Written evidence submitted by Karma Nirvana (COR0054)
- Karma Nirvana deliver the Home Office funded national Honour Based Abuse and Forced Marriage helpline. We support thousands of victims, survivors and professionals every year through our helpline and online service. Our service exists to shine the spotlight on domestic abuse in BAME communities, honour-based abuse and forced marriage. We seek to ensure that:
- All victims and survivors of Honour Based Abuse have access to bespoke support and guidance;
- All frontline professionals have access to the highest standard of advice and guidance when responding to incidents of Honour Based Abuse;
- All safeguarding frontline practitioners are able to recognise and respond appropriately to Honour Based Abuse, keeping victims safe;
- We elevate the voice of victims and survivors, sharing their experiences with opinion leaders to influence positive societal, legislative and political change
- KN has over 25 years’ experience in supporting victims and survivors experiencing Honour Based Abuse and Forced Marriage and are recognised globally for championing the victims ‘voice’ change in this sector.
- Our journey began when survivor/activist Jasvinder Sanghera CBE fled her own forced child marriage at the age of 16. She ran away from home and was disowned by her family for challenging cultural norms that were placed upon her from birth. When Jasvinder left, her sister Robina committed suicide by setting herself on fire to escape an abusive marriage and Honour Based Abuse. Sadly, stories like Jasvinder and Robina’s are not unique. Thousands of victims of Honour Based Abuse and Forced Marriage have felt that their only option to escape Honour Based Abuse is through disownment, death or suicide. Karma Nirvana exists to provide victims and survivors with another option.
Challenges and concerns for BAME victims of domestic abuse, honour based abuse and forced marriage
- It is widely recognised that BAME victims of domestic and honour abuse stay in abusive environments longer when compared to victims more generally. Victims of honour based abuse tend to live in large, extended families and communities and face multiple perpetrators within their own family, extended family, in laws and the wider community. The Home Affairs Committee has heard evidence to suggest that during the pandemic, the community can be used as a tool to help identify domestic abuse. It is important to recognise the community can be both ‘gate-openers’ and ‘gate keepers’. Unfortunately, domestic and honour abuse victims from the BAME community share experiences on our helpline identifying ‘the community’ as ‘gate keepers’ to abuse within that community.
- The window of opportunity for BAME victims of domestic and honour abuse to come forward and seek help was already recognised as a ‘small window of opportunity’ pre-pandemic. Since the implementation of restrictions, the ‘small window of opportunity’ for BAME victims of domestic and honour based abuse is virtually non-existent.
Karma Nirvana Helpline and online service observations since implementation of government restrictions 23rd March 2020
- Since the implementation of government restrictions, we have observed a small 3% increase[i] in contacts to our service. We have not experienced significant increases like the domestic abuse helpline, which is demonstrative of the additional barriers and challenges that BAME victims face. Of the contacts we have received through our helpline and online service, 41% have cited COVID-19 as a contributory factor to their risk.
- In 2019, professionals (such as teachers, police officers and social workers) made up 45% of contacts to our helpline. Since the pandemic, contacts from teachers have dropped significantly by 71% and from police officer by 10%. Notably, contact from socials workers has increased significantly by 138%.
- For BAME victims of domestic and honour abuse, professionals play a significant role in supporting to come forward and speak. Since the restriction implementation and limited professional service provision now available, victims have less opportunities to come forward making the support offered and available to them critical. We anticipate that when the restrictions are lifted, reports of domestic and honour abuse will significantly increase.
- During the pandemic, our helpline has heard from victims who are concerned that they will be forced into marriage when the restrictions are lifted. We have heard evidence from victims to suggest that family members are currently planning these marriages to take place once the restrictions are lifted.
Potential measures to reduce harm and support BAME victims of domestic and honour abuse during the crisis
- As alluded to earlier in this submission, BAME victims are:
- Less likely to come forward
- More likely to stay in abusive relationships for longer
- Face multiple perpetrators
- Experience shame and stigma, as contributory factors to stay in an abusive relationship
- It is imperative for the Home Office to recognise these additional challenges and ensure that key messages are deliver and have reach to victims from BAME communities. These can be delivered via existing charities working with victims and survivors within communities. It is vitally important that charities providing specialist services to BAME domestic and honour victims are supported to continue doing so and are adequately funded to deliver key messages and service provision.
- Karma Nirvana were pleased to hear the Home Secretary pledge further commitment to domestic abuse helplines in the last week. As anticipated, since the Home Secretary’s announcement more victims of domestic abuse have come forward to the widely promoted domestic abuse helpline, with the helpline citing an increase in calls by 120%.
- Karma Nirvana are concerned that the Home Office have not planned for increased helpline capacity to ensure that all victims of domestic abuse that come forward receive a timely and appropriate response. Our helpline has received evidence to suggest that some victims are struggling to access the domestic abuse helpline due to how busy the helpline currently is. It is Karma Nirvana’s view that it is critical at a time like this that the Home Office considers the implementation of a national referral pathway between Home Office funded helplines to ensure that every victim get a timely and safe response.
- Karma Nirvana have temporarily extended our remit to support all victims of domestic abuse (not just BAME) during the pandemic to ensure that every victim gets a timely response. It is Karma Nirvana’s view that the Home Office should be taking every step possible to ensure that all victims are afforded support as effectively and quickly as possible, especially as Home Office funding (through existing helplines) can facilitate this immediately.
[i] Up until 15th April 2020