19th August 2015
Last month saw the first national Day of Memory to commemorate victims of “honour”-based violence and abuse. Karma Nirvana, the charity behind the event, reports that at least 12 women a year are known to have been killed as a result of “honour”-based violence in the UK, although the true number is thought to be much higher.
Whilst B&ME women are disproportionately impacted by specific forms of violence against women and girls – such as forced marriage and “honour”-based violence – their experiences of violence are often intersecting and overlapping (Thiara, 2012). In other words, a B&ME woman could experience “honour”-based violence in the context of domestic abuse. Despite being just as likely to experience abuse as any other ethnic group, research shows that the level of disclosure for Black and minority ethnic (B&ME) victims of domestic abuse is far lower than that of the general population (Walby & Allen, 2004). From our own national dataset of 42,000 cases, we know that victims from B&ME communities typically suffer abuse for 1.5 times longer before getting help than those who identify as White, British or Irish.
I started looking more closely at the data to see why this might be. A third of B&ME clients are at risk of “honour”-based violence, and they’re three times more likely to be abused by multiple perpetrators. A quarter of B&ME victims say that they need the aid of an interpreter to communicate effectively. And 1 in 5 has no recourse to public funds. This combination of more limited access to legal and other services, language barriers, abuse from extended family members and the wider community, and simply not knowing your rights means it’s no surprise that many B&ME victims feel unable to speak out about the abuse they’re experiencing.
Telling someone you’re being abused by an intimate partner or family member is an incredibly tough step to take. But the more I read, the more I realised how much this is compounded for B&ME women. I spoke to Mollin Delve, service manager at the Phoebe Centre in Ipswich – one of the specialist B&ME services using our Insights data analysis and outcome measurement service. She explained the problems her clients face: “Being from a migrant B&ME background means that the majority of our clients don’t have secure legal status in this country and are dependent on others, particularly the perpetrator, for their stay in the UK.”
It can also mean they lack knowledge about UK systems and laws. “This adds to the abusers’ control over them. Victims are often enslaved in their homes, as a result of an inability to voice their experiences. They don’t always speak English and are not allowed to learn or make friends. Many have no entitlement to public funds unless an advocate (like ourselves) helps them to access support,” Mollin reflected.
Specialist services like the Phoebe Centre, which are led and delivered by B&ME women, are essential for advocating on behalf of B&ME victims of abuse to get the support they need. But understanding the unique challenges these women face is essential if we’re ever to increase the number getting help – and this is something we all have a responsibility for, particularly as specialist services have been drastically reduced in the past 10 years.
Some useful resources for working with B&ME clients
For more information about domestic violence and B&ME victims, including support and training options, visit Imkaan’s website.
The Home Office has published “Three steps to escaping domestic violence” – a leaflet aimed specifically at women in Black and minority ethnic communities. The leaflet is available in 12 languages and can be downloaded from the Gov.uk website.
Did you know that the Dash risk checklist is available to download in 13 community languages? You can also find tips and advice on supporting young people at risk of forced marriage in our forced marriage practice briefing.