Christmas campaign: Is your work colleague a victim of domestic violence or abuse?
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Domestic abuse is endemic in our communities. Violent and controlling behaviour is seriously under-reported and survivors still feel stigmatised, isolated, and often unsure where to seek help.
In the run-up to Christmas, traditionally one of the worse times for incidents of abuse, our newspapers across the county are running an awareness campaign highlighting the work of the Herts Domestic Abuse Helpline in tackling this issue, including survivor stories, call operator experiences and expert commentary.
Statistically one in four women, one in six men and 750,000 children are affected by domestic violence in in their lifetimes. It accounts for approximately 25 per cent of all violent crime and 14.1 per cent of all court prosecutions.
An analysis of calls to Herts Domestic Abuse Helpline between April 1 2016 and March 31 2017 revealed there were 2,028 calls made over this period, the majority from mobile phones. However, 210 were specifically identified as coming from Central Herts (including St Albans, Welwyn and Hatfield) and 257 from Eastern Herts (including Stevenage and Royston).
In 2016/2017 there were 9,509 recorded offences of domestic abuse in the county, an increase of 19.1 per cent on the previous year, although some of this may be attributed to increased reporting of offences.
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This can be broken down into an increase from 465 offences to 517 in St Albans, 527 to 640 in Welwyn Hatfield, 394 to 510 in North Herts (including Royston), and 533 to 618 in Stevenage.
It is therefore likely that one or more of your work colleagues, friends or neighbours is being abused at the moment, and the consequences are not just the physical and psychological impact on the victims.
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In fact, the financial toll of domestic abuse on our wider economy is staggering, costing the UK somewhere in the region of £5.5b pa in terms of lost economic output, the cost to the criminal justice system, and the expense of physical and mental health costs. This impacts on everyone, not just those people directly affected by domestic abuse.
Chris Roach, chair of the Herts Domestic Abuse Helpline said: ”Domestic abuse is having a negative impact on the morale, productivity and performance of workplace teams across our county and we are on a mission to help business colleagues address this by encouraging and supporting them to work together to take a stand against domestic violence.”
While the majority of domestic abuse happens behind closed doors, the impact on the workplace is far too frequently ignored, or swept under the carpet.
Physical abuse can prevent an employee being able to work at all or to full capacity, due to physical injury and the consequent impact on mobility, hearing and vision.
Mental health issues resulting from abuse, such as anxiety and depression, can affect concentration levels, ability to cope under pressure and productivity levels. Excess alcohol or drug use, which are often seen as a coping mechanism, can directly impact productivity and potentially put colleagues at risk. There is also a possibility of work place harassment, where a perpetrator targets their victim at work by phone, email and in person, intimidating and even assaulting their assailant at work.
There are a variety of signs which might suggest your colleague is enduring domestic abuse, including obvious physical injuries, changes in behaviour, evidence of increased fatigue or anxiety, unusually frequent telephone calls from their partner checking up on them, frequent absences or tardiness, increased use of alcohol or drugs (illegal or prescription), and signs their partner makes all the decisions for them and is overly controlling.
By raising awareness of domestic abuse and its consequences we hope to encourage our communities to work together and end this despicable crime. Our campaign is deliberately timed to run in conjunction with the nationwide 16 Days of Action initiative running from November 25-December 10 - see 16daysofaction.co.uk for more information.