Domestic Abuse/Domestic Violence and Safeguarding Adults, including Forced Marriage

  1. Introduction

The terms ‘domestic violence’ and ‘domestic abuse’ are often used interchangeably, but ‘domestic abuse’ is now more commonly used as it is felt to be a more inclusive way to describe a range of behaviours, which include violence as well as all other forms of abuse.

According to the Home Office (March 2013), domestic abuse is defined as:

“Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviours, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality”.

The Home Office definition goes on to state that it can encompass, but is not limited to, the following types of abuse:

  • Psychological (including threats and intimidation; the use of jealousy as a control;
  • Physical (biting, kicking, punching, etc.);
  • Sexual (including, rape);
  • Financial;

Controlling behaviour is: a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.

Coercive behaviour is: an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.

This definition includes so called ‘honour based’ violence, female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriage, and is clear that victims are not confined to one gender or ethnic group.

The Home Office definition is non-statutory, but recognised that past legal and cultural understanding of domestic abuse has been too narrowly focused on single physically violent acts rather than complex and controlling patterns of behaviour. As a result of this, following national consultation, the law changed and coercive and controlling behaviour became a criminal offence (Serious Crime Act 2015).

Many forms of domestic abuse are crimes, including: coercive and controlling behaviour; assault; false imprisonment; criminal damage; theft; fraud; harassment; murder and attempted murder; rape; forced marriage; causing or allowing a child or vulnerable adult to die or suffer serious physical harm; and ill treatment and/or wilful neglect of a mentally incapacitated adult.

Further information about the Government definition of domestic violence and abuse can be found at the GOV.UK website.  See also the following for more information: GOV.UK website: Guidance – Domestic Violence & Abuse.


  1. Prevalence of Domestic Abuse

In the interpersonal violence section of the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW March 2015), covering individuals aged 16 – 59 years old, women were more likely to have experienced intimate violence across all headline types of abuse. It estimates that 8.2% of women and 4.0% of men reported experiencing any type of domestic abuse in the last year (that is, partner/ex-partner abuse (non-sexual), family abuse (non-sexual) and sexual assault or stalking carried out by a current or former partner or other family member). This is equivalent to an estimated 1.3 million female victims and 600,000 male victims. There were 6.5% of women and 2.8% of men who reported having experienced any type of partner abuse in the last year, equivalent to an estimated 1.1 million female victims and 500,000 male victims. Overall, 27.1% of women and 13.2% of men had experienced any domestic abuse since the age of 16, equivalent to an estimated 4.5 million female victims and 2.2 million male victims. Statistics and information about Domestic Abuse/Violence can be accessed at the GOV.UK website and Crime Survey.

Whatever form it takes, domestic abuse is rarely a one-off incident. It is more commonly a pattern of controlling or abusive behaviour, through which the abuser seeks power over their victim. It occurs across all sectors of society, regardless of age, class, ethnicity, race, culture, sexuality or geography, but figures show however, that it consists mostly of abuse/violence by men against women. Although men can be abused too, the statistics show that in most cases it is women who are abused and who experience more frequent and more severe abuse than men. Domestic abuse against men are typically characterised by one-off incidents (Crime Survey for England and Wales).

It is therefore important to acknowledge that domestic abuse is very much a gendered crime that is underpinned by power and control. 1 in 4 women will experience domestic abuse at some point in their lives and 1 in 10 women will experience domestic abuse at least once in the last year (Home Office 2010). On average, two women are killed every week by their current or ex-partner (Home Office Statistics). Around 45% of all female homicides each year are domestic homicides, compared to 5 – 8% for male homicides.

Domestic abuse continues to be heavily under-reported. There were 6,382 incidents reported to the Police in Sunderland in 2016-2017, and based on levels of under-reporting, it is estimated this would be closer to 11,600-15,600 victims in that year (source: Sunderland Domestic Violence Health Needs Assessment 2013-14). Nationally, an HMIC Inspection (Everyone’s Business 2014) found that a domestic abuse call was made to the Police every 30 seconds requesting assistance.

It’s rarely a one-off and a common statistic used is that it takes on average 35 assaults before a victim comes forward to report to the Police.

Domestic abuse impacts negatively on children such as their emotional and physical safety and wellbeing, their behaviour and attendance at school, feelings of blame, social adjustment, etc.

Domestic abuse is high-cost. The Sunderland Domestic Violence Health Needs Assessment (2013-14) found it costs almost £80M per year in Sunderland, which is comparable to other public health priorities such as smoking and obesity.


  1. Domestic Abuse and Complex Needs

Many domestic and sexual abuse victims have a myriad of complex needs, which can include:

  • Mental ill health
  • Drug and/or alcohol dependency
  • Learning disabilities
  • Physical disabilities
  • Women with symptoms of trauma
  • Victims of forced marriage, honour-based violence or female genital mutilation
  • Domestic slavery or trafficking
  • Women whose children are in care
  • Childhood experiences of sexual abuse/violence, or neglect and care
  • Sexual exploitation

Those with complex needs generally have longer-term support needs and some may not necessarily be high risk, but have high levels of complexity and a high demand on public services. Multiple complexities often create multiple sites of disadvantage. Multiple markers of difference such as age and ethnicity, intersect to inform lived experienced, which means that some women’s experience of abuse is not only gendered, but can also be connected to factors such as ethnicity, age, class, disability, sexuality, or complex needs.


  1. Domestic Abuse Legislation

The Government announced the Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill in 2017 to transform the approach to tackling this devastating crime. The key elements of the bill were to create a clear definition of the crime in law, consolidate prevention and protection measures, ensure sentences reflect the harm that domestic abuse has upon children, and establish a new commissioner who will represent victims and survivors and drive forward progress.  This was enacted in law as the Domestic Abuse Act 2021.  There is also statutory guidance for the Domestic Abuse Act 2021.

The Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 gives Police and other agencies the tools to get to the heart of domestic abuse/violence crimes. It aims to increase the protection, support and rights of victims of domestic abuse/violence and their witnesses.

This Act gives Police and courts powers to deal with domestic abuse/violence, including:

  • Common assault is an arrestable offence;
  • Courts can impose restraining orders when sentencing;
  • The law applied to couples who have never married or lived together

Section 5 of the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2003: causing or allowing the death of an Adult at Risk (or child) in a household – states that it is an offence to cause the death, and also to have stood by and not take reasonable steps to safeguard the victim.

It is important that health and social care professionals identify those cases where alleged abuse impacts upon wider family members, in particular children, so that they can be recognised as potential victims of domestic abuse.

For issues of domestic abuse, which fit with Sunderland Safeguarding Adult Procedures, a representative from the local domestic abuse services provider must be invited to attend any Safeguarding meetings.

There may be occasions where the local domestic abuse services provider has uncovered the domestic abuse/violence that has overlapped into Sunderland Safeguarding Adults Procedures. In such cases, it is the responsibility of the domestic abuse services provider to complete the Safeguarding Adult Concern (SAC) form on the online Safeguarding Adults Portal and contribute to the Safeguarding Strategy Discussion/Meeting, as appropriate. See Sunderland’s Safeguarding Procedures relating to Adult at Risk. It is essential for the efficacy of the safeguarding Procedures that representatives from agencies requested to participate in any Safeguarding meetings, respond appropriately and take an active role, as they would with any other Safeguarding meeting.

The involvement of the victim is of paramount importance and when possible, victims should be encourages to participate and be present at meetings. This is of particular resonance in domestic abuse/violence cases as it is crucial that the alleged victim is aware of the support available to them and that their input, views, evidence and perspectives are valued. However, the appropriate risk assessments must be done in cases of domestic abuse/violence (see SafeLivesDASH-Risk Checklist) to ensure that the victim is not put at additional risk due to the Safeguarding Adults process, or due to their participation in it. Each case will need to be individually considered and agencies will need to work together to ensure these risk are mitigated.

Many domestic abuse/violence cases coming under the Safeguarding Adults Procedures will have Police involvement and as such, appropriate information sharing and communication with the Police is imperative to the safeguarding process. There may be cases where the alleged perpetrator is also under Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) or Potentially Dangerous Persons systems and again, liaison with the Police will be crucial to ensure the smooth and effective coordination of both processes.


  1. Adult Safeguarding and Domestic Abuse

A considerable proportion of safeguarding adults work relates to the abuse or neglect of people with care and support needs who are living in their own homes. Domestic abuse is perhaps most commonly thought of as abuse/violence between intimate partners, but it can take many forms and be perpetrated by a range of people. Much safeguarding therefore relates to domestic abuse.

Where there has been a disclosure about domestic abuse this may be the first and last time someone discloses or has the opportunity to do so. It is at this point that there is opportunity to signpost to appropriate support services, gain consent to refer, and establish what someone may want to happen and to safety plan.

If the Adult at risk has mental capacity to make relevant decisions and does not consent to a concern and there are no public or vital interest considerations they should be given information about where to get help if they change their mind or if the abuse or neglect continues and subsequently want support to promote their safety. If the Adult has current injuries as a result of domestic abuse they should be supported to access appropriate medical treatment, and/or offered access to a medical examination so that the injuries can be examined and recorded. In all cases, a record must be made of the concern, any views of the Adult at risk and of the decision not to refer, with the reason stated. A record should also be made of information and advice provided and support they were given or offered.

Where the criteria for safeguarding has been met and the Adult at Risk has capacity and gives their consent, then a Safeguarding Adult Concern (SAC) form should be sent to the local authority via the Safeguarding Adults Portal clearly indicating the action that has been taken. This is in addition to MARAC (see below) where MARAC applies.

Where the Adult at Risk does not give consent, the referrer must assure themselves that the decision to withhold consent has not been made under undue influence, coercion or intimidation. Any support or information provided must take account of the increased risk to people, and or individuals if the information and/or support provided is disclosed or made known to the perpetrator.

There are circumstances where a Safeguarding Adult Concern (SAC) can be made to the local authority without consent. In these circumstances the Adult at Risk would normally be informed of the decision to refer and the reasons, unless telling them would further jeopardise their safety or the safety of others. Any rationale for decision making should be clearly recorded, by the referrer and the local authority.

If the Adult at Risk is assessed as not having mental capacity to make decisions about their own safety and to consent to a concern being made, a decision should be made in their best interests, and in accordance with the provisions set out in the Mental Capacity Act 2005.

The Local Government Associate (LGA) and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) has produced a second edition (2015) of its guidance document “Adult Safeguarding and Domestic Abuse: A Guide to Support Practitioners and Managers“. This guide is for practitioners and managers in councils and partner agencies engaged in working directly or indirectly with people who have care and support needs, whose circumstances make them vulnerable, and who may also be victims of domestic abuse. Its purpose is to help staff to give better informed and more effective support to people who need and adult safeguarding service because of domestic abuse. It addresses situations where an adult who has care and support needs is being harmed or abused by an intimate partner or close family member in a way which could also be defined as domestic abuse. The guide sets out the overlaps between safeguarding and domestic abuse and the approaches and legal frameworks for domestic abuse that can be used in the safeguarding context. It covers the following issues:

  1. Introduction and quick reference guide:
    • Making the connections between adult safeguarding and domestic abuse
  2. What is domestic abuse? Who needs safeguarding? And how do they link together?
    • What research tells us, including gender and domestic abuse; domestic abuse in LGBT relationships; and age, disability, mental health and domestic abuse
  3. Understanding the impact of domestic abuse (including the additional impacts of domestic abuse on people with care and support needs);
  4. Barriers and challenges to ending abusive relationships;
  5. Working with people needing care and support who are experiencing domestic abuse (including legal obligations):
    • Specific types of abuse (e.g. forced marriage);
    • Working with specific groups (e.g. older people; people with mental ill-health; people who misuse substances; people with learning disabilities; carers);
  6. Mental capacity, adult safeguarding and domestic abuse (including an unwise decision, or decision taken under duress);
  7. Safe enquiries (including best practice);
  8. Assessing and managing the risks of domestic abuse in safeguarding circumstances (including involving the person at risk, risk assessment tools, MARAC);
  9. Domestic abuse support services and legal action (including criminal law, civil law, accommodation and support packages);
  10. Working with perpetrators of domestic abuse:
    • Perpetrators with care and support needs;
  11. What councils and organisations can do to support good practice;
  12. References and useful resources

The guide is essential reading for those working with anyone with care and support needs, or who are experiencing or at risk of domestic abuse. It aims to improve recognition and understanding of the circumstances in which adult safeguarding and domestic abuse overlap and should be considered in tandem. It will contribute to the knowledge and confidence of professionals so that the complexities of working with people who need care and support, and who are also experiencing/reporting domestic abuse are better understood, and better outcomes for people can be achieved as a result. The guide offers good, practical advice to staff and managers to ensure that older, disabled and mentally ill people in vulnerable circumstances have the best support, advice and options for resolution and recovery if they are harmed or abused by a partner or family member. It also identifies some of the organisational developments which can support best practice in this area.

Sunderland has a multi-agency domestic abuse referral pathway and staff guidance document. It is aimed at all staff working with children, families and vulnerable people who may be living with domestic abuse in Sunderland. This includes those working with Adults at Risk of abuse and neglect and those at risk of sexual exploitation. The guide aims to help staff enable a disclosure and make safe enquiries by safely and confidently asking about domestic abuse and how to respond. It:

  • Provides guidance on carrying out a risk assessment and how and where to make referrals according to the levels of risk and vulnerability
  • Includes good practice guidance when working with victims, children and perpetrators
  • Covers safety planning advice and links to a range of local, regional and national help and support agencies
  • Provides guidance on carrying out a risk assessment and how and where to make referrals according to the levels of risk and vulnerability
  • Includes good practice guidance when working with victims, children and perpetrators
  • Covers safety planning advice and links to a range of local, regional and national help and support agencies
  • Provides advice on what intervention approaches are most appropriate according to the stage of change the victim may be at – and their needs
  • Provides links to the relevant on-line procedures, risk assessment tools, referral forms, training and further guidance
  • Appendix 6 acts as a stand-alone aide-memoire focusing on some of the key advice as part of a referral pathway summary sheet


  1. Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC)

The Multi-agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) system is a process which aims to allow statutory and voluntary agencies to give a consistent and structures response to managing the risk posed by perpetrators in cases of domestic abuse. It is used to consider cases of domestic abuse that are categorised as high risk. The system runs alongside other recognised structured processes in place to manage the risks to other groups of the population, including Sunderland Safeguarding Adults and Sunderland Safeguarding Children Procedures and Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) for the highest risk offenders.

Within a MARAC, relevant agencies are able to share up-to-date risk information, which a comprehensive assessment of a victim’s needs and decide upon the most appropriate way to reduce or manage the identified risks around each case of domestic abuse that is the subject of a MARAC. The meeting links those directly to the provision of appropriate services for all those involved in a domestic abuse case: victim, children and perpetrator.

A MARAC will:

  • Share information to increase the safety, health and wellbeing of victims – adults and their children;
  • Determine whether the perpetrator poses a significant risk to any particular individual or to the general community;
  • Construct jointly and implement a risk management plan that provides professional support to all those at risk and that reduces the risk of harm;
  • Reduce repeat victimisation;
  • Improve agency accountability;
  • Improve support for staff involved in high risk domestic abuse cases;
  • Identify those situations that indicate a need for Sunderland Safeguarding Adults Procedures, or Sunderland Safeguarding Children Procedures to be initiated;

Case can only be referred into a MARAC by an agency signed up to the MARAC Protocol. Only cases that fall within the high risk category should be referred to MARAC.

The MARAC Protocol was updated in 2017 and the appendices contain a range of relevant risk assessments and referral forms, including:

  • Safelives Dash risk checklist
  • MARAC assessment criteria
  • MARAC consent form for information sharing
  • Overview of legal provisions relating to information sharing
  • A sample MARAC agenda
  • A case summaries sheet
  • Sunderland MARAC referral form
  • MARAC research form
  • Sample MARAC minutes
  • MARAC procedural flowchart
  • Roles and responsibilities of partner agencies


The Responsible Person/Safeguarding Lead and professionals involved in the case should decide in each individual case whether there is a need for referral to a MARAC. The DASH Risk Checklist developed by SafeLives should be completed in the presence of the victim/Adult at Risk and used wherever possible to assess the level of risk and whether the threshold for a referral to MARAC has been met. Further advice on referral in individual cases can be provided by the MARAC Coordinator.


Further information:

DASH Risk checklist with guidance

DASH Risk indicator checklist without guidance

Sunderland MARAC Referral Form

Sunderland Safeguarding Children Partnership: MARAC Information (via the North and South of Tyne Safeguarding Children Partnership Procedures Manual)


  1. Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA)

The purpose of the MAPPA framework is to reduce the risks posed by sexual and violent offenders on order to protect the public, including previous victims, from serious harm. The responsible authorities in respect of MAPPA are the Police, prison and probation services who have a duty to ensure that MAPPA is established on each of their geographic areas to ensure that MAPPA is established in each of their geographic areas to ensure the risk assessment and management of all identified MAPPA offenders (primarily violent offenders on licence or mental health orders and all registered sex offenders). The Police, prison and probation services have a clear statutory duty to share information for MAPPA purposes.

Other organisations have a duty to cooperate with the responsible authority, including the sharing of information. The Criminal Justice Act 2003 states these are:

  • Youth Offending Teams (YOTs);
  • Ministers of the Crown exercising functions in relation to social security, child support, war pensions, employment and training (in practice, Jobcentre Plus);
  • The local education authority;
  • The local housing authority; Registered social landlords providing or managing residential accommodation in which MAPPA offenders may reside;
  • Local social services authority (in Sunderland, the People Directorate of Sunderland City Council);
  • Health authority or Strategic Health Authority (now covered by NHS England);
  • The Primary Care Trust or Strategic Health Authority ( Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Group);
  • The NHS Trust;
  • Providers of electronic monitoring services;
  • UK Border Agency

See also: Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA)


  1. Forced Marriage

A forced marriage is a marriage in which one or both spouses do not (or in the case of some adults with learning disabilities or physical disabilities, cannot) consent to the marriage and duress is involved. Duress can include physical, psychological, financial, sexual and emotional pressure (HM Government, 2009). It is estimated that approximately 8,000-10,000 forced marriages of British citizens take place every year.  In 2021, 251 cases (74%) involved female victims and 86 (26%) involved male victims. This highlights that forced marriage is a crime which disproportionately affects women, but that men can also be victims. Men are particularly represented in cases where the victim has mental capacity concerns (57% of males) (source: FMU statistics, 2021).  These statistics also show the ‘focus country’ figures.  The ‘focus country’ is the country to which the risk of forced marriage relates. This could be the country where the forced marriage is due to take place, the country where it has taken place, and/or the country in which the spouse is currently residing.

In 2021, the Government’s Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) gave advice and support in 337 cases related to a possible forced marriage and/or possible female genital mutilation (FGM). It also responded to 868 general enquiries.  It is understood that forced marriage is still under-reported and the scale of the problem is likely to be much greater.

The Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) is a joint Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Home Office unit which was set up in January 2005 to lead on the Government’s forced marriage policy, outreach and casework. It operates both inside the UK, where support is provided to any individual, and overseas, where consular assistance is provided to British nationals, including dual nationals.

The FMU operates a public helpline, Tel: 020 7008 0151 (out of hours: 020 7008 5000) and email: to provide advice and support to victims of forced marriage as well as to professionals dealing with cases. The assistance provided ranges from simple safety advice, through to aiding a victim to prevent their unwanted spouse moving to the UK (‘reluctant sponsor’ cases), and, in extreme circumstances, rescues of victims held against their will overseas.

The FMU undertake an extensive outreach and training programme every year, targeting both professionals and potential victims. The FMU also carry out media campaigns, such as 2015’s ‘right to choose’ campaign, where the FMU commissioned some short films to raise awareness amongst young people at risk of being forced into marriage, as well as potential perpetrators.  They have also commissioned some animated documentaries.  These can all be found on the Government’s Forced Marriage Guidance page.  The FMU have also developed a free forced marriage e-learning course.

Disclosures of potential forced marriage must be taken seriously. In addition, there is advice on safety planning and practice guidance from the Home Office’s Forced Marriage Unit, on this issue.

There is a clear distinction between an ‘arranged marriage’ and a ‘forced marriage’. An arranged marriage is legal and entered freely by both parties, although their families take a leading role in the choice of partner. It becomes a ‘forced marriage’ when there is any form of duress. Forced marriage is a violation of human rights in itself, because it deprived victims of the ability to choose their own partner and to male basic decisions about their lives. It may also lead to other violations of human rights, including imprisonment, rape, domestic abuse, domestic abuse and forced pregnancy. Many of the trigger factors are the same as for other forms of ‘honour’-based violence.

There have been reports of adults with mental and physical disabilities being forced to marry. For example, in 2021, 53 cases (16%) involved victims with mental capacity concerns.  It is important to recognise that forced marriage situations can involve the person being at risk from a number of people in the family and/or community through so-called ‘honour-based violence’. Serious injury or death may be threatened or perpetrated against someone who does not cooperate with the marriage or their family.

Some individuals do not have the mental capacity to consent to the marriage. Some individuals may be unable to consent to consummate the marriage. Sexual intercourse without consent is rape. The Home Office has published Forced Marriage and Learning Disabilities: Multi-Agency Practice Guidelines.

In June 2014, legislation changed in relation to The Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007 and Forced Marriage Protection Orders (FMPOs).  This was done through Part 10 of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 which legislated on forced marriage and amended the Family Law Act 1996 to make it an offence in England and Wales for a person to use violence, threats or any other form of causing another person to enter into a marriage without free and full consent. This change in legislation has criminalised Forced Marriage and criminalised a breach of FMPO.  Applying to court for this order will prohibit the family of the person at risk to take certain courses of action which may lead to a forced marriage. A FMPO can be effective by preventing the victim’s family from contacting them, putting pressure on them or taking them out of country. Also see GOV.UK – Apply for a Forced Marriage Protection Order.

Forced marriage is a form of abuse and should be treated as such. Cases should be tackled using existing structures policies and procedures designed to safeguard children and victims of domestic abuse. Any frontline staff who suspect someone is a victim of honour-based abuse or forced marriage should call the National Forced Marriage Helpline, run by Karma Nirvana, on: 0800 5999 247 (Monday – Friday 9am – 5pm).  They provide advice and guidance to professionals.  See also their website: Karma Nirvana    


See also:

Information and practice guidelines for professionals protecting, advising and supporting victims: GOV.UK – Guidance on Forced Marriage

The Right To Choose: Multi-Agency Statutory Guidance for Dealing with Forced Marriage, June 2014 which is guidance is for all persons and bodies who exercise public function in relation to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children and adults at risk of abuse and neglect.

Multi-Agency Practice Guidelines: Handling Cases of Forced Marriage, June 2014 which is step-by-step advice for frontline workers. Essential reading for health professionals, educational staff, police, children’s social care, adult social services and local authority housing.

Further information is also available:

  • Forced marriage survivors handbook
  • Forced marriage legislation – Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime & Policing Act 2014. This Act made provisions about anti-social behaviour, crime and disorder and includes a section on sexual harm, violence and forced marriage.  Part 10 of the Act legislates on forced marriage and amends the Family Law Act 1996 to make it an offence in England and Wales for a person to use violence, threats or any other form of causing another person to enter into a marriage without free and full consent.
  • Forced marriage warning signs and risk factors
  1. Honour Based Abuse (HBA)

The concept of ‘honour’ is deemed to be extremely important for some people. To compromise a family’s ‘honour’ is to bring dishonor and shame, and this can have severe consequences. The punishment for bringing dishonour can be emotional abuse, physical abuse, family disownment and in some cases even murder.

Victims of honour crimes are not determined by age, gender, sexuality or religion. In most honour-based abuse cases there are multiple perpetrators from the immediate family, sometimes the extended family and occasionally the community at large. Mothers, sisters, aunties and even grandmothers have been known to be involved in the conspiring of honour crimes.

Honour crimes are most prevalent within diaspora communities from South Asia, the Middle East, and North and East Africa. Reports come from Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Orthodox Jewish and occasionally traveller communities. Honour abuse is not determined by gender; both perpetrators and victims can be male and female.

Alerts that may indicate honour-based abuse include domestic abuse/violence, concerns about forced marriage or enforced house arrest and missing persons’ reports. If a concern is raised through the Safeguarding Adults Portal by completing the online Safeguarding Adults Concern form, and there is a suspicion that the adult is the victim of honour based abuse, a referral must always be made to the Police who have the necessary expertise to manage risk.


  1. Female Genital Mutilation

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) involves all procedures that include the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons and is a criminal offence. FGM is an unacceptable practice for which there is no justification. The practice is medically unnecessary, extremely painful and has serious health consequences both at the time when the mutilation is carried out and in later life.

The age at which girls undergo FGM varies enormously according to the community. The procedure may be carried out when the girl is newborn, during childhood or adolescence, just before marriage or during the first pregnancy. FGM constitutes a form of child abuse and violence against women and girls and has severe short-term and long-term physical and psychological consequences.

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the practice is illegal under the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003. Section 5B of the 2003 Act introduces a mandatory reporting duty which requires regulated health and social care professionals and teachers in England and Wales to report ‘known’ cases of FGM in under 18 year olds, which they identify in the course of their professional work to the Police.

‘Known’ cases are those where either a girl informs the person that an act of FGM – however described – has been carried out on her, or where the person observes physical signs of a girl appearing to show that an act of FGM has been carried out and the person has no reason to believe that the act was, or was part of, a surgical operation within section 1 (2) (a) or (b) of the FGM Act 2002.

The duty applies to all regulated professionals (as defined in section 5B (2) (a), (11) and (12) of the 2003 Act working within health or social care, and teachers. It therefore covers:

  • Health and social care professionals regulated by a body which is overseen by the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care (with the exception of the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland). This includes those regulated by the:
  • General Chiropractic Council
  • General Dental Council
  • General Medical Council
  • General Optical Council
  • General Osteopathic Council
  • General Pharmaceutical Council
  • Health and Care Professions Council (whose role includes the regulation of social workers in England)
  • Nursing and Midwifery Council
  • Teachers – this includes qualified teachers or persons who are employed or engaged to carry out teaching work in schools and other institutions, and, in Wales, education practitioners regulated by the Education Workforce Council;
  • Social care workers in Wales

See also Sunderland FGM Multi-Agency Procedure and the North East sub-regional FGM Procedures 

The FGM Mandatory Reporting Duty guidance can be found at the Government’s website: Mandatory Reporting of Female Genital Mutilation – Procedural Information



  1. Help and Support Agencies

11.1 Local Help and Support for Domestic Abuse Victims

  • Wearside Women in Need (WWIN) Tel: 0800 066 5555 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week). Provide domestic abuse/violence refuge accommodation, 24/7 confidential helpline, outreach and floating support; and the Independent Domestic Violence Advisors who provide support to the highest risk victims. WWIN support female and male victims;
  • Sunderland Counselling Services Tel: 0191 514 7007. Counselling services available for male and female victims of childhood sexual abuse/violence or rape in adulthood;
  • Northumbria Policetake domestic abuse very seriously. In an emergency always call the Police on 999 for immediate help. At other times ring 101 and ask for the crime desk. The police can take action against an abuser and give advice on home security and other matters;
  • Clare’s Law: The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme is designed to provide victims with information that may protect them form an abusive situation before it ends in tragedy. The scheme allows the police to disclose information about a partners’ previous history of domestic abuse or violent acts. An application can be made by ringing 101, visiting a police station or on-line at Northumbria Police
  • The Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC)is a place where victims can receive help and advice and a forensic examination if they have been raped or seriously sexually assaulted.  REACH (Rape examination, advice, counselling and help) is the name of the SARC that is operated in the Northumbria Police area. REACH is a free, confidential counselling, advice and support service which helps women and men aged 16 or over who have been raped or sexually assaulted. The centres are staffed by women who are experienced in dealing with the effects of rape and sexual assault. They will be happy to help victims whether or not they wish to report the assault to the police. It also has two forensic examination centres: the Rhona Cross Suite located in Newcastle and the Ellis Fraser Suite in Sunderland. Visits are by strict appointment only. Tel: 0191 221 9222.  Email:
  • Northumbria Victim Witness Support Tel: 0800 011 3116 (Monday – Friday, 9am – 4pm) or email
  • The Halo Project.  Tel: 01642 683 045 (honour based violence, forced marriage)
  • Angelou Centre (for BME women and children, women with no recourse to public funds). Outreach, advice and support. Tel: 0191 226 0394
  • The Safer Sunderland Partnership website also has additional information about domestic abuse.

11.2 National Help and Support for Domestic Abuse Victims (female, male and LGBT)

  • Women’s Aid: Tel: 0808 2000 247 – the national 24 hour domestic abuse/violence helpline;
  • MALE: Tel: 0808 801 0327 (Monday – Friday 10am-5pm) Confidential helpline to support male victims of domestic abuse/violence;
  • Forced Marriage Helpline Tel: 0800 5999 247 (not 24 hours);
  • The Forced Marriage Unit 020 7008 0151;
  • The CHOICE helpline Tel: 0800 5999 365 (forced marriage).  A Northumbria Police Helpline providing confidential advice and assistance to anyone who may be suffering from Honour-Based Violence or has been or may be forced into marriage.
  • Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is abuse and it is mandatory to report it. For further advice and guidance on FGM contact Police on 101 or Children’s Social Care on Tel: 0191 520 5552 (anytime)
  • GALOP: Tel: 0300 999 5428. A service for LGBT people who are experiencing domestic abuse/violence;
  • MESMAC Newcastle: Tel: 0191 233 1333. This is a gay/bisexual men, and other men who have sex with men, men’s health project which offers advice and information on many different health issues and anti-violence.  They will work with everyone; however you identify.
  • Rape Crisis: A national body that provides co-ordination for the rape crisis movement in England and Wales – the website lists local centres.

11.3 Domestic Abuse Perpetrators