A Forced Marriage is not the same as an arranged one, where there is agreement on both sides. That is their choice.

It’s where the choice element is omitted that my concern lies – and when there is abduction, rape and violence, the law is broken.

However, it still happens and we understand many of the reasons behind this.

Our work makes sure that support is available for victims – from those whose basic human rights are being denied and to those whose life may be in danger.

To be effective we have to look at the reasons why anyone, educated and having lived in the UK for many years, may be coerced into marrying someone from abroad when they don’t want to? I believe that it is a combination of fear and loss of identity that causes parents to turn to marriage partners from overseas.

We know that parents may advocate this type of marriage in the belief that it will strengthen their culture, preventing British customs taking hold. Equally they may feel that it will provide protection and safety for their children. Parents sending a family member from another country to the UK may believe that financial security will be assured. And, on the other hand, women from overseas, sent over to the UK to marry, may have a more servile attitude than those used to the equality and freedoms afforded them in the UK.

We need to look at what young people want too. They’ve said that they want to marry someone who understands them and with whom they can be friends. But different cultures often have a different approach to friendship.

I want to raise awareness of the issues, to encourage people who are victims of a Forced Marriage to seek help from one of the many avenues out there. Lancashire Constabulary has a dedicated unit, the Home Office has a special section on its website and there are numerous voluntary organisations with people who really understand.

The Police Authority checks that the mechanisms to protect people are working. The Constabulary leads on a Forced Marriage Steering Group with other partner organisations. A Forced Marriage is an abuse of basic freedoms and human rights and help is available.

If you are a victim of a Forced or Abusive Marriage, or if you know if someone who is, then report it. We can only help when we know about the problem and hiding it is dangerous.

You can telephone: Burnley, Pendle and Rossendale 01282 472190; Blackburn and Darwen 01254 353638; Ribble Valley and Hyndburn 01254 353718; Chorley, Sth Ribble and West Lancs 01257 515332; Preston, Lea and Fulwood 01772 209110; Blackpool and Fylde 01253 607242; Lancaster and Wyre 01995 607870.

Or look at the ‘How to Stay Safe’ section of the Need to Know page on www.lancashire.police.uk.

Saima Afzal is a member of Lancashire Police Authority and national lead for Equality and Diversity at the Association of Police Authorities.