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Honour based abuse: the response by professionals to vulnerable adult investigations

Rachael L. Aplin (Leeds Beckett University, Leeds, UK)

Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research

ISSN: 1759-6599

Article publication date: 9 January 2018

Issue publication date: 1 November 2018




The purpose of this paper is to examine responses by police and Adult Social Care to honour based abuse (HBA) victims who have a diagnosed or perceived vulnerability, such as a physical disability or mental health issue. The aim is to improve professional practice in ensuring vulnerable victims are safeguarded.


Findings are drawn from 100 HBA investigations (2012-2014) derived from classified police electronic records and interviews with 15, predominantly specialist, public protection police officers in one UK force.


HBA against vulnerable adults is an obscure crime area. In cases of diagnosed vulnerability (3 per cent), police officers wrongly attributed “freewill” and choice to vulnerable adults who legally lacked the capacity to consent to marriage. Conversely, in 9 per cent of cases where victims were depressed and/or self-harming, perpetrators exaggerated the poor mental health of victims in order to discredit them to law enforcement. Professionals illogically latched onto perpetrator explanations and in turn undermined and problematised the victims.

Research limitations/implications

There is limited access to data on vulnerable adult abuse, making this an under researched area of crime.

Practical implications

Failing to undertake risk assessments, or record whether the victim is legally vulnerable should lead to a review of police practice. An evaluation of joint working arrangements is necessary concerning which agency (police or Adult Social Care) should take primacy.

Social implications

Vulnerable adult victims were retained in risk predicaments alongside perpetrating family members.


Police officers suggesting vulnerable adults can “consent” to marriage is a new concept, along with issues of goal displacement which illustrates avoidance behaviours by professionals and under protection by the state.



Aplin, R.L. (2018), "Honour based abuse: the response by professionals to vulnerable adult investigations", Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research, Vol. 10 No. 4, pp. 239-250.



Emerald Publishing Limited

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