Barrier to Reporting Sexual Violence


Cultural Norms in South Asian Communities

Powerful cultural norms in South Asian communities in England and Wales are preventing incidences of sexual violence being reported, according to preliminary findings being revealed at a University of Hull conference.


Concepts such as honour, shame, modesty and stigma are strong barriers to reporting sexual abuse according to the research.

Data suggests that incidences of sexual violence among South Asian women and children are low, but leading research by Dr Karen Harrison, University of Hull and Dr Aisha K. Gill, University of Roehampton, has found these crimes are happening but are not being reported due to particular cultural norms that exist within these communities.


Interviews with victims, practitioners and focus group discussions with women living in South Asian communities in England and Wales also revealed a lack of awareness of what constitute sexual abuse – particularly regarding marital rape.


One of the victims, aged 46, who was interviewed as part of the research, said: “It’s all conditional love in the Asian families and that’s what honour is all about – there is no unconditional love in Asian families. Honour is more important to them than their own child’s happiness. It’s down to the woman to keep her own dignity and self-respect. The concept of honour is about honouring the family and the community at the cost of the individual.”


Dr Karen Harrison, a senior lecturer in law at the University of Hull, says: “Not only may fears surrounding the consequences of disclosing incidences of sexual violence stop victims seeking help, our research has also found that practical issues such as language barriers and a lack of adequate police training can also prevent these crimes being reported.


“Our work has uncovered a number of initiatives operating in these communities that raise awareness of what constitutes sexual violence and encourages women and children to report crimes in a way they feel safe. We look forward to sharing these findings with attendees at the conference today.”


The research will be presented as part of a one-day conference hosted by the University of Hull –‘Preventing Sexual Violence in South Asian Communities’. The research is funded by the British Academy.


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