16 Days of Action
Author: Rhys Haworth, HR Business Partner for PACT HR
Published: 25th November 2021
It is estimated that over 2 million people in the UK are victims of domestic abuse each year. Disturbingly, the figure is likely to be much higher as this estimate is based on reported cases and domestic abuse offences are largely underreported or unreported. With this in mind the Domestic Abuse Act came into force in October 2021 to provide a statutory definition of abusive behaviour consisting of physical, sexual, violent, threatening, controlling, coercive, economic, psychological, and emotional forms of abuse. It also states that abuse can be a single incident or can be a pattern of behaviour. This definition is critical in highlighting that domestic abuse is not always physical.
Nearly half of those who are victims of psychological abuse are never subject to physical assault but the effects are as devastating. Those who have suffered psychological violence are more likely to require psychiatric care and see significant reductions in their ability to work, socialise, and parent.
As can be seen, domestic abuse is an enormously damaging issue and schools, as employers, can play an important role in orchestrating support for victims and ensuring offenders are brought to justice. Warnings signs of domestic abuse can include changes to a person’s behaviour or demeanour, performance issues without apparent explicable cause, mention of controlling behaviour in partners (not necessarily towards the victim), and physical signs such as bruising or burn marks.
Unfortunately, most victims of domestic abuse will suffer in silence due to the social stigma attached. Reporting the behaviour towards them may involve revealing embarrassing or humiliating details and they may fear the judgement of others, particularly when abuse has been endured for a considerable length of time. Victims with children may also fear judgement of their parenting skills.
Raising awareness and encouraging an organisational culture of openness surrounding discussion of domestic abuse can persuade sufferers to step forward and highlight possible indicators to their colleagues. Line managers are ideally positioned to spot warning indicators with trust and rapport between them and the employee providing an avenue for seeking help.
The workplace may also provide those experiencing abuse reprieve from their abuser and act as a safe space. In the case of coercive control, perpetrators attempt to isolate their victims from support, deprive them of their independence and attempt to regulate the victim’s behaviour. This could become immediately apparent to colleagues and managers if a person becomes increasingly isolated, receives a high number of personal calls on work-time, or exhibits unusual patterns of presenteeism or absenteeism.
Every school is different, therefore, the approach adopted will depend on the size and nature of the working environment. Nonetheless, even simple steps can be influential in supporting employees suffering any form of Domestic Abuse.
Public Health England advocate the 16 Days of Actions and offer resources to inform and educate employers on dealing with Domestic Abuse in addition to help raise awareness in the workplace. You can find a toolkit and more here.
Should you require advice/support in relation to any of the above please contact your PACT HR Business Partner for support with help supporting your staff.
For more info on how we can support your colleagues and teams, please contact the PACT HR helpdesk on 01274 436644 or email us at email@example.com for more details.
Last Updated: 25th November 2021