships outside of wider family / friends circle etc.) are just a few. For many, escaping these abusive situations seem hopeless and their only sense of release or control is through self-harm or suicide. And there is always the looming threat of an honour killing which thankfully we have not experienced lately in our borough.

Recently I supported a woman named Sabina*. Following a miscarriage, which led to escalated abuse, she separated from her husband after years of domestic violence and abuse from both her husband and in-laws. She fled to her sister in London.  Living in the UK on a spousal visa, with her residency dependent on her relationship to her husband, and with no recourse to public funds, she felt hopeless to escape the abuse. Returning to her home country was not an option, as she feared that she would face the repercussions for her actions (i.e. ‘honour’ based violence). Being divorced was a subject of taboo and was frowned upon within her community and culture.She felt she was the ‘‘black sheep’’ of the family and considered a ‘’whore’’.  She explained some relatives had disowned her, and the family members she was in contact with were indifferent to the abuse she had experienced and they blamed her for it. As her husband had made threats that the police would deport her, Sabina was fearful of the supposed repercussions she may face if she reported the abuse to the police (i.e. being deported and facing further violence from her community)

For many of the clients that we support, their experiences of domestic abuse are compounded by the pressure to protect the honour of themselves, their family and their community, which in turn makes escaping even more dangerous and unlikely. The risk of further harm from one’s husband or partner, is often multiplied by the threat of violence or abuse from both their own family (both in the UK and ‘back home’), their marital family and the wider community.  To add to this, the practical consequences of fleeing such as immigration (no recourse to public funds), language and cultural barriers, all make escaping their family and community even more treacherous and overwhelming.

With over a quarter of our clients at risk of ‘honour’ – based violence, as Tower Hamlets Idvas, it is a central aspect of our role to understand and respond to these greater risks linked to ‘honour’. We provide our clients with the emotional support, encouragement, and reassurance to give them the courage to take action despite the multitude of barriers. We reassure them that despite their circumstances, support is available and we can explore all their needs and options.Some of the added risks and fears that we must understand and respond to include:

  • No recourse to public funds, spousal visas and Destitute Domestic Violence Concession (DDVC),
  • The risk of further violence and abuse if she must return to her home country
  • A fear or mistrust of the police (especially with uncertain immigration status)
  • A fear of the repercussions of going to the police, both at home and in the wider community
  • Refuge options and availability for BME women and those with ‘no recourse to public funds’.
  • Unavailability of public benefits to flee (for food, refuge or even legal aid)
  • The wider community and family backlash (including the threat of violence and abuse) for leaving a relationship, even after they’ve fled the relationship and abuse.

By effectively understanding and responding to these wider issues linked to not only domestic violence and abuse, but ‘honour- based violence, we ensure that the women and men we support find a safe place they can call home and are given the opportunity to rebuild their life and gain back their independence and strength.

Visit our Spotlight homepage for more insight, stories and resources for professionals encountering 'honour'-based violence and forced marriage

Acknowledging sexual violence in forced marriage

Mridul Wadhwa works at Rape Crisis Scotland and for the College of Policing England and Wales. She has spent over a decade at Shakti Women’s Aid supporting victims of forced marriage as well as delivering training to professionals and volunteers.

In this blog she talks about the links between forced marriage and sexual violence and abuse. She advises  practitioners to make the connection between these forms of abuse, and provides helpful guidance on how to support survivors who may be at risk. For an audio version of this blog, visit our Soundcloud profile or scroll to the bottom of the page.

Forced marriage is a direct outcome and consequence of patriarchal power over women’s bodies and lives. It is rooted in the idea that women are objects to be possessed and that their only value is to make the men they are attached to glimmer and shine positively in society in various stages of their lives. These men are their father, husband and then their son.

This value is measured by the policing of women’s bodies, especially unmarried women, by telling them that their virginity and virginal behaviour is of ultimate value and pride to the family. Their virginity can only be given to their husband, and the loss of it outside of marriage is something shameful and can bring with it significant negative consequences including forced marriage.  This culture of virginity is exploited by perpetrators of forced marriage to isolate women from developing a healthy understanding of their sexuality, sexual consent and their own bodily autonomy.

Definitions of forced marriage in Scotland and England frame the experience as one of duress where consent, if given, is done under undue pressure without free will.  Therefore, it is very likely that survivors of forced marriage would have experienced sexual violence, especially where the success of such a marriage is predicated on the ability of the bride to prove her virginity by bleeding on her wedding night.  Proving and maintaining virginity might not always be the focus of perpetrators of forced marriage, especially where they have used it as a means of controlling women’s sexuality because they have had sex outside of marriage, are lesbian, bisexual or transgender, or have experienced rape and sexual abuse.

Acknowledging that sexual violence (or the risk of it) is a feature of forced marriage should provide support workers with the confidence to think about the safety of and impact on survivors when offering support or carrying out risk assessments.  It can be challenging to have a discussion about sexual violence with survivors, especially when discussions on safety are often about who and how many people are involved in perpetrating the forced marriage and the practical consequences of that risk.

It may be helpful to start by carrying out a practical discussion with survivors or those at risk about their sexual health and the meaning of consent in the context of sex. I have found that this can be a helpful start, even if it is met with discomfort or rejection on part of the survivor.  It is crucial to remember that many survivors have been socialised to think about their sexuality as unimportant or embarrassing and something to be silent about.

Sexual violence is not the same thing as sexuality and it has nothing to do with sex, but creating a space to talk about sex will then give survivors the confidence to talk about their experiences of sexual violence if they wish to.  All survivors of sexual violence must control their disclosure and the actions that come following such a disclosure. The role of those of us who support survivors of forced marriage is to let them know that it is okay to talk about it.  

Throughout May and early June we'll be talking about 'honour'-based violence and forced marriage, sharing expert content, survivor stories and practice tips. Visit our Spotlight homepage for more.