I write this article on a subject close to my heart, and as a complement to this public awareness raising video on domestic violence during COVID done in collaboration with Mtavari Channel, a UN Women Georgia partner. Mtavari Channel is the only and the first channel in the Caucasus Region to become a signatory company of the UN Women’s Women’s Empowerment Principles.
Please note: This is not legal advice. This article is purely a public resource of general information (not promised or guaranteed to be correct, complete or up to date). Do not rely on information at this site or others in place of the advice of competent legal counsel or professional advisors, in particular to understand the legal obligations of your jurisdiction.
I write to you today from my home in Montreal, Canada where, like many of you, I am in lock down. I have the privilege of being safe in my home, many women are not right now.
Did you know: as a result of lock downs, domestic violence has increased by upwards of 40% in some countries.1 Globally, even before the COVID-19 pandemic began, 1 in 3 women-identified people experienced physical or sexual violence mostly by an intimate partner.2
Many survivors are now struggling to protect their children’s safety, while isolated at home with an abusive partner, while still trying to meet professional obligations.3
This is a major threat to advancement in gender equality in the workplace.
What can you do, in your workplaces?
Here are tips for you to act today.
1) First, recognize your obligations. As employers you have a “duty of care” to your employees working remotely from home to support those who may be affected by violence, including domestic violence.4
In Georgia and Turkey, UN Women have advocated for companies to support their personnel, including survivors of domestic violence.
2) Recognize the signs.
If you are an employer, stay alert for signs of domestic violence, for example, someone is being distant, withdrawn and does not fully participate in calls or online meetings
or called away/interrupted by a partner when on the phone or online meeting.
3) Develop a policy and ensure that domestic violence is included. Ensure all intimate relationships are included, not only marriages or opposite-sex relationships.5 And remember that violence is not just physical, it can be emotional psychological, sexual and financial.
4) Create a safety plan and communication strategy. Adapt workplace security measures to the at-home context where possible.
Communicate regularly with employees to reduce isolation.
Provide employees with guidance on what to expect if they disclose violence and reassure them that they will receive employer support and job security.6
5) Raise awareness with your employees, about workplace violence, including domestic violence. Work toward eliminating the stigma associated with domestic violence by talking about it so that employees feel comfortable about coming forward.7
6) Build the capacity of your leaders to deal with situations of domestic violence in the physical or teleworking workplace.
7) Share information and resources in your workplace related to domestic violence, such as leaves of absence. If you have an employee assistance program, do you have practitioners that have experience with domestic and gender-based violence?
Provide external information and resources and make employees aware of services and resources, such as shelters, transition houses, crisis lines, and legal clinics.8
8) Create a culture that believes and supports survivors and avoids victim-blaming. This can be critical whether someone turns to their employer for support. Survivors often do not disclose to their employers as they believe that domestic violence is a personal issue and feel shame. Domestic violence is not just personal, it is a social issue.9
What are you doing to make work at home safe? Do you have additional ideas? What works for you from this list?
These tips are not exhaustive and we need to generate new knowledge and awareness. I want to credit the sources cited and the resources below who are already doing important work in this area, and were a source of inspiration for this video and article, including Sherna Benjamin Alexander and the team at the Centre for Building Resilient Communities.
I will leave you with a final quote: “victims and survivors should know for certain that when they speak up, they are heard, believed…”10
Support your employees, believe them, be the change in our world, today.
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 911 or your local emergency services (police, fire, ambulance).
Here are resources to support survivors of domestic violence:
- Canadian Women’s Foundation Resource List
- Canadian Mental Health Association: Crisis line: 1-833-456-4566 (Québec: 1-866-277-3553), or visit www.crisisservicescanada.ca/
- Western University Centre for Research & Education on Violence against Women & Children
- Prevent and Respond: An Intimate Partner Violence Toolkit for Employers: The Centre for Building Resilient Communities (being updated)
- GBV Help Map
- The Virtual Knowledge Centre to End Violence against Women and Girls
- Women’s Empowerment Principles: Workplace-Related Domestic Violence Template
- Sahaas: a Feminist and Peace-Oriented Tech Tool to Support Survivors of Gender-based Violence across 196 Countries