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

“Police career is what you make of it”

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PC Esther Carroll joined Bedfordshire Police in 2002 and has committed her policing career to protecting vulnerable victims of domestic abuse, honour based violence, forced marriage and female genital mutilation. She has received two Chief Constable’s Commendations for her Forced Marriage investigations and a ‘True Honour’ award by the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Right Organisation.

Esther is retiring this month and she took some time to reflect on her incredible career and contribution to the force.

Before I joined the police I tried a number of career paths, Although they weren’t what I was looking for in my life, the experience definitely helped me with being the best police officer I can be. Continue reading

Protecting victims of forced marriage: Police Officer Esther Carroll

I was working in the domestic violence unit in 2007 when we started to see more and more reports of what is now known as honour based abuse. It’s a very difficult area to police, as a lot of the reports were just that, reports, with victims not wanting their families to be prosecuted. We set up an honour based abuse unit, following advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, with the Luton All Women’s Centre playing an instrumental part. Honour based abuse can take any form; physical or emotional abuse, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, rape and in extreme cases, murder.

When I meet victims for the first time, I take their DNA and fingerprints; just in case the worst does happen. We take them somewhere to keep them safe, often a hotel, until refuge is found, sometimes for several days. Victims need a friend; when they are first taken away from their families, friends, school, college, university, work, this is when they are at their most vulnerable. They are often isolated, lonely and frightened.

I’ve always thought policing is not just about fighting crime and disorder, it is also about offering friendship; reaching out just that little bit further and having empathy, so that victims feel able to open up. I give them my phone number to and speak to them whatever time of day it is. I hope that by being accessible and by being their first point of call that  can help keep them away from danger.

Sometimes I get a call or text or email out of the blue, saying ‘thank you’ or ‘you saved my life’. I know then that the victim has become a survivor and this is why l do the job that l do.

Police Officer Esther Carroll has been protecting women from forced marriage since 2007 and was given the ‘True Honour’ award by the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation (IKWRO) for her work with victims in March.