Domestic Violence and Abuse

Do you need help during lockdown?

Lockdown measures introduced to tackle coronavirus (COVID-19) have drastically altered people’s day-to-day life. We know from the national experience there has been an increase in incidents of domestic abuse, and the workplace may be the only safe space for those at risk.

To support colleagues in this situation and to offer some respite away from home for part of the working week, office space is available. Staff who wish to use this space should speak to their line manager, or an HR Adviser, in the first instance.

In response to coronavirus/COVID19 Women’s Aid have developed some safety advice for those who feel unsafe being isolated in the house with their perpetrator.

For anyone who feels they are at risk of abuse, help and support remains available during lockdown. #YouAreNotAlone

Helplines

If you want to access support you can contact:

National Domestic Abuse Helpline, run by Refuge

0808 2000 247 or use their webform www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk/
The Men’s Advice Line, for male domestic abuse survivors, run by Respect 0808 801 0327 https://mensadviceline.org.uk/
The Mix, free information and support for under 25s in the UK 0808 808 4994 https://www.themix.org.uk/
National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Helpline, run by Galop 0800 999 5428 http://www.galop.org.uk/how-we-can-help/
Samaritans (24/7 service) 116 123 https://www.samaritans.org/
NSPCC/Childline 0808 800 5000 https://www.nspcc.org.uk/what-is-child-abuse/types-of-abuse/domestic-abuse/
Women’s Aid – Support for Women & Children https://www.womensaid.org.uk/information-support/useful-links/

If you need help in an emergency, but can't speak, the Silent Solution enables a 999 mobile caller to press 55 when prompted to inform police they are in a genuine emergency. See how it works here.

Domestic abuse is unacceptable in any situation, no matter what stresses people are under.

Advice is also available to help perpetrators change their behaviour and those who are concerned about their use of violence and abuse can contact the Respect Phoneline on 0808 8024040.


South Yorkshire Police domestic violence poster showing a woman

Escaping domestic violence whilst coronavirus restrictions are in place

Those people needing to leave the home to escape domestic violence are not prevented from doing so in the event of any local or national lockdown.

Lockdown measures or other restrictions do not prevent those needing to seek medical attention from doing so and help is still available through health services and hospitals.

Those women, men and children travelling to refuge accommodation can apply for free train travel through a partnership between train companies and Women’s Aid. Tickets are accessed through Women’s Aid Federation of England and through Imkaan which addresses violence against black and minoritised women and girls, and can be obtained from a local domestic violence service.

Safe Space

The Safe Spaces programme provides safe spaces in Boots pharmacies, Superdrug pharmacies, Morrison’s pharmacies and independent pharmacies across the country for those affected by domestic abuse to access specialist support. 

Protecting Vulnerable People

Dealing with domestic violence remains a police priority and South Yorkshire Police have their own campaign which encourages reporting to be made over the phone or through their dedicated portal.

Technology Mediated Violence and Abuse

Technological devices can be used to facilitate abuse with abusers misusing technology in order to monitor, harass, impersonate, or stalk victims. This is becoming an increasingly prevalent form of abuse which the victim may not be immediately aware of.

Refuge have produced some information that explains more about tech abuse, including guidance on how those at risk can secure their technology.

University Support For Those Enduring Abuse
  • Office space available on campus for wellbeing and respite away from home working - speak to your line manager to book a space
  • 24 Hour Staff Helpline: You can contact the University's Staff Helpline and Counselling Service on 0800 028 1947. The service is free, independent, confidential and available 24 hours a day.
  • Talk to a friend, colleague or family member: Talking things through with someone you trust can sometimes help.
  • Trade Unions: The University recognises four campus trade unions. UNISON UNITE, GMB and UCU. Staff who are members can contact them for support and advice.
  • There is further support and advice on Domestic Abuse available here.
  • Report through Report+Support.

image of colourful speech bubbles and 'Domestic/Relationship Violence'

  • Campus Security should be alerted to incidents on campus. Police Officers who work at the University will attend.
Other Specialist Support, Tools and Guidance For Those Enduring Abuse

South Yorkshire Police poster of male domestic violence facts

Other national and local contacts can be found here, noting some may be operating a more limited service during lockdown.

The government have also produced guidance about how to get help.

Digital Tools

Hestia provides a free-to-download mobile app, Bright Sky, which provides support and information to anyone who may be in an abusive relationship or those concerned about someone they know. Please visit the Bright Sky webpage here.

Guidance for Managers

South Yorkshire Police poster lgbt domestic violence facts

Anyone can be a victim of domestic violence and abuse, regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, socio-economic status, sexuality or background.

There are different kinds of abuse that can happen in different contexts. The most prevalent type of domestic abuse occurs in intimate relationships. But the definition of domestic abuse also covers abuse between family members, such as adolescents to parents, parents to children or between siblings.

Domestic violence and abuse includes physical and sexual violence, verbal abuse, coercion and threats and financial control between intimate partners and family members. Those conducting abuse may also use the measures such as social distancing and isolation as a tool of coercive and controlling behaviour and/or use the virus-specific misinformation and scare tactics as a form of control or to stop someone seeking help or medical attention.

Modern technology gives abusers ever-growing ways to control, isolate, humiliate and dominate their victims using the tools of everyday life. It can involve threats, stalking, online harassment, cyber bullying and image based abuse such as revenge pornography.

Pregnancy can also be a trigger for domestic abuse and existing abuse may worsen during pregnancy or after giving birth. Pregnant women are currently more vulnerable as they may be choosing to shield in the home to prevent coming into contact with the coronavirus.

Lockdown has been shown to be a dangerous situation for those experiencing domestic violence. There are also risks as lockdowns ease and victims make attempts to leave. These circumstances may lead to staff making disclosures and seeking support.


As many members of staff will no longer be seen every day by their colleagues, it is crucial that line managers stay in regular contact with their team members. However, it is important to remember any channels of communication may not be confidential and those at risk of abuse may be being monitored.

Help support staff wellbeing by sensitively asking how they feel about the changes to their working environment and whether there is any support which could be put in place to make this easier for them.

If staff have already told you they are vulnerable to domestic violence ask them to think about their own existing support systems, such as friends, family or neighbours and how these could be strengthened during this time. You may want to help them develop their own bespoke support plan. There is guidance on creating one here: safety planning.

Victims and survivors may want to discuss and review any existing support plans they have agreed with you, in light of their new working/living arrangements.

Learn to recognise signs of domestic violence and abuse

Some of the signs you might see in the workplace include:

  • Increased absence/sickness
  • Not taking annual leave/toil, working late frequently/unexplained.
  • Spending more time at work
  • Obsession with leaving work on time
  • Bruising or injuries
  • Frequent visits to workplace from partner/family member which may indicate coercive control.
  • Wearing unusual clothing not suitable for weather i.e. big jumpers on a hot day.
  • Change in behaviour i.e. anxious, frightened, aggressive, depressed.
  • Weight loss/gain
  • Lack of or poor concentration
  • Hyper-vigilant
  • Increased frequency of phone calls
  • Secretive regarding home life
  • Impact on performance
  • Never attending social events with colleagues

Other warning signs when someone is working from home

Signs of domestic abuse which may have been spotted by work colleagues will no longer be as obvious as staff work from home, so aim to have sufficient time during video calls to check in with people. This will also help employees to stay connected to their workplace and their peer group, reducing isolation.

There could be visible injuries or other signs of someone using physical violence and intimidation, such as broken objects or damage to the home, but domestic abuse is so much more than physical abuse. Other things to look out for might include:

  • Changes in behaviour, acting in a way that is unusual or out of character for them
  • Withdrawing from previous sources of support e.g. team chat threads or catch-ups
  • Wariness or anxiety about their partner or a family member coming into the room whilst you are speaking with them
  • Always or often turning camera off during meetings
  • Partner always or often being visible in meetings
  • Reluctance to talk about their home situation or avoiding answering questions about it
  • Signs of tension, audible conflict in the home, shouting at children or others

None of these things specifically indicate that your staff member is experiencing domestic abuse but they do suggest that they are struggling with something and may require help with that issue, so it is important that you explore the situation with them and identify appropriate support. The issue of domestic violence and abuse should only be raised if a manager is aware it is safe to do so, e.g. perpetrators may be in the periphery of telephone/video calls and may be monitoring written communication.


If a colleague approaches you for advice:

BELIEVE – RESPOND - REFER
Hear a trained Independent Domestic Violence Advisor from Everyone’s Business Advice Line explain how you can help by following these 3 key messages. Watch the webinar recording here.

You may be the first person your colleague has confided in and raising this issue will have taken a great deal of courage. The response they receive from you may be a crucial factor as to whether they seek further help.

Confirm the complete confidentiality of the disclosure unless the individual wishes you to share with other University colleagues, e.g. an HR Adviser, for the purpose of providing further support. Exceptions to that are if you believe there is an imminent threat to life or harm of children. At that point you should contact the police and follow their advice on next steps. If you believe there is any threat to the University or other University staff you should contact Campus Security and your customary HR Adviser.

The advice shown below, from the National Domestic Abuse Covid-19 Campaign, sets out how you can support your colleague. If they contact you whilst they are working from home, make sure any further conversations take place when it is safe to do so as perpetrators may be present in the home and be monitoring the conversation.

How to support a colleague or employee suffering from domestic abuse

Having an awareness of the help available during the coronavirus outbreak will also help you to signpost your colleague to appropriate support. You can also direct them to the University sources of support, the staff helpline, or ask if there are other colleagues they would like to speak to, e.g. an HR Adviser. If your colleague is working from home, please discuss whether they wish to make use of the bookable office space which may offer a safe area of respite.

You should ask for formal consent from your colleague if they ask you to contact a support agency on their behalf. However if you believe they are in immediate danger you should call 999.


Examples of Practical Workplace Support:

This list provides examples of the type of support a manager may be able to consider. It’s important the employee agrees to any actions before they are put in place.

  • Agree with the employee whether and if so what to tell colleagues and how they should respond if the abusive partner/ ex-partner telephones or visits the workplace
  • Where possible, accommodate a change work patterns or workload or more flexible working to facilitate any practical arrangements
  • Make use of bookable office space to provide respite for those working from home. Discuss with the individual whether they need a letter / email which shows they are required to work on campus to carry out work that can’t be done remotely.
  • Agree annual leave, sometimes at short notice, for individuals to facilitate any practical arrangements. Examples include: attending court; attending mediation; meeting or calling a solicitor; viewing properties; meeting teachers at school; talking to their bank or getting advice from domestic violence organisations
  • Where possible, accommodate flexible working hours to enable individuals (or their children) to attend health appointments resulting from the abuse, such as seeing a counsellor. This may be needed for some time after the abuse has stopped
  • If the abuser has an employees’ work email and telephone details, consider diverting their phone calls and emails to help shield them from their abuser
  • Notify reception and security staff if the abuser is known to come to the workplace.
  • Provide a copy of any existing orders against the abuser and a photograph of the abuser to reception and security staff
  • Check that staff have arrangements for getting safely to and from home
  • Review content of personal information, such as temporary or new addresses or bank details etc.
  • Ask individuals to supply you with an up to date emergency contact number for a trusted friend or family
  • Where practical, consider offering a temporary or permanent change of workplace, working times/ patterns
  • Where practical, offer changes in specific duties, such as not expecting the employee to answer telephones or sit on reception
  • Where possible, move the employee out of public view, ensuring that they are not visible from reception points or ground floor windows
  • Can steps be taken so that the employee does not work alone or in an isolated area
  • Keep a record of any incidents of abuse in the workplace, including persistent telephone calls, emails or visits to the employee
  • If possible, change the work location or work schedule so these are unknown to the perpetrator
  • Provide a space to meet with an IDVA or Lawyer
  • Signpost to affordable borrowing through ‘The Deal’
  • Signpost to staff helpline and counselling

Care should be taken where the perpetrator also works at the University. In this case please speak to your customary HR Adviser.

Support for Managers

Everyone’s Business Advice Line

If you need further advice on how to effectively respond to disclosures of domestic abuse you can call:

  • EVERYONE’S BUSINESS ADVICE LINE (Open Mon – Fri 10am – 3pm)
  • Call 07770480437 or 0203 8793695
  • Email Adviceline.EB@hestia.org
  • For more information about the Everyone's Business Advice Line, please click here.

The Everyone's Business Advice Line is run by trained and qualified Independent Domestic Violence Advisors (IDVAs) who will respond to calls with respect and confidentiality. You can contact the advice line with any questions, concerns or queries regarding domestic abuse including how to support members of staff enduring, witnessing or perpetrating domestic abuse. Your customary HR Adviser can advise on the actions and support that can be taken within the University workplace.

Staff Helpline

Knowing, or suspecting, a colleague is experiencing abuse can be difficult. Remember you can also seek your own support from the staff helpline.

Other Guidance

A national awareness campaign by crisis charity Hestia using #ListeningFromHome; this aims to encourage family members, friends, colleagues and neighbours to be aware of, and report signs of domestic abuse.

Safe Lives has also produced some guidance on how to support colleagues experiencing domestic abuse.

Tools

Information can also be found through the Bright Sky app which is available to download from the app store or google play.

Online Learning

Dr Parveen Ali from the Health Sciences School, along with the University’s Digital Learning Team have designed a Future Learn course Supporting Victims of Domestic Violence to help those in professional support roles identify the signs of domestic abuse and guide those at risk through the network of help that is available. Although designed to support health and social care workers, the course is open to anyone who may come into contact with a vulnerable person or victim of domestic abuse. By the end of this free short course you should feel more confident to help support domestic violence victims and survivors.