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Can companies do more to help victims of domestic abuse?

Domestic abuse is a serious issue that affects both men and women and should concern individuals, governments and businesses alike. It is estimated that companies end up losing almost £2 billion yearly, due to domestic abuse, as one in four women and one in six men will suffer from domestic violence at least once in their lifetime.

How does it affect businesses and how does it lead to those enormous losses? A bad situation at home will take a toll on the employee's productivity or may require them to take time off work, thus affecting the company's overall performance.

To help create a safe and supportive environment, employers have started raising awareness about this important issue, and the results are outstanding.

Abuse

How abusers manage to isolate victims

Contrary to the common belief, abuse does not only resume to physical violence, but can take many shapes. From cutting off financial support, in situations when the abuser earns significantly more money than the victim, to threats and sexual misbehaviour. In many of those cases, the only time when victims actually feel safe is when they go to work, as they feel they are being protected there.

Abusers will sense the victim's need for distancing themselves from home, which can manifest in picking up extra shifts, spending more time in the office or volunteering for business trips. Basically, they try their best to be as far from home as possible, which can trigger an alarm sing for employers who are trained in recognizing those patterns.

When abusers feel they might lose control over their partner, they tend to recur to all sorts of tactics to prevent the other person from breaking the cycle. These strategies may involve anything, from deliberately preventing them to go to work, by hiding their car keys, misplacing or throwing away their work documents, or not helping with child-care, which, in turn, can cost the victims their jobs.

The situation can get even worse when children are involved, especially for women, as they will try to avoid having to separate the children from their father. In other cases, the abuser can even get inside the victim's head by using the children to prevent the other partner form leaving. They will blame them for risking the child's future, for breaking the marriage, or for not doing enough to make things work out. In return, victims may stop going to work, to prevent their partner from hurting or taking away the child, or in an attempt to dedicate themselves more to the family.

Companies that are breaking the silence

In an attempt to help those who suffer from domestic abuse, some companies have taken the stand and provided support for their employees. This varies from paid leave to flexible schedule and even hiring an attorney for domestic violence, which victims can talk to and get their justice.

  • FreeForm

FreeForm is a start-up that aims to help domestic violence survivors to achieve financial independence after they were forced to leave home. The program helps victims turn their life around, by aiding them in developing their own business. From identifying their skills to promoting the business and managing finances, Freeform helps to empower abuse victims and claim that 90% of the entrepreneurs they helped, have started making a profit since the first month.

  • Vodafone

The telecommunication company has stated, at the beginning of this year, that they will offer up to 10 days of paid leave for victims of domestic abuse. This policy applies to all counties Vodafone is active in and in meant to give victims the necessary time to seek help, go to counselling, move house or care for their children. By doing so, the company hopes to raise awareness and inspire other businesses to offer support to their employees who go through difficult situations at home. In addition, human resource managers will receive proper training to identify and support those employees who may be victims of domestic abuse.

  • 3 Men Movers

The moving company set in Texas helps women who have suffered from domestic violence to move homes discreetly and safely. They have acknowledged how hard it is for women to leave their homes, mostly because they fear the abuser may catch them when trying to relocate. They have trained to listen to the women and identify patterns, such as the tone of voice, or words they use and act with extra precaution when suspecting they might be dealing with an abuse victim. Those who work at 3 Men Movers never reveal any information about their clients and don't disclose any from of detail to anyone else besides the customer.

 

What you can do to help

There are many forms in which employers can help those who they suspect may have a difficult situation at home. The UK government has even gone as far as developing a kit to help employers identify potential victims and come to their help. The toolkit includes consultation for businesses, to spot signs of domestic abuse. Those signs may include frequent work absence, changes in productivity, physical signs, and even keeping an eye out to see if employees spend an unusual amount of time taking personal calls to which they may react strangely.

If you fear one of your employees may be a victim of domestic abuse, here's what you can do:

If you fear one of your employees may be a victim of domestic abuse, here's what you can do:

  • Encourage communication: promote a safe working environment and encourage employees to come to talk to you in they feel you can be of any help. Remember to keep every discussion confidential and act out only with their approval.
  • Be flexible: if they go through a rough time, help them out by providing some days off, or taking away some of their tasks, without affecting their payment. Remember that they may have to take care of some personal things during the process and be mindful of this.
  • Don't judge: if you've never been in that situation before, it may be easy to jump to conclusions and advise them to leave home or do this and that, even if that is the most obvious action they should take. You may not be aware of the full picture and you can never know what prevents them from acting on it.
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