Employer Awareness: Why does football cause a rise in domestic violence incidences?

1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime.  When these statistics are compared to how many staff you employ, as an employer you can begin to understand the prevalence of the problem and how domestic abuse can impact on an employee, their colleagues and the business.  Domestic abuse victims will suffer 35 incidences before reporting, either to the police or another professional.  Many of these incidents will have prevented an employee from attending work on time or will have led to increased absences and possibly time off to attend medical appointments.

If we are to gain greater awareness of this issue, which in my opinion is  cultural problem, we need to understand why it happens, the root causes and why the incidents rise during certain times of the year and during trigger points within a relationship.  Through awareness, education and training, employers can better support their employees by ensuring the workplace is a safe, non-judgemental environment and encourage employees who may be at risk to seek help sooner.

One trigger point is during the World Cup 2018!  Police reports have shown there is an increase in reporting domestic abuse incidents during these times and the research carried out by Lancaster University, highlights the risks: http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/news/articles/2014/world-cup-football-is-a-risk-factor-for-domestic-violence/  You may have seen the emotive visual campaigns across social media: http://www.ncdv.org.uk/not-beautiful-game/ with the powerful statistics;  Domestic Violence and the World Cup are closely linked, with reported incidents increasing by 26% if England plays, 38% if England loses and 11% the next day, win or lose.  Do you have employees who are at risk?  How would you spot the signs? What could you do to support an employee?

I’d like to state for all you football fans out there – football is not the cause of domestic abuse incidents – the need to exert power and control over another is.  I am referring to perpetrators of abuse who use football matches as an excuse to carry out violence and abuse.  Perpetrators tend to stick together as they need this validation from each other. They encourage each other’s subversive attitudes and help to wind each other up, the alcohol contributes, which in turn encourages aggressive behaviour and they’ll feed off each other’s sexist and belittling attitudes and remarks.  So, by the time they are ready to head home, they have the validation of their ‘mates’, are tanked up on alcohol and ready for a fight – particularly if their team have lost.  “The ‘Mrs’ had it coming for a while anyway – she deserves it.”  These are the justifications that churn around inside a perpetrators head.

The World Cup is a great opportunity to raise awareness of this issue and to encourage positive role models within the football community – of which I believe Gareth Southgate is a fine example, with his dignity and composure throughout this tournament.  I am pleased to say that our own football team Bournemouth AFC has campaigned previously against domestic violence  https://www.poole.gov.uk/newsroom/safer-poole-and-afc-bournemouth-unite-against-domestic-violence/#.W0XmBtJKjIU  in support of the Women’s Aid Campaign https://www.womensaid.org.uk/what-we-do/football-united/

Together we need to continue to send out the message that violence, abuse and sexism is not acceptable and not to be tolerated, either on the football pitch, in the home or in the workplace.

For further information on workplace training on the Impact of Domestic Abuse, Stalking, Sexual Harassment in the Workplace follow the links to:

www.safespaceconsultancy.org

www.dorsetrapecrisis.org

How Coercive Control Can Impact in the Workplace

As an employer, how would you recognise if an employee is suffering a form of domestic abuse such as Coercive Control. The chances are you have had employees who have been experiencing this form of abuse and this has impacted them in the workplace but not been recognised, even by the employee themselves. In addition to this, some employees could be perpetrating coercive, controlling behaviour towards an intimate partner and using your workplace resources to carry out this abuse.

Many employees see their work place as a Safe Space and I am passionate about supporting businesses who care about their Corporate Social Responsibility to fully ensure this. What can your business do to send out a key message that violence and abuse will not be tolerated? For example, do you have a domestic abuse or stalking policy in place? How would you be able to support an employee?

What is Coercive Control?
It is behaviour that a perpetrator uses to control their intimate partner such as serious threats, manipulation, tracking movements, monitoring phones and other devices and isolation tactics. A more detailed definition is given on the Home Office website: https://bit.ly/2I8gQeo (page 3), along with the following quote, which sadly, is all too true;

“Not only is coercive control the most common context in which [women] are abused, it is also the most dangerous” Evan Stark (2007) Coercive Control. How Men Entrap Women in Personal Life. New York: Oxford University Press.

Controlling or coercive behaviour is identified as a form of violence against women and girls and is underpinned by wider societal gender inequality (Home Office website – link above, page 7).

However, Coercive Control can be perpetrated within any intimate relationship such as female towards male and in same sex relationships. This is portrayed very well in a recent collaboration organised by the High Sheriff of Dorset, Dorset Police and Bournemouth University Film students with their three highly emotive productions which can be viewed here: https://bit.ly/2pwjS0s #cutyourstrings

How is this relevant to the workplace?
Unfortunately, domestic abuse will follow a person into the workplace and impact on them, their work colleagues and ultimately the business. Coercive Control is now a criminal offence under the Serious Crime Act 2015, where two or more behaviours are identified. If similar behaviours (and/or using workplace resources) are carried out against a work colleague, these would be classed as bullying and/or harassment. Employers have a legal and moral duty towards their employees and need to be aware of the risks i.e. breach of policies such as:
• The Equality Act
• Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 & the Management of Health & Safety at Work
• Employment rights Act 1996
• Protection of Freedoms Act 2012

Having an awareness of all forms of domestic abuse can help reduce the risk of harm, not only to individuals but also to your business.

There are many ways Coercive Control can impact on an employee and in the workplace;
• Financial Abuse, lack of money for lunch, travel or work expenses
• Monitoring phones, emails, social media
• Limiting access to transport, travel to work
• Changes in behaviour/appearance
• Changing work patterns/shifts/routines
• Absent or off sick frequently
• Criminal damage to company car, laptops, phones, uniforms to prevent their partner from going to work or continuing to work

Unfortunately, this list just touches the surface and I’m sure as employers you will recognise some of these but maybe not identify it as Coercive Control. Are you aware of the barriers that may exist within your business which prevent employees from disclosing and seeking support? The risks are increased if the intimate relationship ends but the behaviour continues, which can then lead to Stalking https://bit.ly/2rdwVpf

A recent article in the Daily Echo https://bit.ly/2JPS2Vk states that more than six cases of stalking in Dorset are being reported each day, double the cases from 2015, therefore Coercive Control needs to be taken seriously by employers.

Further information can be found via www.safespaceconsultancy.org

The Year of The Women …and a few good men!

women's march 2018

2018 has arrived and with it the spotlight fully focussed on women, just as it was 100 years previously with votes for some women being won by the suffragettes resulting in the Representation of the People Act of 1918.  However, in 2018, we still have a way to go before we achieve equality, particularly in the workplace with issues such as equal pay and sexual harassment being the hot topics.

During my time working as the founder and creative director of The Butterfly Foundation, a local arts-based domestic abuse charity, we worked with many survivors of domestic abuse, women and men.  Through utilising the healing power of the creative arts, we supported women and men to empower themselves, to overcome the trauma of abuse, gain in confidence, self-worth and to have a voice.  It is my understanding that abuse is the same whoever is perpetrating it i.e. male to female, female to male or in same sex relationships and the impact of that abuse is felt the same whoever is the victim of the abuse.

I appreciate that the crimes of sexual harassment, stalking, domestic abuse are NOT equal i.e.

  • 53% of women and 20% of men had experienced sexual harassment in the workplace or at their place of study
  • 1 in 5 women and 1 in 10 men will experience stalking in their lifetime
  • 84% of all reported domestic abuse crime is men perpetrating abuse against women

and that domestic abuse particularly is recognised as a gender crime and rightly so.

I always found it interesting that because we also supported men within the charity, there were some women that didn’t agree with this (not necessarily women we supported within the charity).  I also found it interesting that when discussing the charity there was an assumption it was a woman only group.  I came across attitudes from some men (perpetrators) that ridiculed all-women groups, that because it was women, it was acceptable to put it down, de-value it, thereby extending the perpetrator attitude, not just towards a female but directing it towards an assumed all-female group.

I have attended many anti-violence protests in my time, anti-war protests and attended rallies and marches that are all-female, protesting against violence against women and girls.  However, I have concluded that women’s groups, campaigns and marches can benefit and be stronger with a few good men adding their support and voices to the cause also, just as a few good men influenced and supported the suffragette movement.  In fact, I think its necessary as women-only groups, campaigns, marches can become an easy target for perpetrator men who want to criticise, ridicule and undermine the rights of women.

There are some concerns around this as it is known that perpetrators will infiltrate campaigns, conferences and marches in an attempt to either undermine or hide behind them such as the recent publicity with the actor James Franco and the Time’s Up campaign.

However, with a few good men standing up and adding their voices in support of women, the message that is sent out to society is stronger and can weaken the destructive purpose of the perpetrator.  Perpetrators of violence and abuse are basically cowards, they rely on each other colluding with their negative attitudes and behaviour.  They will soon beat a hasty retreat once a few good men stand up and point the finger at them, in support of the women who may be their mother, daughter, sister, friend, work colleague.

In today’s social climate with the increasing acceptance and freedom to inhabit sexual identity and gender, it is even more important, I believe, to stand up together against violence and abuse, to join voices and shout out that violence, abuse, harassment and inequality is not to be tolerated, either at home, in the street or in the workplace.  The evidence of this is happening all over the world as hundreds of thousands of people have been galvanised into action through attending the women’s marches: London 21 January 2018 Women’s March for Gender Equality.

For further info please follow link to: Safe Space Consultancy

Why workplaces are high-risk for victims of stalking

We need a culture change in our attitude to stalking if we are going to stop these devastating crimes from happening.  How can we bring this about? We need to raise awareness about stalking and work together to reduce the risk of people getting harmed.

To date, stalking has not been taken seriously enough and a new report published on 5 July 2017 by HMIC Police and the CPS argues lessons need to be learnt about the impact of stalking on victims.
http://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmic/publications/living-in-fear-the-police-and-cps-response-to-harassment-and-stalking/
The report also said not enough is understood or being done to protect victims and prevent perpetrators of stalking carrying out their harmful crimes. Stalking impacts the workplace in the following ways:

• 1 in 5 women and 1 in 10 men will experience stalking in their lifetime
• 79% of perpetrators will use workplace resources to target their victim
• 50% of stalking victims have curtailed or stopped work due to stalking
• 53% of employed women missing at least three days of work per month due to domestic abuse or stalking
• Domestic abuse and stalking costs UK businesses more than £2.3bn per year
The workplace is identified as a high-risk environment for victims of stalking. The evidence for this is supported by high profile cases such as

• Dr. Ellie Aston – stalked by a patient
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-37796771/stalking-victim-when-he-s-not-in-prison-i-m-a-wreck
• Shana Grice – met her stalker at work and was killed in her home
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/03/08/mechanic-killed-teenage-ex-bedroom-set-fire-police-warned-stop/
• Hollie Gazzard – stalked by an ex-partner and killed at work in a beauty salon
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-gloucestershire-28327025

This won’t ever happen to us, we confidently say. Unfortunately, it can and has life-changing, devastating effects when it does. Stalking can happen to anyone, it can affect women and men of all ages and backgrounds, but it’s more likely to be targeted towards females.
Unhelpful attitudes that need to change…

“Oh you have an admirer, aren’t you the lucky one!”

“Hopefully it will fizzle out.” A police officer’s response after a victim has reported stalking offences to the police for 7 years!

A perpetrator of domestic abuse who uses coercive control is more likely to stalk. This behaviour is often triggered when a relationship ends. A stalker does not respect another person’s boundaries – the workplace will not deter them.

If a person finally finds the courage and means to end a relationship that is when the stalker is at their most dangerous and the victim is most vulnerable. The victim may need to close all their social media accounts, move house, leave their job and leave the area entirely. Stalkers will also target their victims’ friends, family and work colleagues.

KEY QUESTIONS FOR EMPLOYERS
As an employer, what do you have in place to address this? How would you respond if an employee came to you and says, “I have a problem with this person, I don’t know what to do.” When you consider a victim will suffer 100 incidences of stalking before they finally report it, what they really want to say is, “Help me! I’m terrified!” You could ring the Police, but as their report has identified, they need training on this subject too so you may not get the response you expected.

Employers have a duty of care towards their employees and staff and need to be fully aware of the nature and impact of domestic abuse and stalking, on an individual and the business. What you can do as an employer is
• Believe them!
• Don’t judge
• Have compassion
• Report it immediately
• Keep evidence and a diary of incidences

Having a clear understanding of the issue means you can spot the signs of an employee suffering domestic abuse and/or stalking before it gets to crisis point. Thereby reducing the risk of harm to a valued employee and to your business.

To find out more attend our Wellbeing in the workplace training event by following this link – https://well-being-in-the-workplace-for-employers.eventbrite.co.uk

For further information and how to access CPD Accredited Training on The Impact of Domestic Abuse and Stalking in the Workplace, please follow link to:
https://www.safespaceconsultancy.org

Refs:

Paladin National Stalking Advocacy Services Raising The Bar: Best Practices on Stalking Cases Conference 2017.
Exploring the relationship between stalking and homicide, J. Monckton-Smith, K. Szymanska and S. Haile, University of Gloucestershire, Suzy Lamplugh Trust, 2017.