Originally published in The Independent
As millions of schoolchildren across England and Wales break up for the summer over the coming days, a few hundred, the vast majority girls, are full of dread. These are the victims of forced marriage, a tradition that is spreading across the country, and spreading fear in its wake.
The victims of forced marriage – and some who manage to escape it, too – are being failed by the services they most desperately need. Social services, police and schools still often miss the signs of forced marriage and can put victims at further risk through improper handling of cases, research by the Henry Jackson Society (HJS) and further investigation by this newspaper have found.
HJS research fellow and author of the report, Emily Dyer, said: “Despite recent progress in raising awareness of ‘honour’ abuse and forced marriage in the UK, there is still a clear gap in support for victims who are leaving their families and communities behind to escape abuse.
“This is down to a lack of basic knowledge and understanding among professionals, which – as our report shows – can increase victims’ vulnerability and isolation, as well as the risk of them returning home. Provision of care needs to be standardised through training of all professionals on how to identify ‘honour’ abuse and forced marriage and how to provide victims with the necessary support.”