Assessing a Hypothetical Vignette on “Honour”-Based Crimes and Forced Marriages: There is NO one single approach (Session F)

14 Nov 2019
10:30 am - 12:00 pm

Assessing a Hypothetical Vignette on “Honour”-Based Crimes and Forced Marriages: There is NO one single approach (Session F)

Existing studies on “honour” –based crimes only briefly mention police interactions in cases where victims, in high profile Canadian cases, are perceived to have acted in a shameful way dishonouring their family or community. Moreover, there have been numerous discussions in the field regarding how law enforcement agencies could be trained to respond to a wide range of behaviours that constitute as reasons for an “honour”-based crime, forced marriage, or to prevent honour-based homicides. A qualitative study, utilizing a hypothetical vignette, will be shared to rethink policing efforts aimed to protect those at risk. While there have been many debates about terminology, how the Canadian justice system prosecutes these crimes, very little has been done on the ground to suggest a uniform response to protect individuals at risk. This presentation will make a practical contribution given the growing concerns to understand a complex yet underexplored phenomenon in Canada, from the perspective of first-responders.

In this presentation, I will share a hypothetical vignette I constructed and how I elicited, 32 police officer’s and 14 civilian’s, perspectives across Alberta law enforcement agencies. I will allow for an interactive dialogue between myself the presenter and all attendees. Attendees will be asked first to read the scenario and then to share from their viewpoint how police or other first responders (e.g., school teachers) might intervene. Rather than focusing on how my study participants, interpreted the vignette, I will create a learning space inviting attendees to think aloud how they too might respond from their perspective (e.g., as a police officer, social worker, family violence specialist, victim services advocate, settlement counselor). The discussion will allow attendees to identify how they interpret the storyline and context that influences their response.

I conclude the presentation by emphasizing the core theme that emerged in my work “uncertainty and confusion” with the vignette and similar situations. I imagine attendees will be feeling the same way and constructing how difficult it is to find one consistent response to assist victims that come forward. Thus, I will share some concerns my study participants raised with possible interventions (e.g., paying little attention or lacking with responses). It is not my intention to solely focus on my findings; rather, I see my presentation as a way to uncover how few formal supports exist to protect individuals from discourses of “honour” and “shame.” I am interested in how participants use tools available to them (e.g., terminology, risk assessments, and policy) to frame the violence in the vignette and to uncover the ways in which they respond. For example, from a domestic violence or “honour”-based standpoint where distinct discourses come into play. Sadly, there is no one single approach and varying discourses continue to ignore what measures are taken to support a victim at risk. The vignette is useful for those with or without experience of domestic violence, “honour”-based crimes, and forced marriages as everyone has a role in stopping this crime as we think through prevention, protection, and intervention.