The West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, David Jamieson, is commemorating National Day of Remembrance for Victims of Honour-Based Abuse and Forced Marriage.

Tuesday 14 July 2020 is designated as a national day to remember the victims of Honour based abuse and forced marriage. The date was selected in memory of Shafilea Ahmed who was murdered by her parents in an honour killing in September 2003. 14 July is Shafilea’s birthday.

Last year the PCC provided £47,200 to fund the project, which will offer confidential advice to victims and survivors across the region.

The project uses money from the PCC’s Victims Fund, which can only be spent on victim services and not additional police officers.

Forced marriage is a criminal offence in the UK and takes place against someone’s will. Emotional, physical or financial pressure may be used to force the victim to marry, often by their family.

Honour Based Abuse is a violent crime which includes patterns of coercive behaviour which can often be perpetrated by family members. This practise is used to control the victim’s behaviour and ‘protect’ cultural or religious beliefs. Abuse can include serious offences such as murder, rape or false imprisonment.

The helpline was launched in October 2019 as West Midlands Police saw the number of recorded Forced Marriages increase from 7 in 2011 to 35 in 2018. 

The number of recorded Honour Based Abuse crimes has gone from 52 in 2011 to 182 in 2018.

In 2019, the Home Office’s Forced Marriage Unit recorded over, 1,080 cases in the UK. With 173 cases being recorded in the West Midlands. These statistics do not represent the full scale of forced marriage as it is a hidden crime and many face barriers accessing support and when intending on reporting.

The Police and Crime Commissioner’s 24-hour helpline offers emotional and practical support to vulnerable young people and adults.

The helpline has received 180 calls since it was launched and the end of June 2020.

Fully trained staff who have the experience and expertise to identify those at risk, will be on hand to direct victims to counselling services and access to immediate emergency refuge.

The 24-hour service is available 7 days a week and is free from mobiles and landlines, call on: 0800 953 9777.

The West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, David Jamieson said: “Since my election in 2014 supporting victims of crime has been one of my top priorities.

“It is important that we take the time to remember the victims of honour based abuse and forced marriage and recognise that more work must be done to encourage those who are suffering to come forward.

“As well as supporting victims I am also committed to tackling the violence in the first place. I shall continue to support West Midlands Police to ensure so called hidden crimes are dealt with as a matter of urgency”.

A victim of forced marriage who has used the helpline said: “My home was my sanctuary where I felt safe but all of a sudden my world turned upside down when I heard my parents making plans to get me married off.  I felt confused, hurt and betrayed. How can those who loved me so dearly do this to me, I am only 16?  Don’t they love me anymore? I couldn’t eat, sleep or find the energy to do anything.  I felt suicidal, I had no one in this word to live for.

“I became distanced from my friends and one day my teacher caught me crying and she thought I was being bullied.  She asked me what was wrong and everything poured out. I hugged her and cried until I could not cry anymore.  She contacted social services who spoke to me and also contacted West Midlands Forced Marriage and Honour Based Abuse Helpline. I spoke to the Helpline Worker who was so nice, she explained to me the risks of going back home, my options and how they have supported other girls in similar situations. I no longer felt alone. 

“With my permission, they referred me to an outreach service who came into school within 20 minutes. They helped me get a Forced Marriage Protection Order, organised a safe place for me to go to, gave me food and clothing. I don’t know how to thank the helpline and the outreach service, without them I would not be here to tell my story. I have moved out of the area and I am living with my foster parents, I go to college and I can begin to focus on my future”.  

A spokesperson for the helpline said: “Today is National Day of Remembrance for victims of Honour Based Abuse who have been murdered by their families in the name of honour. Betrayed by those they love.  This heinous crime is often committed by multiple perpetrators including mothers, sisters, aunties and even grandmothers.

“Covid-19 has placed victims at heightened risk with very little contact with the outside world making it difficult to access help.  We are launching a new campaign today to raise awareness and to ensure that those stuck inside their homes know how to access support.

“Our helpline has remained open 24 hours throughout the lockdown and we have seen a significant increase in the duration of our calls with victims needing a lot of emotional support. One victim said “I can’t decide if to stay with the devil I know or enter the darkness I fear outside.”

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