Helping a victim to overcome honour-based abuse

Today (14 July) is the annual day of remembrance for those killed in so-called “honour” crimes, and to raise awareness of the often hidden crimes of honour-based abuse and forced marriage.

Holly Burton, Victim Engagement Officer, shares a recent experience of honour-based abuse.

In my role as a Victim Engagement Officer (VEO) with the Emerald team, I’m trained to support the victims of domestic abuse, in whatever form that takes, and however much or little help is needed. Some victims just need advice and a listening ear, others need more practical help, or measures to keep them safe from their abuser.
While our specially trained police officers deal with the investigation of a case, we are there purely for the victim; to provide help and assistance with anything and everything, at what is probably the worst time in someone’s life.
A few months ago, I visited a young woman in hospital, where she was being treated following an attempt to take her own life.

Accompanied by the detective who would be investigating the abuse that this woman had suffered, we heard first hand about the unbearable torment her family had put her through.

She disclosed that they disapproved of her boyfriend, and were pressuring her to end the relationship, but more worryingly, she had also been assaulted by multiple family members for refusing to marry someone else.

In sheer desperation at her situation, feeling hopeless, and not knowing where to find help, she overdosed on paracetamol and tried to drink bleach. Luckily she was taken to hospital where they saved her life.

Together with support from the hospital’s safeguarding lead, and an Independent Domestic Violence Advisor (IDVA), we were able to keep her safe, and I was then able to find temporary accommodation on her release from hospital.

She was concerned about her job, and that her family might go to her workplace to find her, so I liaised with her employer to implement further safeguarding measures. They were sympathetic to her situation and amenable to finding a remote-working solution, so she could continue her role while she got settled.

Happily, she has now made a permanent move to a new location, and I just heard that she’s engaged to marry her boyfriend. I am delighted that we were able to help this woman escape the so called honour-based abuse she had suffered, which is often masked by culture, tradition and religion, and hidden within the community.

If you are a victim of honour-based abuse or violence, there is much we can do to help.

Your personal safety is the most important, and if you feel that you are in danger, you should contact the police immediately.


To report a crime, call police on 101. Always call 999 in an emergency.

14 July would have been Shafilea Ahmed’s birthday and was chosen as the day of remembrance by Karma Nirvana, a national charity to support victims of honour-based abuse and forced marriage.


Shafilea Ahmed was a 17-year-old British Pakistani girl from Warrington, who was murdered by her parents in a suspected “honour killing” in September 2003 in the belief that their daughter was too Westernised, and refused a forced marriage.

Forced Marriage Unit – Foreign & Commonwealth Office www.fco.gov.uk/forcedmarriage
Freedom Charity www.freedomcharity.org.uk
Domestic Abuse National Helpline (24 hour line) 0808 2000247
Karma Nirvana helpline 0800 599 247

NB: Some details have been left out to protect the victim’s identity.

Holly Burton – Bedfordshire Police VEO

Making a difference to where I live

ACC photoAfter a career in policing spanning almost 27 years, Sharn Basra has been appointed as temporary Assistant Chief Constable for Bedfordshire Police. Here he talks about the endless opportunities he’s had within the force which have led to where he is today, and why he would encourage others to take one of the many routes into a career in policing…

“Like so many others, I joined policing to keep people safe, make a difference, and lock up baddies. For me it was important to do this in my home county, Bedfordshire, so that I knew I was making a real difference to where I, my family, and my friends live.

“It may be a cliché to say that policing is a varied job but it is true. Once you are in the force there are so many different pathways your career can take. I spent six years as a bobby on the beat and then another six years as a detective constable, working to solve all manner of crimes.

“I’ve also spent time as the head of our public protection unit, helping to oversee the protection of some of the most vulnerable people in our society, as well being an area commander for the south of the county, and head of crime for the whole force.

Sharn then and now“That’s not to mention the additional duties such as policing football matches for Luton Town, and being part of the policing of major events such as Luton Carnival and Bedford River Festival.

“But for me the most rewarding role of my career to date was working as a senior investigating officer for the major crime unit. You cannot explain the feeling when a family member of someone who has been needlessly taken away from them gives you a hug to say thank you for convicting their killer.

“Throughout my career I have been lucky to work with so many people in so many different roles, I’ve made some fabulous friends and learnt a lot along the way, and most importantly of all I’m making a positive contribution to where I live.

IMG-20191117-WA0000“It is without a doubt the best job ever and I would not change anything. If I had my time again I would still be a cop – policing may have changed a lot and the pressures today are very much different to the ones I faced when I first signed up, but it really is such a rewarding career. Of course there are tough days – but you get the training and the support network you need to manage those.

“After almost 27 years in policing, I’m still lucky enough to love every day of what I do, and now I am responsible for the day to day delivery of policing for my home county – how cool.”

Find out more about all the latest recruitment opportunities currently available with Bedfordshire Police.