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How managers and leaders can help prevent domestic violence and abuse

When we live in safety and security, it’s easy to take things for granted. Much like an old mobile phone might simply sit inside an unopened drawer unnoticed. We may also fail to appreciate simple pleasures like a safe home and workplace. However, for the 2.2 million Australians and more than 100,000 victims of family violence in New Zealand, domestic abuse safety is not something to take for granted.

That’s why Janine Fulton MIML believes managers and leaders should play a significant role in reducing and preventing the incidence of domestic violence, bullying and harassment in the workplace and beyond. And she believes it all starts with proper training. “Often with domestic violence, it’s very difficult to see the signs. So, managers need to be given the right tools and training, and companies must have the right frameworks in place to identify, manage and support employees who may be experiencing harm”, she says.

Fulton’s passion for this cause is rock solid. When she isn’t running Domestic Violence Business Solutions, a consultancy firm that assists organisations in dealing with domestic violence, she is volunteering with DV Safe Phone. This volunteer organisation helps victims of domestic violence by providing them with old mobile phones – donated by the public and corporate social responsibility programs – to ensure they can reach out to people if they are in danger.

Fulton’s company exists because she believes that the business case for having a workplace devoid of abuse yields excellent benefits. “When companies have successful domestic violence strategies, the business risks that accompany incidents of abuse are mitigated. People feel safer, they feel happier, and they know that they are valued and respected. As a result, employee retention will remain high, turnover costs low, and the frequency of absenteeism or presenteeism is reduced. It helps companies become employers of choice and builds up brand reputation. So, the business case is “solid”, she says.

While sadly the issue of domestic violence is not new, recent changes brought on by the global pandemic have worsened the challenges. With the home now also becoming the workplace for many, Fulton is concerned that violence, harassment, and abuse will become even more difficult for a manager to detect and prevent without specialist support.

Janine Fulton MIML

So, how can managers and leaders ensure they are making every effort to prevent domestic violence in their workplace?

Here are three ways:

Lead from the top

Fulton believes that for any initiative related to reducing domestic violence incidence to succeed, senior leaders need to make it very clear that this is a priority for the organisation. She recommends establishing a purpose or ‘intent statement’ in addition to policies. This will help convey to the entire organisation how you plan to respond to any incidents of harassment, abuse and even cases of domestic violence among employees.

Establish systems and processes

According to Fulton, helping employees who are experiencing abuse can come down to clear systems. Managers must make sure that their employees know what type of support is available to them and how they can access these.

Train managers

The most significant gap in reducing domestic violence incidence can be found in managers and leaders not having adequate training on how to handle these situations. Fulton’s experience has shown her that a crucial step in prevention is missed when managers of victims can’t identify the signs that their team member is experiencing physical and/or psychological harm and know how to help. So she recommends thorough and appropriate training be provided to all managers so they can assist if needed.

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