Trigger warning

This page contains information that may be upsetting and triggering to survivors of abuse.

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Forced marriage and honour-based violence support services

Black Country Women’s Aid supports people experiencing or at risk of honour based violence and forced marriage in Sandwell, Dudley and Walsall.

 

We offer sensitive and holistic support that help victims of all ages to escape from violence, cope with trauma and rebuild their lives.

What is a forced marriage?

A forced marriage is one in which one or both of the people getting married do not, or cannot, consent to the marriage and coercion is involved.  Coercion may include emotional force, physical force, threats of violence, or financial pressure. Forced marriage is a criminal offence in the UK.

There is a clear difference between forced marriage and arranged marriage. In arranged marriages, while families may take a lead, the choice of whether to accept the arrangement remains with the prospective spouses.

If families have to resort to violence or coercion to make someone marry, that person’s consent has not been given freely and it is therefore considered a forced marriage.

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What is honour-based violence?

There is no single definition of honour-based violence, as it is a complex issue. It can be described as a collection of practices, which are used to control behaviour within families or other groups. This is done to protect perceived cultural and religious beliefs and or honour. Abuse and violence can happen when perpetrators think that a relative has “shamed” the family or community by breaking their “honour” code.

Most victims of honour-based violence are women and girls, although it can affect men and boys too. Often there is no single perpetrator and victims can be at risk from close or extended family or community members.

Honour-based violence is not justified by any culture or religion and is a human rights issue.

Is it happening to you?

Does someone in your family (this could be your parents, a sibling, your husband or another family member):

  • not consult you in decisions about your future, such as who to marry?
  • make threats to physically harm you which make you feel scared to disagree with them or anger them?
  • constantly check up on you or follow you, or ask your siblings or other family members to do this?
  • stop you from going out, seeing friends or speaking to outsiders about your problems?
  • say that your actions shame them or the family?
  • physically harm you?
  • threaten to disown you?
  • withhold money, food or affection from you?
  • force you to do things against your will?
  • prevent you from studying or getting a job?
  • say that it is your duty to obey them because of religion or culture?
  • has anyone else in your family been made to get married to someone they didn’t want to?

If this is happening to you, you may be experiencing honour-based abuse, or you may be at risk of a forced marriage. It is important to remember that this is not your fault.

Telling someone can really help.

We know it can be difficult to talk about what is happening, but telling someone can really help.

If someone in your family is controlling you and you are scared they will harm you or abuse you, if you are frightened that you will be forced into a marriage, or if this has already happened please contact us. We can help you get the support that you need.

Getting in touch

Please contact us to speak in confidence to an advisor and find out more about how we can support you.

If you are from an agency and would like to refer someone you are working with please scroll down for a referral form and details of our secure email.

Our support

Our support workers are trained specialists who support people who are at risk of harm from intimate partners, ex-partners or family members. They will work with you one to one and support you both emotionally and practically to enable you to make choices and plans towards your long-term safety.

Although we often work closely with other organisations to ensure you are safe and get the best support, we are independent of all statutory agencies including the Police, Local Authority and Social Services.

We can support people of any age, both female and male, in Sandwell, Dudley and Walsall.

We will believe you. We will listen to you, support you and give you time and space to decide what you want to do. We won’t judge you because of what you say or force you to make a decision you do not want to make. We can help you with choices on how to move forward.

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How can we support you?

The things that we can help with include:

  • Listening to you, supporting you and being someone you can talk to in confidence about what is happening to you;
  • Advice and support planning tailored to your needs;
  • Sharing information with you so that you feel empowered to make decisions that are right for you;
  • Assessing your risk level and developing safety plans with you including practical steps to keep you safe;
  • Helping you to understand how the criminal justice process works, explaining what will happen if you report to the police, and what happens in court. We can also support you at court and afterwards;
  • Information about civil orders that can help protect you including Forced Marriage Protection Orders;
  • Helping you access other services who can help e.g. refuge, housing, immigration, counselling and legal services;
  • Maximising your safety by working closely with other agencies to reduce the risk of harm that you face, and representing you at MARAC;
  • Support groups and counselling, if you need them;
  • Interpreting services if you need them.

Confidentiality

We will work with you in a confidential way. This means that we will not share any information with your family, the police or anyone else without your permission. The only time we will ever share any information without your permission is if we are worried about a child or vulnerable person’s safety.

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Where we work

We offer support to people who have been affected by or are at risk of honour-based violence and forced marriage living in Sandwell, Dudley and Walsall. If you live outside these areas please scroll down to ‘quick links’ to find details of other regional services.

More information for professionals

What are the warning signs of forced marriage?

Forced marriage is an extremely sensitive issue and there are many barriers that may stop someone who is at risk from seeking help. They may be frightened that their family or community will find out, and find it difficult to trust anyone. However you may notice warning signs that someone is at risk, especially if you are professional working with young people.

These may include: persistent absence from school or work; fear about holidays or failure to return from holidays; surveillance by siblings or family members or always being accompanied by them; decline in behaviour or performance; having education or career options limited by family; being accompanied whilst leaving work or school; having wages or income confiscated; early or forced marriage of siblings; the individual or their siblings running away from home or being reported missing; depression, isolation, self-harm or eating disorders; reports of abuse, harassment of breaches of the peace at the family home.

These are just some of the signs that someone you know could be at risk of a forced marriage. Please download our guide for professionals for more information.

What do I do if I think someone is at risk?

If you are a professional who suspects someone is being, or has been forced into marriage:

  • Speak to them immediately alone in a secure, private place
  • Listen to them, believe them, recognise and respect their wishes
  • Reassure them about confidentiality, that you will not inform their family, however if action must be taken in their best interests or to prevent crime, inform them of the action taken
  • Perform a risk assessment such as a DASH or tool as guided by your agency

 

  • Contact us at BCWA as soon as possible using the referral form downloadable below

 

  • If the young person is under 18 years of age, refer them to your organisation’s designated person responsible for safeguarding children and activate local safeguarding procedures
  • If the person is an adult with support needs, refer them to the designated person responsible for safeguarding vulnerable adults and activate local safeguarding procedures
  • Establish and agree an effective method of contacting the victim discreetly in future, possibly using a code-word to confirm identity
  • If someone is at risk of being, or has been, taken overseas, immediately contact the Forced Marriage Unit on 020 7008 0151. The young person should obtain contact details of the nearest British Embassy in the area they are travelling to
  • In an emergency, contact the police on 999

 

Don’t

  • Ignore your concerns or decide it is not your responsibility
  • Share information or attempt mediation with the young person’s family or the community. It can increase risk of harm or bring forward the marriage. The family may also punish the young person for trying to get help
  • Use family members, friends or prominent community members as translators. Always use an accredited interpreter. Using telephone interpreting services can make it easier for  some people to disclose anonymously

Forced Marriage & Honour-based Violence Resources

Forced marriage West Midlands leaflet

Regional leaflet on forced marriage produced by the West Midlands Domestic Abuse Consortium

Forced marriage: guide for professionals

Guidance for professionals on the warning signs of a forced marriage and how to act

Agency referral form

Professionals: please use this form to make referrals for support

Don’t suffer in silence

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