Basic Response Guide
Suggested HBV basic response measures — planning for protection.
- All frontline staff: police, teachers, medical staff, social workers, council officers, public servants and all voluntary and statutory bodies dealing with women need to be aware of the risks of HBV
- It is important to understand the nature of ‘honour’ whether this is described as izzat, sharaf, namous or in other terms. Learn about HBV and forced marriage using the resources on this site.
- Suicide rates are very high within the populations at risk of honour-based violence. Consider if depression or self-harming behaviour may be related to problems of violence at home.
- Understand the situation of people at risk of HBV. HBV tends to occur in close and interdependent families and potential victims may be disempowered and find dealing with their issues as an individual difficult. Potential victims may have internalised the values of their family or community and feel guilty and responsible for the supposed offence against ‘honour’, and they may also feel very isolated when trying to rebuild their lives after leaving their families. Potential victims may need counselling and other forms of emotional support.
- If the case appears to have a high level of risk, using Witness Protection Programme measures may be necessary.
- Potential victims of HBV may have their movements restricted by family members. Reaching out for help may be difficult and dangerous. If the family is aware that the potential victim has contacted persons outside the family this will escalate the risk of violence.
- Be aware of the risks of child abduction and make sure protection measures cover children as well as the primary potential victim.
- Create plans to cover every contingency in advance of demands from help. Plan for appropriate protection for a wide range of potential victims, including those who cannot speak the majority language, who have children, and those with insecure immigration status.
- Build links with other agencies in preparation, including immigration, domestic violence police, and solicitors. Identify NGOs which provide assistance to women, and source a reliable interpretation service which has robust confidentiality standards.
- Ensure the security of all shelters and housing; be aware that female relatives of a woman at risk of HBV may infiltrate domestic violence shelters on the pretext of having themselves suffered domestic violence
- Women at risk of HBV may lack knowledge of their rights and have little information on how to access help. They may also be reluctant to speak about their problems with outsiders and require sensitive encouragement.
- Be respectful, empathic and listen to their concerns without giving in to prejudice. Allow the potential victim to express her fears.
- Recognise and respect your potential victim’s wishes
- Treat potential victims with sensitivity and take their concerns seriously
- Reassure them that everything they say is confidential. Within community contexts where the behaviour of women is considered
- Establish a means of discreet contact at the earliest opportunity; if it is known that a potential victim has sought help her family may restrict her movements making follow-up impossible. Consider using a code-word in case another relative answers the phone, or masquerades as the potential victim.
- Involve an appropriate community organisation where possible, but check in advance to establish whether this organisation follows guidelines and does not use mediation in cases where ‘honour’ is an issue.
- Do not speak to the potential victim in the presence of any other family members, and ensure that any meetings cannot be discovered by family members.
- Seek advice from experts and organisations where necessary
- If the potential victim is under 18, consult child protection guidelines: these may be particularly appropriate in forced marriage cases where victims are often legal minors. Consider making the potential victim a Ward of the Court.
- Consider confiscating passports where this is possible to ensure a potential victim is not taken abroad to be forced into marriage or subjected to violence beyond the reach of your country’s criminal justice system
- Try to establish the networking potential of the family. Consider that relatives with professional access to computerised records might be able to discover the location of a potential victim; that taxi services may be used as detection networks, and that some families may have access to paid hitmen or ‘private detectives’ who specialise in tracking down runaways.
- Allow yourself to be affected by your perceptions of cultural difference. Let the potential victim explain herself/himself and resist adding your own interpretations.
- Judge the potential victim according to your perceptions of her/his culture
- Dismiss or belittle their fears
- NEVER send them back into a harmful environment
- Send the potential victim away because you do not think their problem concerns your agency
- Approach the family or community leaders. These may collude with the perpetrators.
- Underestimate the risk: perpetrators of HBV really do kill their closest relatives and/or others for what might seem a trivial transgression to you.
- Share information without the consent of the individual
- Attempt mediation. This may expose your potential victim to further danger.