Harmful Practices

Harmful practices are forms of violence or abuse that are presented as acceptable cultural practices. Girls and women are most often affected by them, although males can also be vulnerable.

The use of harmful practices are intended to control the victim through controlling, coercive and/or threatening behaviour. This can include psychological, physical, sexual, financial, and emotional abuse.

Harmful practices include (but are not limited to)

  • forced marriage
  • ‘honour’ based abuse
  • female genital mutilation (FGM)

These practices are used to control behaviour to protect perceived cultural and religious beliefs and occur when it is perceived that shame or dishonour has been brought against a family or community. A common attribute of such practices is that they are related to women’s sexuality and an underlying sub context of male domination.

Examples of supposed shameful behaviour include:

  • sexual orientation
  • wearing make-up or ‘unacceptable’ clothing
  • having a relationship outside of the community
  • not obeying family/community rules
  • seeking a divorce

As well as causing severe physical and psychological impact, the use of harmful practices can result in isolation, restricted career opportunities, and financial dependency.

A survey of women using specialist BMER (Black, Minority Ethnic and Refugee) domestic abuse services found that:

  • 96% reported experiencing psychological, emotional and verbal abuse
  • 72% had experienced physical violence
  • 30% had experienced attempted and/or threats of murder

BMER women are at a high risk of repeat victimisation and face extra barriers to reporting abuse and seeking help.*

If you require help, support or advice about any harmful practices contact us on 0800 107 0726.

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