Every year, thousands of people fall into the hands of human traffickers, both in their own countries and abroad. One of the motives for committing such a horrendous crime is forcing a victim into marriage. In 2016, there were an estimated 15.4 million people in forced marriages, 88% of whom were women and girls. Although it’s hard to calculate the exact number since so many cases are underreported, the problem may be even bigger.

But the UK-based charity “Karma Nirvana,” which supports victims of abuse and forced marriage, has come up with a way to alert the authorities that you’re in danger. It’s called the “metal spoon technique,” and it refers to hiding a metal spoon in your underwear to trigger airport metal detectors. As a result, the victim is taken away for a search, enabling them to raise the alarm in a safe and private manner.

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Hiding a metal spoon in underwear will trigger airport detectors and will show the authorities that the victim is in danger

Image credits: Andrew Pilloud (not the actual photo)

Bored Panda reached out to Anup Magnota, the operations manager at Karma Nirvana, a charity in Leeds, UK that came up with the metal spoon technique. Anup explained that the idea came from one of their call handlers 9 years ago, whereby a victim was worried about being taken abroad for marriage.

“The call handler reacted instinctively and stated to put a spoon in her underwear and whilst going through security at the airport, she will have the opportunity of speaking to someone privately and disclose that she does not want to leave the country because of a forced marriage.”

Anup warned that the spoon method is a last-resort measure to prevent a victim leaving the country, “as we will aim to work with partners to ensure a victim is removed from an abusive situation before.”

The metal spoon technique came to the spotlight on social media after one person shared it in a Twitter thread

Lockdown has been a difficult period for many of Karma Nirvana’s victims. Anup explained that “they experience constant surveillance by their perpetrators, who often are parents or their partner. We receive contacts via email, as it’s a safer way of seeking help.”

Luckily, the challenging circumstances have not stopped many victims from calling the helpline for support. “Victims have managed to call for help when they went for a walk or call when the perpetrator was out of the home.”

The UK government has also taken measures into their hands by developing ways to raise the alarm about abuse. “Victims can dial 55 when speaking to the police to alert they are a victim of domestic abuse. This will trigger a response to the address to get the victim away safely.”

Other people joined the thread

Karma Nirvana’s helpline has been running since 2008 and the organisation was set up in 1993. Anup said that even if it’s hard to give an accurate number for the life span of the organisation, they do know since the inception of the helpline, they have had over 100k contacts to the helpline.

“Over lockdown, since 23 March, we have supported 1371 people in the UK that are suffering honour-based abuse, at risk of forced marriage and domestic abuse,” Anup explained.

The idea came from this UK charity that supports victims of abuse and forced marriage

Image credits: karmanirvana

Anup also said that their charity would never make a decision for the victim, but will provide them options and advocate on their behalf, especially as some lack confidence or have language barriers.

“A case is never closed on the helpline and our service will remain open regardless where the victim is in the journey. Sometimes a victim will want to just speak to someone as they feel very low and require emotional support, which has increased significantly over the lockdown.”

Most importantly, Karma Nirvana is working to ensure the victim is listened to and believed, since they’re often the first agency that validates what victims are going through.

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Whether you are at risk or are concerned for someone in the United Kingdom that is, contact the British charity Karma Nirvana’s helpline for confidential support to both victims and professionals at 0800 5999 247.