This is how to support victims of domestic violence

It’s likely that employees will be hesitant in coming forward, so workplaces need to start by knowing how to recognise signs of abuse

This is how to support victims of domestic violence

New Zealand has one of the highest rates of family violence in the developed world, as one in three women experience domestic violence and one in six men experience sexual violence.

Moreover, it is estimated that there could be around 500,000 family violence victims in New Zealand, of which more than 40% are in paid employment.

In July, New Zealand passed legislation granting victims of domestic violence up to ten days’ paid leave a year and flexible working arrangements to help deal with the impacts of the violence.

From April next year, all victims of domestic violence will be able to get support from their employers without worrying about losing their jobs.

Indeed, companies have an important role to play in supporting women experiencing violence at home, according to Marcela Slepica, clinical director of AccessEAP.

Slepica added that work can often be a sanctuary away from abuse and all businesses have a duty to help assist these women by employing an action plan that makes them feel secure and supported.

It’s likely that victims will be hesitant in coming forward, so workplaces need to start by knowing how to recognise the signs of abuse.

In the lead up to White Ribbon Day (23rd November), a global movement to eradicate men’s violence against women, AccessEAP has developed a three-step guide to help businesses support those experiencing domestic violence or abuse.

Step 1: Recognise
When a woman is experiencing domestic violence, it is likely that her patterns of behaviour will change. Some behaviours to look out for may include;

  • Frequently arriving to work very early or very late
  • Frequent personal phone calls that leave the employee distressed
  • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
  • Not attending out of hours work functions or engaging socially with colleagues
  • Stress
  • Ill health and increased leave usage
  • Wanting to resign or relocate

Step 2: Respond
If someone has taken the difficult step of sharing their experience of violence or abuse, it is vital to respond in an appropriate and supportive manner.

Firstly, you should believe the person and listen without judging. Be supportive, encouraging, open and honest. There are also some practical considerations which will help make the person feel safer and more supported.

  • Screen their phone calls or install caller ID on their phone
  • Change their email address and remove their details from the organisation’s directories
  • Encourage the employee to alter their daily travel route
  • Arrange for priority parking close to the building entrance
  • Organise for them to be accompanied to and from their car
  • Alert key staff with full consent and ensure they are discreet at all times
  • Ensure employee’s workstation is not easily accessible for someone entering from outside

Step 3: Refer
While provisions such as additional leave, financial assistance and security measures will go a long way towards supporting women to remain in the workplace, other external assistance may also be required.

Referring employees to an expert domestic violence service can provide crisis counselling, information on crisis care facilities and refuges, information on domestic violence orders and court support and information on longer term counselling services.

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