Having experienced the juggle of holding down a career whilst experiencing domestic violence (DV), I can wholeheartedly say that it is a very difficult, if not impossible situation to navigate through.
I was a Marketing Director in the construction industry when I was going through DV. My job was very demanding – I worked long hours, managed a big team and faced an array of daily challenges. On the flip side, I earned a good income and enjoyed the privileges of an executive position.
When my home situation came to a head and I decided to leave, I informed my employer of my personal circumstance. I would like to report a supportive and empathetic response, but sadly the company had no policies or mechanisms in place and they made it clear it was my problem and it shouldn’t impact my work. Their expectations were both disappointing and impossible.
Soon after I left my marriage and the DV, everything hit home. I realised the gravity of the situation and I knew I couldn’t rebuild whilst working for a company that failed to understand the dynamics and challenges I was facing. And so I resigned and walked away. In doing so, my employer lost 20 years of experience and a wealth of intellectual property.
I found a part time marketing role that paid a third of my previous salary, rented out spare rooms to students and bought my groceries from a supermarket that was run by the local church. It was a very tough time, and one that could have been avoided if my employer had been more supportive.
After about six months, I decided to return to a more challenging role, and I gained a position that was slightly more senior. A year later, after much healing, reflection and and a huge leap of faith, I found myself back at the board table in a leadership role.
I lost a year and a half of a decent salary, numerous career opportunities and, worst of all, my confidence. I can honestly say that the attitude from my employer was almost as damaging as the DV itself. And their lack of support could have derailed my plans to leave, which would have left me exposed to the ongoing risks of a dangerous home situation.
When I look back now, I think about how things could have been if my workplace had been supportive – it would have made such a positive difference, and given me a much-needed safe haven. Having a safe workplace would have made it easier to leave my DV situation, as I would have been supported throughout my transition and beyond. And my employer would have benefited by retaining my experience and expertise, and reduced disruption to the business.
A range of simple measures can be implemented by organisations to create awareness and understanding of DV throughout their workforce and to support victims to become survivors, through both HR policies, employee awareness and practical support. For more information about these measures or to find out how your organisation can support someone who is experiencing DV, please visit workhaven.com.au