Domestic violence has become more prevalent and harder to fight because of lockdown. We spoke with the charity Hestia about their employer-focussed response and how philanthropists and corporates can help.
In the first three weeks of lockdown, fourteen women and two children were murdered by a current or ex-partner – an increase of 160%. Those experiencing abuse found themselves subjected to more severe control and abuse, with even less chance to get any time away from their abuser. Being unable to leave home made it harder to reach out to helplines and refuges quickly became full.
The workplace used to offer some measure of safety. So as more people work from home, the need for employers to be able to access confidential, good quality advice and support has become ever more apparent.
Hestia’s Everyone’s Business Advice Line is a confidential support line where employers can get advice to respond effectively to disclosures of domestic abuse by their employees, and signpost them to the appropriate local specialist domestic abuse services.
The Covid lockdown has made this service even more vital. During lockdown there was a 47% increase in downloads of Hestia’s Bright Sky app (which offers advice and signposting to people enduring domestic abuse) and an over 30% increase in people trying to access Hestia domestic abuse services throughout Covid-19 (May-June 2020).
Home is not always safe, and businesses have a unique role to play in breaking the silence around domestic abuse. So, following successful funding from the Emergency COVID-19 Relief Fund, the Advice Line to support employers across the country was established.
This advice line offers guidance for employers who want to help their staff and direct them to practical support, providing a vital pathway for employees who may be experiencing domestic abuse. Despite 86% of employers agreeing that they have a duty of care to support employees experiencing domestic abuse (Westmarland, 2017), only 5% of businesses have a domestic abuse policy (The Vodafone Foundation, 2018).
Sometimes the only place of relative safety a person enduring domestic abuse has is their place of work, although research also shows that 75% of domestic abuse victims are still targeted whilst at work (Equality & Human Rights Commission). With this option now limited, having a support system and advice line that employers can call upon to help them navigate concerns, manage disclosures of domestic abuse in a safe way and access signposting information which can help keep people enduring domestic abuse and their support networks safe is more vital than ever.
Launching a new service is never easy. With many employers working from home or remotely the ability to ‘touch base’, attend meetings and events with companies to disseminate information about the Advice Line, whilst not impossible through remote meetings and technology, is different and can be a barrier for some companies. Hestia have been supported by the EIDA network, and firms that are already part of the Everyone’s Business initiative have shared the information with their staff. But we are keen to see more organisations utilise the line, as we believe that it is a vital resource for managers, HR departments, and leaders.
Of course, funding matters. But so does visibility. We want people to realise just how important a role businesses play in tackling domestic abuse. 1 in 4 women, 1 in 6 men, and 750,000 children a year experience domestic abuse, which means someone in your business may be experiencing it right now – or may be a perpetrator.
Corporate funders and philanthropists can help by mobilising their networks and resources, through customer facing content such as promoting the Safe Spaces initiative, and through internal activity through HR networks. All of this helps to expand provision and transform services. Philanthropists and businesses have the potential to help create a workplace that is genuinely a supportive and safe space for employees – lockdown or not.
Lyndsey Dearlove, Head of Domestic Abuse Prevention: UK SAYS NO MORE campaign and Everyone’s Business.
Hestia is one of the largest providers of domestic abuse refuges in London and South East and the main organisation supporting victims of modern slavery in the capital. Details of their advice line can be found at hestia.org/everyones-business-advice-line. If there is immediate danger always call 999.
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