Supporting Your Staff Through COVID-19

Supporting staff in an abusive relationship who working from home in isolation due to COVID-19

COVID-19 and Domestic Family Violence

We are in the grip of COVID-19 and the impact on day to day life has been as dramatic as they are quick. If someone had asked me less than three weeks ago ‘What does flatten the curve mean?’ I would not have a clue. Now it is front and centre of most conversations.

Resources are stretched and the news and social media feeds are full of Coronavirus, which is to be expected in these uncertain times. If we look at what is happening overseas it is likely to get worse before it gets better. China saw Domestic Family Violence cases triple during the lockdown and this trend is being repeated in other countries. In Australia, frontline services have already seen an increase of 40% in demand for services.

Employees are now working from home as we have been self-isolating and social-distancing and we have no idea how long this will be for. This is a dangerous time for victims of Domestic Family Violence because abusers rely on social and physical isolation and distancing their victim from their family, friends and co-workers. COVID-19, means this is now being done for them.

Why is the Home Particularly Unsafe During Isolation?

There are so many contributing factors as to why the home is even more dangerous during the COVID-19 isolation period including:

Person Abusing Behaviours 

  • Losing control over their lives
  • Isolation and social disconnect
  • Financial insecurity
  • Fear of losing job
  • Angry their job is gone/insecure while partners is safe
  • Pubs, clubs and restaurants closed impeding social life
  • No sport to distract and entertain
  • Boredom and irritation at the mundane nature of life in isolation
  • No colleagues present so cannot use Workplace Employee Abuse to satisfy their need to control

Person being Abused

  • Loss of an escape at work – often the only truly safe space they have

  • Limited access to support network

  • Loss of Community Networks

  • Increased monitoring and surveillance

  • Loss of freedoms

  • Blamed for inadequate supplies of groceries

  • If parents blamed for children’s noise (even if at a reasonable level)

  • Due to the risk of the infection going to their parents for respite is not an option

  • Sleep deprivation due to the abuse makes decision making difficult

  • Stress from abuse and COVID-19 means coping mechanisms pushed to the limit

  • Reluctance to seek medical attention for injuries, due to fear of contracting COVID-19

Lack of Resources Compound the Situation

Due to the increase of abuse and violence in the home during isolation support services will be stretched. This is a sector that already struggles with over demand for their services. Shelters do not have enough beds and the increase in demand will only burden the resources further.

This undersupply of rooms in the shelters is exacerbated by the lack of housing options available to those waiting to leave shelters this creates a bottleneck, where rooms cannot be freed up because residents have nowhere to go.

There may be complicated legal and custody issues, and with the courts closed there is no easy solution to resolve them. This may mean the person being abused is forced to stay in the home with their abuser for the sake of the children.

Frontline services have stated they have already had an increase in demand of 40% so a sector that was already struggling is going to be challenged keeping up with demand.

There have been call-outs to the Government to put money in place to allow the sector to increase capacity and meet demand. But there is no word and even if they do it is likely to take some time to reach the organisations that need it.

Workplace Response is an Important Part of the Support

The workplace is now wherever the employee is in isolation, which for those in abusive relationships is not a safe space. Employers have a Duty of Care to ensure employees are safe. There are ways an employer, manager or colleague can assist in supporting someone trapped at home with their abuser.

  • Keep the lines of communication open
  • Schedule regular meetings
  • Use a buddy system, so they touch base with the same person consistently – preferably with someone who understands DFV
  • If possible without endangering colleague find a safe way to communicate
  • If you can communicate safely talk about a safety plan and set u a code word
  • DO NOT openly talk about your concerns to the employee of concern as phones etc are most likely being monitored from both ends.
  • Call 1800 RESPECT for advice if you think you need to involve the police as calling them may exacerbate the abuse.
  • In a emergency call the emergency services

    Where possible keep the employee on the payroll because the worse the financial situation the more likely the abuse is to escalate into violence. 

    Safe Space Workplace One-Hour Virtual Consultation

    This crisis is unprecedented and it will take unprecedented measures. As the owner of Safe Space Workplace Lisa has a great deal of knowledge and experience teaching businesses to support employees who work both in-office and remotely. 

    Lisa is offering a one-hour consultation to discuss what works best for your company and your industry. There are options available but they are dependent on your resources and industry. To discuss how best to support your employees, how to update your communications in a safe way and effective way.

    These consultations are $500 for corporates, Lisa has set this rate for two reasons, the first is it is important to act now and this amount will reduce the need for multiple sign-offs so we can get the support needed to be actioned now. The second is Lisa is herself a survivor of Domestic Family Violence including Financial Abuse, a Single Mum with two children to support and as a small business owner is feeling the financial effects of COVID-19 along with the rest of the world.

    With that said Lisa is more than happy to offer these consultations to SME’s and NFP’s at no cost as she does not want finances to inhibit the access to the information that could ultimately save lives.

    COVID-19 Domestic Family Violence Virtual Training

    Lisa has spent her time thinking about what companies and leaders really need to know. We need to pivot quickly from longterm planning and processes. We need to work together to get the information as soon as we can. 

    Listening to what clients are asking for Lisa has created a 90-minute Virtual Training for Leaders. Understanding the world inside an abusive home, the obstacles home isolation create and what you as an employer can do to support your people. 

    Home is the new Workplace – Virtual DFV Support Training for Leaders – 60 minutes

    Module 1

    Understanding the world inside an abusive home 

    • Types of Abuse – Quick Overview

    • Power and Control – behaviours that makeup DFV

    • Understanding the motivation of the perpetrator

    • Understanding the impact on the person being abused

    Module 2

    Home is the new Workplace 

    • Why abuse will increase

    • Why non-physical abuse is likely to escalate to physical abuse

    • Abuser is losing control over elements of their life
    • Isolation and lack of connection with their usual network

    Module 3

    What Can Leaders Do 

    • Things to consider

    • Spotting the signs from a distance

    • How to safely communicate 

    • Safety Planning

    • Know the support networks, helplines and options to support employees
    • Help leaders understand their limitations when supporting colleagues.

    • Developing your action plan

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