A lecturer undertaking doctoral research on ‘honour’-based violence (HBV) has described Government funding made available for charities providing support for those at risk as “woefully inadequate” to meet the increased demand falling on services during lockdown.
Lynne Townley, a criminal barrister and lecturer in The City Law School, also highlighted that charities providing support for those affected by HBV were already financially struggling, even before the COVID-19 lockdown.
Speaking of the challenges faced by those at risk of HBV and other forms of ‘honour’-based abuse (HBA), Lynne Townley said: “Being forced to stay at home because of COVID-19 has resulted in victims of honour-based and domestic abuse being placed in greater danger as they become increasingly isolated from the rest of society.
“Even assuming that they are in a position to seek help in the first place (many victims of ‘honour’-based abuse do not speak English), the lockdown makes this increasingly difficult.”
Domestic abuse has remained in the headlines since early in lockdown, as calls to police and helplines have increased exponentially. While there are some similarities, ‘honour’-based abuse is a collection of practices that are used to control behaviour within families in order to protect perceived cultural beliefs and/or codes of honour, rather than an incident or pattern of violence.
Domestic abuse usually involves one perpetrator, while HBA frequently occurs in communities where couples live with their extended family, meaning there are often multiple perpetrators.
In less than three weeks in April, Karma Nirvana, an organisation, like Savera UK, which supports those at risk from ‘honour’-based abuse and harmful practices, reported a 200 per cent surge in calls to its helpline, with many victims being told by families that they will be sent abroad to marry once travel restrictions are lifted.
Reports of domestic abuse during the COVID-19 lockdown in the UK have risen to alarming levels, prompting Home Secretary, Priti Patel, to announce a £2m support package – under the banner of the hashtag #YouAreNotAlone – to support victims of domestic violence through online and other services.
Despite this, organisations that support those at risk from ‘honour’-based abuse and other harmful practices believe a more specific support package is required, as is acknowledgement of the distinct challenges faced in tackling often ‘hidden’ culturally-specific forms of abuse.
Savera UK founder, Afrah Qassim, said: “People living in or at risk of culturally-specific abuse are more isolated now than they have ever been before. The small windows of opportunity for them to reach out for help, via the internet, helplines or appointments with trusted health and social care professionals, have vanished.
“They are unable to go to school, university or other places of education where they are able to find solace and some escape from the abuse they are experiencing.
“The extent of this impact right now is not clear. Like many organisations supporting survivors of and people at risk of ‘honour’-based and culturally-specific abuse, we are feeling the demand on our services and we expect this demand to increase as we move out of lockdown.
“It is important that we highlight the unique experience of those at risk and help shine a light on these hidden forms of abuse, to raise awareness of the places that those at risk or currently living in abusive environments can go to get help.”
You can read Savera UK’s COVID-19 safety message here.
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Reported by Nikki Girvan. Image by Elias Folarin, Savera UK Youth