'These are the flowers I will put on your grave' - How corporate world can protect domestic violence victims - Greg Wright

FOR more than a year, our homes have acted as a fortress, protecting us from a pandemic which has claimed tens of thousands of lives and paralysed large sections of the economy.

Three quarters of women's organisations have reported an increase in demand for services since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, new research has found

If your home is a happy, spacious place, you may well have treasured memories of these unusual times. But what if your home has become a prison, and your violent jailor is your partner?

Lockdown has left domestic abuse victims in a living hell.

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The rituals of work and contact with people outside the family had provided victims with a brief respite from their tormentor’s rages and manipulative behaviour.

The corporate world is far from powerless when faced with this humanitarian crisis. TSB has provided an example of the type of sensitive and timely interventions that can save lives.

Domestic abuse survivors can now access “safe spaces” in nearly 300 TSB branches where they will receive specialist support.

The domestic abuse prevention charity Hestia, which has seen its case-load surge during lockdown, has joined forces with the bank and the police to roll out the scheme.

Victims - who don’t have to be one of the bank’s customers - can use a private room to make telephone calls, speak to a trained staff member and contact the local police force if necessary.

More than a hundred businesses, including Superdrug, Morrisons and independent pharmacies, have already signed up to offer private spaces for victims to access support, which reflects growing awareness of the horrific scale of the problem.

An analysis of data from 17 police forces in England and Wales for the year to March 2020 shows that nearly half of violent offences against women were committed by an intimate partner (49%) compared with just under a quarter (22%) of violent offences against men.

Lyndsey Dearlove, head of Domestic Abuse Prevention at Hestia, said it had seen a 30% rise in demand for support in the first two months of the current lockdown compared with the first.

If you’re a victim of domestic violence, there’s a good chance your abuser will try to torment you at work.

Here’s a chilling story to illustrate this point. When a bouquet of irises arrived at a woman’s workplace, they seemed to be a loving gift from her husband.

But attached to them was a note, which read: “These are the flowers I will put on your grave.”

She was being threatened with death if she ever exposed the physical and emotional abuse she was suffering at home, which is supposed to be the place of greatest safety.

I came across this case study when I was carrying out research into the work of the Corporate Alliance Against Domestic Violence, (CAADV) an organisation that aims to reduce the financial and human cost of domestic abuse and violence by working in partnership with employers.

More than half of the people who suffer some form of domestic violence are targeted by their abusers at work, according to the CAADV.

Domestic violence is a crime which affects one in four women and one in six men and costs the UK economy around £1.9bn a year.

Melissa Morbeck, the executive director of the CAADV said: “People who endure violence don’t leave this silent epidemic at the door. It follows them to work.”

A failure to support domestic violence victims carries an enormous economic cost. Victims of domestic violence are more likely to be off sick or turn up late, through no fault of their own.

That’s why managers have a pivotal role in ending domestic abuse. They can spot changes in an employee’s behaviour or performance which could be signs that there is a problem at home.

The Corporate Alliance has helped companies act on 83 disclosures made by employees about incidents of domestic violence, who required immediate support for their safety.

The Home Secretary Priti Patel has said she is “absolutely committed” to stamping out violence against women.

The universal roll-out of safe spaces across Britain’s high streets and workplaces, combined with a nationwide training programme for HR managers, so they can spot signs of domestic abuse, would play a significant role in easing the crisis.

It could provide a lifeline for people who dread the sound of the door slamming shut on the outside world.

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