In the UK alone more than 2 million people experienced domestic abuse in the last year. Domestic abuse can happen to anyone. It happens in all types of relationship, regardless of race, ethnic or religious group, class, disability, sexuality, lifestyle, nationality or age.
Over the past few weeks there has been a lot of interest in the media about the impact on victims and survivors forced into lockdown with abusers, unable to access the help and support they need.
Our message throughout this time has been clear, we are here, and we can help. We have continued to respond to calls, to make arrests and have been working closely with partners to make sure that all those that need it can access help and support regardless of the restrictions.
We have also been supporting the national #YouAreNotAlone campaign, aimed at reassuring victims and survivors that help is available.
We do know however, that even in more normal times, it can take victims months or even years to come forward and ask for help.
The reasons for this are complex and vary from person to person but can be driven by embarrassment, fear and control by their abuser. This, coupled with the restrictions currently in place due to lockdown, means that many victims will be feeling even more isolated and scared.
We all have a role to play in destigmatising domestic abuse and creating an environment where it can be discussed openly and honestly. And as employers we play a particularly crucial role in that. Whether our employees are working remotely, or are beginning to return to the workplace we are a key and constant point of contact at a time when contact with friends and family may be limited.
At Avon & Somerset Police, we want our staff to have trust and confidence that if they speak to their managers that they will be supported and listened to, and supported in the way that feels right for them at the time.
Whilst we would always encourage victims to report abuse to the police we do recognise that for some the time may not be right, and in these circumstances would always make sure that they are directed to one of the many organisations that provide support and help.
We also have a counselling and employee assistance programme, which provides support to employees dealing with any personal or professional problems online or via the phone.
As employers, the onus is on us to recognise and acknowledge the issue, and address our response to it, by making sure that both policy and procedure and the culture we foster in our workplaces supports victims. Finally, we must arm ourselves with the appropriate information to refer our employees to the right kind of support.
If you would like further help, Business in the Community and Public Health England has just published a useful toolkit for employers providing guidance on how to raise awareness of the issue within your organisation and advice on how best to support employees. You can download it here: (LINK)
For more advice and details of support organisations please visit: www.thisisnotanexcuse.org