More voices, more conversations. Business must play their part in addressing domestic and family violence.
As I write this note from lockdown here in Melbourne, I’m struck by the privilege I have that I’m safe in a home that is free of violence. For many people, mostly women and children, the home is not a sanctuary. It can be the most dangerous place, when living with a person who chooses to use violence.
The statistics on domestic violence, paint a very clear picture that in this country it is a national crisis. We still have on average one woman being killed every nine days by a current or former partner.
There is no doubt this has been a challenging year. But the challenges it has brought doesn’t give reason to use violence, nor to excuse it.
1800RESPECT counsellors are hearing every day from people contacting the service for support, that the people using violence are putting their abuse down to stress of job losses, financial strain, COVID-19 and increased alcohol consumption. They’re not reasons – there are no excuses.
Domestic and family violence is prevalent in every postcode of every state and territory in our country. It can happen to anyone. There’s every chance someone you know has experienced it or is experiencing it. It could be your neighbour, mother, sister, brother or colleague.
Given its prevalence, it goes without saying that people who use violence and abuse are employed within the Australian economy. As a CEO, I cannot ignore this, and I recognise the role we as a business must play in addressing domestic and family violence in our workplace.
Male Champions of Change along with other leaders, yesterday released a vital resource - ‘Employees who use domestic and family violence: a workplace response’. It is an evidence-informed resource to guide organisational responses to domestic and family violence.
Following its release, I joined a panel with key leaders in the domestic and family violence sector, as well as CEOs from across Australia to discuss the active role we can take in national prevention and response efforts.
We’ve certainly come a long way in our understanding and approach when you consider it’s not that long ago that domestic and family violence was considered a “private matter” and not the business of employers.
Medibank is committed to providing education, implementing structures and building a culture that celebrates gender equality, supports people experiencing violence but that critically holds people who use violence accountable for their use of violence and abuse.
The approach taken by Medibank is one of providing our people leaders and People & Culture teams with the knowledge around domestic and family violence as a workplace issue and enabling them to play a support or coaching role, while also recognising that referral to relevant specialist services is often the best approach.
This is a conversation we need to have with men. While men and women can both experience domestic and family violence, most people that choose to use violence are men.
We’ve learned that people who use domestic and family violence are often very good at hiding their behaviour. They rarely self-disclose or seek help, and when they do it is usually because they need to attend court, or an appointment related to their use of violence and abuse.
They may also continue violence towards their partners and families while at work, usually through email, phone and texts. Staggeringly, research shows often someone they worked with knew about their abusive ways, and ‘covered’ for them while they engaged in this behaviour.
The role of the workplace is to learn how to recognise the behaviour. We must know how to respond in a way that first and foremost prioritises the safety of the person experiencing violence. We can then refer the employee who uses violence for specialised help.
We’ve learned that sensitivity and careful approaches are imperative. While the use of domestic and family violence might invoke employers to stand down or dismiss an employee found to be doing so, this could also be the very worst possible outcome for the victim of their abuse.
Business has a clear role to play. In doing so, we can contribute to both saving lives and changing lives for the better.
If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au.