Domestic abuse is an incredibly serious issue, with some sobering statistics around it. Two women each week and one man each month are killed in England and Wales by a current or former partner. One in four women and one in six men will suffer domestic abuse in their lifetime.
Worryingly, during the COVID-19 outbreak, data suggests that the number of deaths due to domestic violence has doubled. This could be down to a number of factors—extra stress and worry at the circumstances, loss of income, or being indoors for long periods of time. None of these, of course, are an excuse.
You may be wondering how you can spot, and help, cases of domestic abuse. It isn’t easy. Often, it’s hidden, and broaching the subject is especially difficult—it's a very sensitive area.
Equally, if you’re suffering abuse, it can be difficult to know where to reach out for help.
But there are things you can do, whether you suspect domestic abuse or not. Raising visibility of resources and signposting them clearly can help someone make the decision to get out—potentially, before it’s too late.
What to do
It’s important to take action sooner, rather than later.
- Communicate to staff, clearly, that you have their welfare in mind. Let them know that if they report domestic abuse to you, you’ll handle it safely and above all confidentially, helping them to access whatever support they might need. You can do this via company-wide email. As part of a staff newsletter, or as an article on your company intranet
- Ensure line managers are alert and aware. They should be in touch with employees as much as possible, even those on isolation sick leave, or those currently furloughed. Often, people suffering domestic abuse use work as a ‘safe space,’ and with that taken away, issues can escalate. Communication—and listening—are key. Offer line managers support and resources—Safelives can help.
- Signpost your EAP regularly—confidential, secure helplines are a blessing for those in danger. You don’t need to specifically communicate their usefulness in the face of domestic abuse, but make sure to reinforce their confidentiality about any issue often
- Ask individual employees how they feel about the changes that the coronavirus outbreak has brought, and about any support they feel you could be providing
None of these things are guaranteed, on their own, to bring abuse out of the shadows. But putting in the effort could help someone to feel empowered enough to ask for help—and that’s an important first step.
For people suffering abuse:
- National Domestic Violence Helpline: a 24/7 freephone service for women experiencing domestic violence, run in partnership between Women’s Aid and Refuge. Call 0808 2000 247 any time, 24/7
- Men’s Advice Line: a freephone service for all men experiencing domestic abuse, whether by a current or ex-partner, offering emotional support, practical advice and information. Call 0808 801 0327—check their site for open times
- Broken Rainbow: a national LGBT helpline providing confidential support to all LGBT+ people, their friends, families and allies. Call 0300 999 5248—check their site for open times
- National Stalking Helpline: providing information and guidance to anyone affected by harrassment or stalking. Call 0808 802 0300 Mon-Fri 9.30AM-4PM
- Rail to Refuge: a scheme from Women’s Aid that will pay for train tickets for women and children to escape domestic abuse. This is temporarily nationwide, during the coronavirus outbreak—anyone can access it, with 22 Women’s Aid member services providing refuge spaces for men. You need to have a confirmed refuge space booked by the charity—in order to get this, you need to talk to them first. Contact the Women’s Aid live chat here
- Corporate Alliance Against Domestic Violence: a membership charity working with employers to address the impact of domestic abuse in the workplace. They can provide accredited training, consultancy, business appropriate risk assessment, strategic response, support and tools to employers, HR teams and line managers. Visit their site for more details
- Women’s Aid: The Women’s Aid National Training Centre, an accredited National Open College Network Centre, provides a variety of training and awareness raising courses addressing domestic abuse that respond to individual training requirements as well as tailor made training packages for the workplace to suit employers. Check their site for more details