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Guest blog: What is honour-based abuse?

Honour-based abuse bride

On the National Day of Remembrance for victims of honour-based abuse, we spoke to Karma Nirvana, a national charity who support victims of honour-based abuse and forced marriage, about honour-based abuse and how victims can get support.

What is honour-based abuse?

“Honour-based abuse takes place when an individual is seen to have undermined what the family or community deem to be honourable and acceptable codes of behaviour. In transgressing this correct code of behaviour, the person shows that they do not follow familial traditional rules and this is seen to be shameful, or dishonourable to the family and community, which can cause abuse to take place.

“This is also often referred to as ‘honour-based violence’ but at Karma Nirvana, we choose to call it ‘honour-based abuse’ because the word ‘violence’ implies that there has to be physical abuse to qualify as HBA. This is not the case. Honour based abuse can take place in many different forms; physical, psychological, financial and sexual abuse are most common.”

Does honour-based abuse only affect women?

“There is a common misconception that honour-based abuse only happens to women. Whilst it does predominantly affect women, honour-based abuse affects anybody, of any gender, any age and any religion. Honour-based abuse does not discriminate and can happen to anyone. We support anyone who requires support regardless of gender.”

Do Karma Nirvana offer support to victims of historic HBA?

“Karma Nirvana support both victims and survivors of honour based abuse. We appreciate that abuse of all kinds can be extremely challenging to come to terms with and to overcome. For this reason, we are here for victims who are currently experiencing abuse and for those who have experienced it in the past.

“In cases of honour-based abuse, it is often family members and the community who are the main perpetrators. For this reason, it can be so difficult to deal with and to separate oneself from their family and from everything they are used to. We are here for people before they flee, after they flee and even if they choose to stay.”

What would you say to someone who is a victim of HBA but is too frightened to come forward?

“Each case of honour based abuse completely differs to the next, but we would say, that we can appreciate how difficult it is to come forward about experiences. It is important to remind victims that they have done nothing wrong by reaching out for support. In addition, our service is completely confidential. Callers do not have to leave their name; they can use a pseudonym or no name at all if they feel more comfortable doing so. We would never mediate with family, or with community members, and are aware of how difficult it can be speaking out against those who are closest to you.”

What support does Karma Nirvana offer to victims of honour-based abuse?

“At Karma Nirvana, we provide both emotional and practical support to victims and survivors of honour based abuse and forced marriage. In terms of emotional support, whilst we are not trained counsellors, we can provide a safe, confidential space to discuss feelings and experiences.

“In terms of practical support, we can provide support in searching for refuge spaces, support with speaking to the police and honour-based abuse trained officers, as well as practical tips for keeping safe. The safety of victims is the most important thing.

Report it

If you or someone you know is at risk of honour-based abuse, please speak to someone:

Support for victims 

Help is available to victims whether they report to the police or not, and no matter how long ago the crime took place. View a list of specialist honour-based abuse organisations who offer support and guidance.