Reports of honour-based abuse triples in Lancashire amid calls to do more for hidden victims

Video Report By Granada Report journalist Tasha Kacheri

Honour-based abuse has tripled in some parts of the North West, new figures have shown.

Government figures show the number of people reporting the crime has trebled in Lancashire, while in Merseyside it has doubled. Nationally reports have risen 6%.

Sara, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, has taken nearly three decades to talk about what she went through.

At 23-years-old she fell in love with a man her family disapproved of, she says her life changed when they found out about her relationship

Sara said: “I was under house arrest and couldn’t go anywhere unless somebody accompanied me.

"My dad probably summarised it the best when he just said 'he’s just the wrong colour'.

"I think the hardest part of all of this is watching people that have cared for you and looked after you all your life and they just suddenly become your enemy, it's like they become the monsters in your nightmare."

Sara was forced into an arranged marriage in India and given an ultimatum before being brought back to the UK, she has since spent years fighting to annul the marriage in court.

Sara was forced into an arranged marriage.

As the reporting of honour-based abuse, or HBA, rises, charities say more needs to be done to help support the hidden victims.

Savera UK, based in Merseyside, says the issue should not be seen as something that affects one community - but instead all of them.

Afra Qassim founder and CEO said: "It's not an issue that only affects one type of person, we support people from all different backgrounds, from people in the traveller communities to people who come from families that are very religious.

"This issue is no longer as they use the excuses 'it's their culture, it's their belief' this is an issue that is against our human rights so we need to all be doing something to end it."

It is encouraging people to run 5k in honour of the 5,000 people who die due to so-called honour each year.

The charity Savera UK say this issue doesn't just affect particular communities.

What is honour-based abuse?

Honour-based abuse is a crime committed to protect or defend the 'honour' of a family or community.

It is an umbrella issue that can encompass everything from coercive control, to female genital mutilation, virginity testing and much more.

Natasha Rattu, Executive director of Karma Nirvana which runs a national helpline to help victims of HBA, partly funded by the Home Office, said: "We hear from people who have very little control over their lives, they're not able to decide what they wear, who they marry, who they can be friends with.

"Often people don't recognise that this is abuse because it is family members from a very early age that have been perpetuating this message that it's normal to have this degree of control which makes it hard for victims to come forward."

Within the United Nations 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence which started on 25 November and runs until 10 December Karma Nirvana launched a campaign video highlighting Virginity testing which is now illegal.

The charity said that because of the nature of the abuse, it is often hidden and it is hard to get solid numbers to support how big the issue is - which stops them from getting the funding they need.

They also said that there needs to be a wider government approach to understanding HBD.

"The evidence and data from our perspective is very good but not a true and accurate picture of how pervasive this abuse is within communities," Natasha added.

"They're only really committed to the government tackling HBA in so far that it relates to forced marriage or Female Genital Mutilation but if for a victim who was going through HBA and those two things aren't part of their experience, you can see how they can be missed.

"So it's really important that the government do recognise far more broadly what happens underneath this umbrella of HBA."

While authorities and charities have been working together in Merseyside, the region's Police and Crime commission Emily Spurrell says she needs more money to do more too.

A government spokesperson said: “We are committed to ending the practices of ‘honour-based abuse’ in all its forms. 

"New guidance has been published for frontline police officers to deal with this crime and we also created new offences of virginity testing and hymenoplasty.

"We provided Karma Nirvana with additional funding to raise awareness of those offences as well as increasing funding for their national Honour-Based Abuse Helpline by 10%."

If you are or anyone you know is going through any form of honour-based abuse, help is out there.

You can contact Savera UK through their website here or by phone on 0800 107 0726

Karma Nirvana have a national helpline on 0800 5999 247.