Domestic Violence is often referred to as the “hidden crime”. The statistics indicate that women are the main victims of Domestic Violence in 70% of the cases. One in three women experiences physical violence and almost one in five experience sexual violence in their lifetime, most often from an intimate partner. One woman in Australia is killed per week as a result of Domestic Violence. We do acknowledge same-sex violence and other forms of family violence and we encourage all workplaces to join us in focusing on this important social issue.
Violence against women results in major health, social and economic consequences for individual women, their families, organisations and society. It has significant effects on women’s physical and mental health as well as their material and financial stability. There are also considerable economic costs to individuals affected, employers and society.
While these statistics are sobering and deeply concerning, you may be wondering why this is a workplace issue. The statistics tell us that a significant number of women experience violence in their workplace from known colleagues and peers; more than 60 per cent of women report experiencing some form of violence at work and 75 per cent report experiencing unwanted or unwelcome sexual behaviour at work. However, the actual prevalence may be higher because there is evidence that many women do not seek help or report violence when it occurs.
Domestic Violence does have implications for organisations, including an increase in staff turnover, absenteeism (an employee’s time away from work due to illness) and presenteeism (an employee who is physically at work but not extremely productive). It also often decreases work performance due to its impact on mental health and wellbeing and may extend to staff morale if it occurs in the form of sexual harassment. This can extend to an organisation’s reputation.
In workplaces where there is any form of violence such as bullying, harassment or sexual harassment, there are higher levels of team conflict and hostility. The workplace thus has an important role to play, not only in providing a safe place for victims but also in adopting a zero-tolerance approach to any violence in the workplace. This means addressing any form of bullying and/or harassment timeously and severely. Any form of gender bias, discrimination or acceptance of any gender norms will not directly lead to Domestic Violence but certainly cultivates and environment for this type of violence to be normalised and condoned.
What can workplaces do?
- Promoting equality and respect in all aspects of the workplace
- Addressing any hint of violence immediately and seriously
- Improving access to resources and systems of support.
One of the key features of best practice interventions is to encourage respectful relationships and gender equality, this promotes psychological safely where all individuals display mutual respect, trust, effective communication, understanding and honesty. An important feature of psychological safety is effective leadership. Leaders can set the tone and culture of the organisation they can speak out about Domestic Violence by clarifying that any harassment or discrimination is unacceptable.
If you are experiencing Domestic Violence please call your EAP Assist counsellor.