Police failing to safeguard sexual abuse victims from honour-based abuse – report

A new report has found police officers’ response to sexual abuse sometimes fails to recognise the potential risk of honour-based abuse for victims.

The report was published in response to a police super-complaint filed by the Tees Valley Inclusion Project which raised concerns that the police response to sexual abuse was putting victims from ethnic minority backgrounds at risk of honour-based abuse.

It was subsequently found that some forces did not clearly understand the risks of honour-based abuse and, as a result, some victims may be left unprotected and unsupported.

It’s said that police recording of ethnicity is “so patchy and inconsistent” that forces are “unable to properly monitor the equality of the service they provide to the different communities they serve”.

His Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary Andy Cooke said the current predicament is “unacceptable”, adding “it is clear real change is needed”.

The report makes several recommendations which Cooke says “will go a long way in helping to improve the service these victims receive”, partly through police leaders working with communities to increase understanding and awareness of cultural differences and how these may inform or affect investigations.

Other recommendations include the National Police Chiefs’ Council taking the super-complaint into account when proposing changes to address the lack of recorded ethnicity data.

It is also said that police and crime commissioners should their consultations prior to commissioning victims’ services are fully inclusive and represent all community views, before then working with local police, safeguarding partners, and support organisations to properly understand victims’ needs.

“We would like to thank Tees Valley Inclusion Project for lodging this important super-complaint which shines a light on the additional risks some victims may face when they make the difficult decision to report sexual abuse,” said Interim Director General of the IOPC Tom Whiting, adding:

“We identified a number of issues with the service these victims receive from the police, including victims struggling to obtain case updates when they need to keep interactions with the police secret.

The recommendations we have made are an important step in improving this service and we call on policing to respond to ensure all victims receive a service appropriate to their needs.”

College of Policing CEO Chief Constable Andy Marsh said:

“We recognise that many dedicated and committed officers and staff provide excellent support and respond sensitively to sexual abuse victims. Changes are required to ensure there is a coordinated system of tailored support, including for those at risk of honour-based abuse, no matter where in the country victims live.

This report adds further evidence that ethnicity recording by forces must improve and there is commitment across the service to raise standards for this data collection.”

Get the report: How the police respond to victims of sexual abuse when the victim is from an ethnic minority background and may be at risk of honour-based abuse

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