You might not think it, but domestic violence is at an epidemic level and is now spilling more and more into the workplace.

The levels are so high that 1 out of 4 women and 1 out of 7 men will experience physical violence by a partner in the lifetime. 74% of domestic violence victims have been threatened by an ex-partner at work. An abusive partner might not know where they might be living now but the ex might know where they’re working.

Most of these situations involve threats and violence against woman by men although it can still be gender mixed. Industries, where there’s high population of females, are at risk, for example, healthcare. This means that the wider population in the healthcare environment are at risk, not just the intended victim.

A domestic abuse victim will likely see their work as a place where she can get away from her abuser, for at least 8 hours a day anyway. She might feel ashamed and embarrassed about the terrible situation she’s in and be fearful of losing her job.

Managers in her office might not be aware of her issue at home as she might be hesitant to raise it with them or a supervisor. That said, the appropriate leadership might find out if the victim shares her issues with a trusted work colleague who can raise it with them.

In the worst-case scenario, it might be too late when her management finds out about the abuse and the victim, on occasion may face resentment from people she works with too. This will only make the situation worse in her eyes.

The culture in work should be one that’s respectful, supportive, non-judgmental and open. The environment should be fostered in a way that convinces the threatened employee that there is support out there and that she isn’t at fault for her situation.  This should be the tone from the outset and going forward the situation should be managed with respect and empathy.

Please note that the threatening person could be an employee in the workplace, so this should be thought about too so it’s dealt with swiftly.

Considerations and Planning

While the normal lines of internal communication should be kept open and reinforced, it’s important that there are other options available of where issues can be raised. Such as confidential helplines that don’t require the need of management contact in the initial enquiry.

As part of an organisations threat management and violence mitigation process, there should be an early intervention team at the ready. This should involve different departments such as HR, Risk Management and even behavioural and psychological personnel.

By having a domestic violence plan and policy in place at an organisation it might be best served as part of the overall workplace violence plan and policy already in place.

As part of any domestic violence policy, it’s important to commission an assessment of your procedure in case of any future situation.  This will help identify your risks and vulnerabilities and this, in turn, will show how effective your response, prevention, and recovery measures are.

It’s important to meet with threatened employees to offer support, guidance and reassure them in any way possible. This could be offering further support for moving her desk, work location or even parking spot. She could be provided with a panic alarm and help in gaining restraining orders while advising on resources on personal safety. This could include being alert to your environment, trusting your intuition and being around friends and family. It’s also imperative to discuss a long-term strategy that enables her continued safety.

Include onsite security procedures like prompt lockdown capabilities, background screening, liaison with police, staff training, visitor management, worn identification and circulation of the perpetrator’ photo and vehicle. It’s important that the business fostering a very strong level of togetherness, protectiveness and involvement by all employees.

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