Honour-based abuse

So called "honour-based" abuse is abuse that is perpetrated in order to protect or defend the honour of a family or community.

So called “honour-based” abuse is referred to as “so called” as there is a need to be clear that there is no honour in abusing someone.  As seen in the definition below, honour-based abuse is often carried out as a result of the victim bringing shame on their family or the wider community.  Transgressions can be relatively minor, but the consequences significant potentially resulting in the victims death.

Although women are often seen as the main victims of honour-based abuse, men can be victims too.  More recently there has been a move to highlight the under-reported issue of male victims of honour abuse, with potential causes being in what is deemed as an inappropriate relationship, being gay or being believed to be supporting the victim of other abuse.

This is not just something that affects adults.  As we will see below, children can be victims of honour-based abuse as well.

Such abuse comes under the umbrella term of harmful practices.

Definition of so called "honour-based" abuse

Honour based abuse (HBA) 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.

Crown Prosecution Service

Quotation marks

The impact of shame

The majority of incidents of so called honour-based abuse occur when it is perceived that the victim has bought shame on their family and / or on the wider community, in effect tarnishing the image of their family or community.  Honour-based abuse is not linked to any specific communities and cuts across nationalities, cultures, faith groups and communities.  Research shows that where honour-based violence is prevalent is communities where the culture is male orientated and men are the rule makers and breakers.  For men in these communities it is often the expectation that they will keep everyone in line, so if this does not happen they are perceived as weak and ineffectual, potentially leading them to feel the need to exert their authority.

Perpetrators of honour-based abuse

Although it can be the family who perceive that they have been wronged and had shame bought onto them by the actions of a family member, it should also be noted that there may be multiple perpetrators of so called honour-based abuse.  Relatives (including women in the family and community) may conspire, support, or participate in acts of abuse as may members of the wider community.

Vulnerable children

It is not just adults who can be victims of so called honour-based abuse.  Children can be victims as well.  Transgressions may be significant events such as pregnancy or a relationship that is not approved of, or may be considered to be relatively insignificant and the result of children and young people growing up in different cultures (for example wanting to wear different clothes or make-up).  Children with additional needs or being part of the LGBTQ+ community may also be seen as bringing shame on the family potentially leading to them being victims of abuse.

Indicators of honour-based abuse

As with all types of abuse, you will know the children you work with and if you have concerns these should be flagged to your designated lead.  Below, are some potential indicators that you may see:

  • Sudden absence from school
  • Prolonged foreign travel
  • Technology withdrawn
  • Constantly chaperoned
  • Changes in behaviour
  • Physical injuries

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