DISCLAIMER: Domestic, sexual and family violence can be a complex, and extremely serious situation for individuals. It is important you seek professional advice from Domestic Violence services, refuges and organisations who can specify requirements for employers and organisations. This following information is for informative purposes only and should not be replaced or substituted for professional advice.
If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, family or domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.
According to Bryant, W. & Bricknall, on average, one woman a week in Australia is murdered by her current or former partner. This sadly is another statistic that is likely to increase over this time. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics 1 in 6 women revealed they’d experienced at least one domestic violence incident since the age of 15… so the reality is, employers are likely to have team members (or possibly themselves) be exposed to it.
As the COVID-19 crisis sweeps the nation, isolation and extended periods of time at home has resulted in alarming concern for increases in Domestic Violence. The following article aims to provide awareness around the current situation, how to approach this issue with staff and employees, and key resources for professional services, information and training.
Some key points
“Research has found that there is often a spike in violence against women during major crises and disasters – which have many similar features to the current situation with the devastating spread of COVID-19.
“Situations of heightened stress and panic, potential family disruption, social isolation, increased financial pressures, and disruption to people’s usual roles can all compound or exacerbate the underlying conditions that lead to violence.
“This is often reflected in the increased demand for domestic violence crisis services at such times.
“It is important to note, however, that these kinds of stress-related factors, which can increase the severity and frequency of violence, do not in themselves ‘cause’ or drive violence against women.” – ABC Australia
The following information is from 1800RESPECT, which provides advice on how to identify and approach sexual, domestic and family violence as an employer or organisation.
Read through the 1800RESPECT website for information about different types of abuse, and how to recognise the signs of domestic violence, and how to support someone you know. Some key things to remember during this time are to:
As an employer, the following framework can be utilised, especially during this time. It consists of three steps to approaching a DV situation. It is important that the following two factors are prioritised and considered throughout the implementation of each step:
Recognise the signs of domestic and family violence
Respond with appropriate care and sensitivity
Refer effectively to support services and professional carers
Although statistics show women are predominantly impacted by domestic violence, men can also be victims of domestic violence.
You may also have the experience of having an employee who is actually a perpetrator of violence.
Mensline Australia explains that differentiating between a victim and a perpetrator is fundamental.
“In seeking to minimise and justify their violence, some men will claim to be a victim of violence from their female partner, yet actually be perpetrators of violence. We also recognise that men may be genuine victims of violence from a female partner.
“Distinguishing between these very different presentations is critical to ensure workers avoid colluding with perpetrators of violence. Acceptance of his justifications can further reinforce his entitlement to use violence as well as also encourage him to continue to blame her for the violence in the relationship.
“On the other hand, workers risk entering into a victim blaming dialogue with those who genuinely need support.
“Rather than focus on the story, workers are encouraged to take note of the differing presentations of these two groups of men. The following descriptions give some ideas of these differences, and some clues as to how different questions might elicit more information.” – Mensline Australia
You can find out more about men and violence here.
The strain of dealing with sexual assault and domestic and family violence can impact on a worker’s productivity, performance and wellbeing.
They may be receiving threatening phone calls or emails and they may be more vulnerable.
This can be the case even when they are no longer living with the perpetrator, as their work location and hours of work may be known to them.
Managers and co-workers have a responsibility to know how to respond sensitively and to refer employees experiencing violence to specialist support.
They may be having trouble concentrating at work and managing deadlines and they may require time off work to obtain protection orders or to keep their children safe.
They may also have doctors’ or counselling appointments for themselves and any children.
Managers can make a real difference to the wellbeing of employees experiencing violence by implementing strategies that support their retention at work and improve work productivity. These include for example:
Over COVID-19, it is particularly important to ascertain if working from home is safe wherever you can. While most employers are being challenged with the logistics of setting people up from home, in these instances it is also reviewing whether there is any safe way to still offer limited opportunities to attend the workplace (subject to government social distancing requirements).
Organisational strategies for dealing with sexual assault and domestic and family violence also need to be inclusive of all employees, including women, men, employees with disabilities, those who identify as LGBTI and employees from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
Organisations also have a responsibility to respond appropriately to their staff who may be perpetrators of violence. Perpetrators may use their work time and resources to conduct abusive acts. This can include:
Organisations need clearly articulated organisational policies for dealing with unacceptable behaviour in the workplace. These policies need to be compliant with legislation regulating work conditions and employee codes of conduct.
The following tips can be shared with staff.
Working with people who have experienced sexual assault and domestic and family violence is complex work, requiring specialist skills.
Listening to and working with the traumatic experiences of people impacted by violence can also be distressing and over time impact upon workers’ own wellbeing.
Managers of sexual assault and domestic and family violence services have a responsibility to ensure that staff are equipped with the appropriate knowledge and skills to support people affected by violence through the offer of ongoing training and professional development.
Access to regular supervision is also important to enhance workers’ capability in working with people affected by violence.
Policies that focus on employee wellbeing are also important to address the risk of vicarious trauma, compassion fatigue and burnout. These, at a minimum include:
** The above information has been directly sourced from 1800RESPECT and their information for employers. You can access the original article here.
“If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, family or domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.”
Mensline- Supporting male victims and information about perpetrators
Understanding CV in a cultural context
Introduction to responding – how to approach someone
The DV Alert Training Program
Recognise, Respond, Refer Webinar & Free Training
Domestic Violence in Australia- the statistics