‘I felt very alone’ – domestic abuse survivor backs 16 Days of Action campaign

A Herts' domestic abuser survivor has spoken in support of the 16 Days of Action campaign which aims to help employers...

A Herts' domestic abuser survivor has spoken in support of the 16 Days of Action campaign which aims to help employers spot the signs of domestic abuse . Picture: AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL - Credit: Archant

A Herts Domestic Abuse Helpline service user has explained the importance of support in the workplace, raising awareness of the 16 Days of Action campaign.

Today marks the start of 16 Days of Action, which encourages employers to spot the signs of domestic abuse within their own teams. In line with the campaign, the Herts helpline is shining a spotlight on how employers can be a part of the community response against domestic abuse.

Jane – not her real name – was followed to work by her abusive husband of 18 years, and managed to gain the support of her manager.

She said: “I had experienced domestic abuse throughout my 18 years of marriage, but it escalated when my partner Henry started chatting to women on social media. At the time, I was working part-time for a company that required me to travel to different locations.

“My partner became increasingly paranoid and convinced himself that I was also using social media to meet other people. He had a night-shift and got home at around 6am when I would then take the car to go to work.

“He started to hide the car keys so I had to ring in sick. I had never rung in sick before! He then changed his shift work so that it ended at midday to ensure I couldn’t meet work colleagues for breakfast anymore. I was forced to change my working hours. He was isolating me from co-workers and friends.

“I shared what was happening with my sister and she purchased a cheap old banger to get me to work in the morning and back to my old routine. That’s when the workplace stalking and harassment started. Henry would drive to the car park to watch if I was leaving work with anyone.

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“One time I got into the car and started to send a text not realising that he was looking through the window to see who I was texting. He opened the door and grabbed my phone to check it. I still had to go on to my next location visit and do my job as if nothing had happened. I started to make a lot of mistakes in my job.

“I was constantly on edge, hyper-vigilant and worried. A couple of times I would have someone approach me at work to ask a question and I would jump out of my skin!

“I was afraid to talk to anyone male at work in case Henry was watching. I had constant texts all day at work ranging from loving ones to threatening ones, all within minutes of each other.”

Jane evenutally informed her manager, and was given time off to attend the Freedom Programme.

“I got a non-molestation order, but my employer put in no procedures to ensure I was safe at work I felt very alone,” Jane continued. “Looking back, it would have been so valuable for me to have known from my employer that my job was secure, and even have some time off to manage the emotional and practical impact on my life.

“They didn’t give me this and I needed the money for my own housing – my sole objective was to be with my children and I was determined to make this happen. I probably came across as very strong and self-sufficient, but that is because I had to be.

“With hindsight, there were so many signs that my employer could have picked up on to ‘reach in’. I would urge all employers, especially during the pandemic, to take notice if a colleague’s productivity changes or work patterns change. Ultimately, be there for them and support them, because we all have a duty to end domestic abuse.”

Jane’s company did not have a domestic abuse policy. Herts Domestic Abuse Helpline is calling on all companies to have a policy in place so that employees feel able to talk, knowing there will be appropriate support.

In the months that followed the March lockdown, Herts Domestic Abuse Helpline saw a 32 per cent increase in calls and emails. After a drop in numbers in August, there was an increase again in September and October, averaging around 32 per cent more calls and emails over both months compared to last year.

A spokeswoman for the charity said: “As we near the end of Lockdown 2.0, we want to remind everyone that they are not alone. We have a duty to respond to domestic abuse and employers have a vital role in doing this responsibly and safely. We must all play our part.

“Hestia’s ‘Everyone’s Business’ project and toolkit outline how businesses can help using the three-step process: Believe, Respond, Refer. As part of ‘Refer’, we are here to listen and signpost employers and employees to local and national domestic abuse services.”

For more information and guidance, visit Employers’ Initiative on Domestic Abuse’s toolkit – www.eida.org.uk – and Hestia’s Everyone’s Business toolkit – www.hestia.org/pages/category/everyones-business – to help understand the issues and acknowledge every employer’s responsibility to address domestic abuse.

Herts Domestic Abuse Helpline provides a confidential and anonymous safe space to listen to employers, employees and anyone concerned about domestic abuse and signpost them to support.

Call 08088 088088, Monday to Friday, 9am to 9pm, Saturday and Sunday 9am to 4pm, or email Kim@mailpurple.org.

Both names have been changed for the purpose of the story.

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