Here's what you can do to help support union members and co-workers affected by domestic abuse during the coronavirus lockdown.

Lockdowns around the world are resulting in an increase in domestic abuse.

Measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus mean that many people are now isolated at home with a perpetrator.

Support agencies have reported a huge rise in people seeking help. In the UK, the National Domestic Abuse helpline has reported a 25% increase in calls since the beginning of the lockdown, and a 150% increase in visits to their website.

Looking for help? Skip to our list of support services

What is domestic abuse?

Domestic abuse can affect anyone and can take many forms. Welsh Women’s Aid defines domestic abuse as: “the exercise of control by one person over another within an intimate or close family relationship; the abuse can be sexual, physical, financial, emotional or psychological.”

It can affect anyone, but the gender of the victim and of the perpetrator influences the risk, severity and harm caused. Around 1 in 3 women experience domestic abuse during their lifetimes.

Domestic abuse is a workplace issue

The signs can be subtle, especially as people often try to keep it hidden. But there may be a change in someone’s behaviour and an impact on things like work performance and productivity.

The workplace is often a place of sanctuary for people experiencing abuse. Without being able to go into work, and unable to meet up with friends and wider family due to social distancing measures, it is even more difficult for people to get support. Many workers may be feeling in increased danger at home.

It is important that during this time, employers are doing all that they can to support workers who may be affected by this issue. Particularly those more isolated than normal due to working from home.

Line managers, co-workers and trade union reps might now be someone’s most regular contact outside the home. They can help by spotting the signs and providing support.

What you can do if you are worried a co-worker or friend is experiencing domestic abuse:

1. Spot abuse: If you think someone’s behaviour is unusual, it is better to ask than to assume. Consider the use of closed questions (questions to which they can answer “yes” or “no”) in case someone else may be listening.

2. Remember: domestic abuse isn’t always physical. It’s a pattern of controlling and intimidating behaviour that can be emotional, economic, psychological or sexual. It can happen in same-sex and heterosexual relationships.

3. Support: The most important thing you can do is listen and believe. Keep in touch. This could be through regular video or phone calls, or if it is safer via emails or text messages. Be careful and sensitive. Keep checking in with them, even if they don’t want to seek help yet.

4. Stop abuse: Encourage them to call the Live Fear Free helpline 0808 80 10 800. The Live Fear Free Helpline can provide support to anyone affected by domestic abuse or sexual violence. They can also provide advice to those concerned about a colleague, friend or family member. Their helpline is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

They can also provide advice and support by:

They have trained advisors who can help people make a plan to find safety. People experiencing domestic abuse are allowed to leave their home to seek help during lockdown.

If serious domestic abuse is disclosed, you should encourage them to call 101, or 999 if the situation is critical. If someone is in danger and needs help immediately, they can make a ‘silent’ call to the emergency services. They can dial 999 and press ‘55’ when the operator answers to indicate that they need help but can’t talk.

  • The Bright Sky mobile app is free to download, provides support and information to employers and anyone who may be experiencing domestic abuse.

  • Respect charity provides confidential advice to perpetrators of violence to help them choose to stop. Call 0808 802 4040 or visit their website.

  • Welsh Women’s Aid has practical advice and information on seeking support.

 

5. Ending domestic abuse: If you know or suspect someone is at risk of perpetrating domestic abuse, you should encourage them to stop. Respect phone line helps perpetrators of violence and abuse to end their behaviour. Their message is: “When the world is unsafe, do not make home unsafe. Get help to manage your behaviour.”

We all have a role to play in stopping domestic abuse.

Domestic abuse and coronavirus - new guide for reps

These are extraordinary times. The isolation measures in response to COVID-19 mean many more people are working from home. We're asking employers and reps to take practical action to help protect and support people they know or fear are experiencing domestic abuse.

You can't replace specialist services, but this guide will help you develop the awareness and skills to give the best support and advice you can to someone who may be in danger.

Read our interactive guide on domestic violence for reps


Wales TUC General Secretary Shavanah Taj has joined with WEN Wales and other women’s organisations across Wales to highlight the impact of Covid-19 on women’s rights, including the increased risk of domestic abuse.

The letter calls on Welsh Government to take key actions to ensure women’s rights and equality don’t regress as a result of the pandemic. It includes the following statement on domestic abuse:

“Impact for Violence Against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence

“The removal of the no recourse to public funds restrictions is very welcome, however it is essential that this is clearly communicated so that it is delivered in practice. For example, migrant women must not be fearful of using essential public services such as VAWDASV specialist services and health services. The VAWDASV sector is also asking that VAWDASV support workers must be recognised as Key Workers across all local authorities, in line with Welsh Government policy. Welsh Women’s Aid has a comprehensive response , in line with the letter you have already received from them, on further measures needed. These 3 key asks are:

  1. Strong public messaging and guidance on VAWDASV

  1. Resourcing and building capacity for specialist provision

  1. Recognition of VAWDASV as emergency/essential provision”

 

You can read the letter in full on the WEN Wales website

Read about the TUC's calls on the UK government on domestic abuse.

Full list of specialist support services

The Live Fear Free Helpline can provide support to anyone affected by domestic abuse or sexual violence. They can also provide advice to those concerned about a colleague, friend or family member. Their helpline is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on 0808 80 10 800. You can also get advice and support by:

Welsh Women’s Aid

Welsh Women’s Aid has information and support on their website for anyone needing help and for those worried about someone else.

Men’s Advice Line

The Men’s Advice Line is a confidential helpline for male victims of domestic abuse and those supporting them. It can be contacted on 0808 801 0327.

Galop - for members of the LGBT+ community

If you are a member of the LGBT+ community, Galop runs a specialist helpline on 0800 999 5428 or email help@galop.org.uk .

Economic abuse

If you are concerned about how coronavirus may affect your finances and leave you vulnerable to economic abuse, please see the advice provided by HM Treasury on what support is on offer. The charity Surviving Economic Abuse has also provided additional guidance and support.

Rights of Women

National family law legal helpline: 020 7251 6577 or www.rightsofwomen.org.uk

Hestia

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.

Chayn

Chayn provides online help and resources in a number of languages, ranging from identifying manipulative situations and how friends can support those being abused.

Support for professionals

SafeLives is providing guidance and support to professionals and those working in the domestic abuse sector, as well as additional advice for those at risk.

Respect

If you are worried about hurting the ones you love while staying at home, call the Respect Phoneline for support and help to manage your behaviour, 0808 8024040.

 

TUC Publications

Domestic violence and the workplace
Our report on the impact domestic abuse has on women’s working lives

Unequal, trapped and controlled
TUC and Women’s Aid joint report on women’s experience of financial abuse.

Safe at home, safe at work
ETUC’s report on trade union strategies to prevent, manage and eliminate violence against women.