The shockwave of domestic violence reaches far beyond the home

Gary * has helped his employee, Sarah, who is exposed to domestic violence. Gary is very supportive of Sarah’s plans to leave her partner and has access to qualified support, including paid leave and flexible work schedules to make this happen. But a few weeks later, Gary learned that Sarah had returned to her abusive partner. Dissatisfied with Sarah’s failure to follow through, he asks Sarah to leave the organization.

This true story about the workplace experience of a victim of domestic violence highlights an important but complex issue. Access to workplace support for domestic violence is essential, but misunderstandings about such violence can prevent effective implementation and further hurt victims.

Without a proper understanding of the nature of the problem, it can be difficult to help victims of domestic violence in the workplace.

Gary has a general assumption about domestic violence. It is a cautious event that ends when the victim leaves the relationship. Violence occurs at home (not through the facility). Victims must take personal responsibility for violence. None of these assumptions are true.

Domestic violence is a complex social problem embedded in gender inequality. Victims have been exposed to violence from abusers and institutions for many years after the relationship ended. Domestic violence spreads to work, friendship and the community. We must protect individual victims, but violence is not personal. It is woven into the structure of our society.

Workplaces need a framework to understand their role in this broader picture of society. The law provides us with the foundation of employee rights, but it alone does not determine how the workplace fulfills its responsibilities.

Our study recently published in the Journal of Industrial RelationsAims to bridge the gap between written policy and its implementation, in line with the goal of gender equality.

Framework for the workplace

1. Domestic violence is both public and private

The “domestic” of domestic violence can be misleading. Violence occurs at home but spreads throughout the victim’s life. Studies show that abusers are using their work time and resources. You may ask a colleague to report on the victim’s activities or call the victim excessively during working hours. Victims bring the fatigue, fear and pain of abuse into the workplace.

The shockwave of domestic violence reaches far beyond the home

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