Middlesbrough project’s new campaign to help victims of forced marriage and ‘honour’ violence

Halo shines a light on victims of “honour” violence and forced marriage.

The Halo Project, now in its second year, provides support and, where necessary, intervention to protect those on Teesside at risk of honour-based violence and forced marriage.

It has launched a new Time for Change campaign ahead of new legislation making forced marriage illegal in the UK.

In Teesside there have been a number of female suicides, often by fire, as well as murders of South Asian women and children, who have been considered to have brought “shame” or “dishonour” to their family.

Since launching in 2011, the response to The Halo Project, in central Middlesbrough, has been overwhelming with more than 100 victims coming forward for support and hundreds calling for advice.

The Time for Change campaign is designed to raise awareness so victims seek help at the earliest opportunity.

Halo Project spokeswoman Penny Thomas, said: “The response to our project has been overwhelming as Halo is filling a gap in provision for these victims.

“Many more than we help are going unreported; it’s difficult to know exactly how many but we know there are significant numbers of people suffering.

“Our aim is to raise awareness so victims are more likely to seek help at an earlier stage and the relevant agencies can then intervene more quickly to prevent forced marriages, honour-based violence and the subsequent victimisation that is taking place.”

The Halo Project has a confidential victim-centred approach.

Uniquely they offer cultural suprt and then act as the broker for victims to find the support and help they need.

Halo’s ethos centres around basic human rights many take for granted, added Penny.

“A woman’s right to choose a spouse and enter freely into marriage is central to her life and her dignity and equality as a human being.”

Electrocuted, raped and used as a slave

Amina* is a victim of attempted murder, rape and violence.

In her native Pakistan her own brother and sister-in-law tried to electrocute her several times.

She came to the UK on August 18, 2012, with her parents on a sponsored visa for six months.

They stayed with her sister in the Midlands but her family continued to emotionally blackmail her about getting married. They shouted at her for eating too much, worried she would put on weight and no one would marry her.

Her visa expired in February last year and she was forced to marry a Bangladeshi man aged 45 who she didn’t see until she married him.

She refused to go his home and moved in with a brother in Nottingham. Here she was treated like a slave.

Eventually he got her husband to take her to live with him in Southampton.

Here she lived in a flat above a takeaway with poor washing facilities and she was given only one meal a day at 1am. Her husband forced himself on her and mentally abused her, telling her she would be disowned and nobody wanted her.

She had no contact with her family but did speak to a friend in Pakistan who suggested she contact the Forced Marriage Unit.

She didn’t call the police as she didn’t trust them based on her experience in Pakistan. After contacting FMU she was removed from the flat and taken to a police station and referred to a “safe house”.

Later she was told that her husband was a registered sex offender.

Amina was so scarred from her experiences she was suicidal and was referred to the Halo Project in Middlesbrough.

After an assessment it was evident that she needed a lot of support including specialist counselling.

The Halo Project has also referred her to classes to improve her English.

Although she continues to be treated for depression and anxiety, Amina said: “The Halo Project has understood me, helped support me access a range of opportunities and support and I’m starting to think that my life may be worth living and I may have a future once again.”

* Not her real name

Honour violence: The facts

There are approximately 12 reported “honour” killings per year in the UK.

South Asian females under the age of 24 are two to three times more likely to commit suicide than their Caucasian counterparts, according to national statistics.

Offences against victims include: threatening behaviour, assault, rape, kidnap, forced abortion, threats to kill and false imprisonment.

Anyone affected by these issues can contact the Halo Project by phone on 01642 683045 or via the website at www.haloproject.org.uk

A link to the article can be found here.