There’s no doubt about it – domestic and family violence (DFV) is a complex and sensitive topic and needs to be managed carefully by people who truly understand the topic. This is why:
1. DFV can be all encompassing – not only can it impact a person’s sense of physical safety, it can impact their confidence and sense of self-worth through mental and emotional abuse, which may impact their outputs at work and other areas of their lives. The abuse may also extend to financial elements of their lives, they may become socially isolated and it can even impact their relationships with their family. Therefore a holistic approach is needed to support those who are going through or have been through DFV to ensure they are supported to overcome all elements of the abuse.
2. The stigma – despite the great work undertaken by the Government, community organisations and the media in recent years, the stigma of DFV still remains. People feel embarrassed and ashamed to come out and explain what has happened as they fear judgement and social exclusion. This is often even worse in the workplace where people are more likely to have formal relationships and interactions that don’t lend themselves to open conversations about personal matters. Understanding the stigma and discomfort around these conversations is a key ingredient to helping a victim of DFV.
3. Self-blame – it is common that victims of DFV will point the finger inward and blame themselves for the abuse they have received. They need to be supported without judgement to realise they are not in the wrong, move forward and rebuild their lives.
4. Charismatic and manipulative perpetrators – narcissism is a common trait of a DFV perpetrator. I have had first hand encounters where they have charmed social workers and therapists to believe they have done nothing wrong and that the fault lies with the victim. This is a highly destructive dynamic that prevents the victim from receiving the help and support they need. A support person who doesn’t understand this trait and gets drawn in by the charm of the perpetrator may do more harm than good.
5. Navigating the system is tricky – the world of DFV support is complex. When you combine family and DFV law, community support organisations, government services and private DFV specialists, it becomes overwhelming and victims struggle to know where to begin to find the help they need. A specialist support service will know where to guide victims of DFV and the logical steps to take to get safe, be protected legally and move forward with their lives.
6. Striking a balance between emotional and practical support – victims of DFV are likely to need the psychological support and coaching to enable them to recognise what has happened, process it in a safe environment and develop the resolve to move forward with their lives. They may also need an array of practical support including housing, financial, childcare, employment and social connection. This requires an all-rounded approach to helping them get back on their feet.
7. Understanding the complexity of maintaining employment – maintaining a job whilst going through DFV is not easy. Whilst work can often provide a safe haven from the troubles occurring at home, it can also be challenging to hold everything together when going home each night to a domestic war-zone. Victims are likely to be stressed, embarrassed, desperate to keep their situation private from colleagues and under extra pressure to retain their job and income. True empathy and compassion is needed to help a victim to maintain employment whilst managing their situation and/or recovery.
8. The risks when separation occurs – the statistics show that when a person leaves a DFV situation, they are a heightened risk of physical injury or death. It is important that the right measures are in place to provide extra protection during this vulnerable time to mitigate the risk of injury and enable them to leave the situation safely and start their new life away from the shadow of violence.
9. Leaving the situation is just the beginning of the recovery – when a person leaves a DFV situation, things may fall apart. There is no longer the pressure to hold everything together and there is also time to reflect on everything that has occurred. Support services need to be on hand to provide care during this period to enable the victim to lay the right foundations and transition positively to their new life.
It is essential that support services in the field of domestic and family violence understand the intricacies above to provide appropriate, positive, safe and holistic guidance and resources.
Workhaven was founded by senior professionals with lived experience of DFV who truly understand the dynamics, risks and complexities of this difficult situation. The Workhaven tools have been developed by leading psychologists, human resources experts and communications professionals to ensure they are relevant, usable and appropriate to enable the best possible results for victims of DFV and organisations who seek to engender a positive culture.