Honour-Related Beliefs and Risk of Harm: Theory and Challenges for Policing

Karl A Roberts

One of the main themes of this book is the idea that vulnerability, rather than being a fixed characteristic of individuals, is better considered as susceptibility to increased harm (Kotow 2003; see also Bartkowiak- Thёron et al. in this collection). This is important as it suggests that individuals do not necessarily need to exhibit overt vulnerabilities such as physical or intellectual disabilities or mental health problems in order to be vulnerable. Essentially, everyone has the capacity to be vulnerable when placed in the right circumstances and becoming vulnerable is possible for those who would not ordinarily be regarded as such. Relevant to this perspective is the importance of situational characteristics. This is because the situation in which an individual finds him or herself may have characteristics that, in interaction with their personal characteristics (such as personality traits, attitudes and beliefs), may engender increased susceptibility to harm (Mishcel and Shoda 1995).

K.A. Roberts (*)

University of Western Sydney, Penrith, New South Wales, Australia e-mail: This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it

© The Author(s) 2017

N.L. Asquith et al. (eds.), Policing Encounters with Vulnerability, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-51228-0_11

For example, an individual with a fear of spiders may under most circumstances show no sign of vulnerability; however, when placed in a situation where a spider is present, may show signs of significant distress that would place them at risk of harm.

Important among the characteristics of individuals are their attitudes and beliefs—and the interaction between these characteristics and situations—is an important way in which behaviour, including susceptibility to harm or vulnerability, may develop (Ajzen 1991; Mishcel and Shoda. 1995). To illustrate how vulnerability may arise in this way, this chapter explores so-called honour based violence and discusses how strongly held, non-pathological beliefs concerning the importance of personal honour may, under certain circumstances, provoke an increased risk of harm both to the self and to others. Specifically, the chapter will examine how subscribing to honour beliefs gives rise to certain expectations concerning appropriate and acceptable behaviour, and how these behaviours pose a risk of harm. In keeping with the theme of this book concerning encounters between police and vulnerability, the chapter will also explore some of the challenges faced by law enforcement in their encounters with individuals holding honour- related beliefs and possible approaches to these challenges.

 
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