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

Rachael L. Aplin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)



Thepurpose of this paper is to examine responses by police and Adult Social Careto honour based abuse (HBA) victims who have a diagnosed or perceivedvulnerability, such as a physical disability or mental health issue. The aim isto improve professional practice in ensuring vulnerable victims aresafeguarded.


Findingsare drawn from 100 HBA investigations (2012-2014) derived from classifiedpolice 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 diagnosedvulnerability (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 depressedand/or self-harming, perpetrators exaggerated the poor mental health of victimsin 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 underresearched 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 jointworking 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 familymembers.


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

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)239-250
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 8 Oct 2018
Externally publishedYes


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