When domestic violence arrives at the workplace

Inclusive leaders cannot shy away from addressing

domestic violence

As the circuit breaker continues for another few weeks in Singapore, a lot has been discussed about the challenges of working from home, motivating dispersed teams and leading in times of uncertainty.

Some discussions have been looking at how to help groups who are more vulnerable in regards to health and economic impact: the elderly, people working at the front line of COVID-19 or the foreign workers at construction sites.

Abusive relationships

However, there is another group of people who go through especially hard times with the circuit breaker and who did not receive much attention: people who live in an abusive relationship.

Domestic violence refers to physical, verbal, emotional, economic and sexual abuse that happens in a domestic setting between intimate partners, family members or cohabiting people.

A social taboo

This theme is so stigmatized that it is mostly concealed, covered up and kept as a secret – by the victims, the perpetrators and the silent witnesses. And yet, domestic violence happens in every country, throughout the socio-economic layers of society in heterosexual relationships the same way as in same-sex relationships, between currently liaised couples or those who have separated. Women are more often the victims but there are also men experiencing subtle, coercive or overt abuse.

Violence against women is a pressing issue in Singapore, too:

  • 1 in 10 women in Singapore experience lifetime physical violence by a male (International Violence Against Women Survey, 2010).
  • 6 in 10 victims of physical violence suffer repeated victimisation(ibid).
  • Respondents show high levels of recognition of physical violence but lower levels of recognition of non-physical violence
  • 7% of women abused by partners are not likely to make a police report. (International Violence Against Women Survey, 2010).

(Source: www.aware.org )

Serious impact for employees and employers

The abusive dynamics can only stop when the taboo is brought out of the darkness of shame and fear, into the light of awareness. Abusive relationships have serious impact in the short and the long-term for those who go through it: confusion, fear, shame and hopelessness are among the mixed feelings coming up for the people going through such situations. Wit time they can have nightmares, difficulty concentrating and even develop insomnia, anxiety or chronic pain.

For employers, the tangible results are increased days of sick leave, absenteeism, and potentially higher turnover. At the same time, there are also intangible outcomes such as losing faith in the organization or in the general goodness of the people.

Many companies are committed to addressing social issues and creating positive change for society as a whole. Benefits are observable on an individual and organizational level when the corporate leadership includes the support of victims of domestic violence in the company’s responsibilities around health and safety.

Often, issues that are considered a taboo receive less attention but it is better to know how to handle this theme from the beginning than avoiding it until it becomes significant.

Inclusive workplace

Companies can support their employees by creating a safe and inclusive environment with access to information and the possibility to be directed to other institutions if necessary. Considering this the “personal issue” of an employee is further isolating them and cutting off opportunities to reach out and change their situation.

There are several multinationals that signed a Commitment Charter against gender-based violence: L’Oreal, BNP Paribas, Sephora and Carrefour are among them as well as Solomon Airlines and others.

Below are some tips what companies can do to support their employees who live in an abusive relationship.

  • Recognize the warning signs of domestic violence
  • Build awareness through materials accessible to everybody
  • Provide training to all employees and more training to managers
  • Develop a safety plan
  • Establish a support network

If you want to address this issue within your strategy of inclusive leadership, feel free to reach out.