How domestic abuse can affect different people
Domestic abuse affects people in different ways. For some victims/survivors their characteristics, circumstance, community, or wider societal misconceptions about domestic violence can be weaponised and used against them by a perpetrator(s) in order to exert further power and control.
For some survivors, access to support can also be extremely difficult if services do not understand or meet their needs. This in turn can compound the abuse and prolong an abusive relationship.
The following section gives examples of these different experiences and what support employers and workplaces can offer.
Age and Domestic abuse
Young women aged 20-24 are significantly more likely to be victims/survivors of domestic abuse than any other age group.¹⁴ There is some evidence to suggest that young women are more at risk of abuse through new technologies and social media, which can be used as a monitoring or harassment tool by the perpetrator.¹⁵
Older people can experience domestic abuse too. Research shows that, on average, older victims experience abuse for twice as long before seeking help a those aged under 61, and nearly half have a disability. Older victims are also significantly underrepresented among domestic abuse services and this may be linked to a range of social, cultural and health factors, including generational attitudes about abuse that can create barriers to seeking support.¹⁶
Both younger and older workers can face additional barriers in the workplace.
Younger staff may be more likely to be on precarious contracts and may not have established strong workplace support networks. Older women in schools and colleges are at greater risk of capability procedures.
Employers should support all survivors in the ways highlighted above, including ensuring online domestic abuse in the workplace is addressed. It should not be assumed that just because a member of staff is a certain age that they are not likely to experience abuse. Ensuring all staff have domestic abuse awareness training will make it more likely that the victims/ survivors get the support they need in the workplace.
LGBT+ people and domestic abuse
A common misconception about domestic abuse is that it only happens within heterosexual relationships. This is not the case. Many people in same sex relationships experience domestic abuse and trans men and women and non-binary people can also experience abuse. Evidence shows bi women and trans women are particularly affected by domestic abuse.¹⁷
LGBT+ people can face additional abusive and controlling behaviours where their sexuality and/or gender identity is used against them as a tactic by the abuser
to keep the power and control in the relationship.
Threats by an abuser can include disclosing the victims/survivors’ sexual orientation and/or gender identity to work colleagues.
The latter point highlights how abuse continues into the workplace and that LGBT+ workers may not be ‘out’ in the workplace for a range of reasons, including homo/bi/transphobia in the workplace. The NEU has advice for LGBT+ workers about their rights.
An LGBT+ inclusive work environment is critical for helping LGBT+ staff experiencing abuse to feel able to seek support at work, regardless of whether they are out. We expect all workplaces to challenge and address all forms of unlawful discrimination.
It is important that with any disclosure, workers do not assume that the survivor is heterosexual and that confidentiality is maintained. It is already the case that LGBT+ survivors face specific barriers to getting support from domestic abuse services and domestic abuse remains acutely underreported by LGBT+ people.
All workplace responses should be victim led and ensure that the range of services to support survivors are highlighted, including specialist services for LGBT+ people such as Galop.
Black* women and domestic abuse
Research shows Black women experience higher levels of domestic homicide and sexual violence. They are also more likely to experience so called ‘honour’ killings, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and abuse driven suicide.¹⁸
Black women face a range of barriers to getting support, including experiencing inappropriate and insensitive responses from statutory services. In some cases, Black women are more likely to be criminalised and viewed as complicit in the violence towards them and thus less likely to be considered victims.¹⁹ It is estimated that between five and 12 contacts are made by women experiencing domestic abuse before they receive a positive response.
This rises to 17 if the woman is Black.²⁰ For some types of abuse that are more likely to involve the collusion of wider family members, such as so called ‘honour’ killings, women may find it particularly difficult to seek help. This can be because of the multiple perpetrators involved, as well as other issues, such as interpreter services not being provided or that are inadequate for victims whose first language is not English.
Specialist services are a vital lifeline for Black women in helping them to overcome these additional and systemic barriers.
We recommend that workplaces should signpost local specialist services as much as possible. Imkaan, a UK Black feminist organisation, has a list of national and local services run by and for Black women that workers and employers can signpost to.
It is important to acknowledge that Black women are underrepresented in the education workforce. Many Black staff feel isolated at work and may lack a support network. Racism experienced by Black staff can compound difficulties in seeking support in the workplace. NEU research²¹ about the experiences of Black members found that many feel isolated and stereotyped at work which affects pay progression and other opportunities. This in turn can impact on the likelihood of disclosures if it is felt this will impact on progression opportunities or lead to being put on capability.
The NEU’s Anti-Racism charter will help your workplace to combat racism to ensure all Black staff feel able to speak out and get support if they are experiencing abuse. Training on domestic abuse should ensure that information is given on all forms of domestic abuse including forced marriage and so-called honour-based abuse.
*The NEU uses the term Black as a political and inclusive term of unity to signify the anti-racist organising of all people of colour – African, African Caribbean, Asian and all those that face racism as a result of the colour of their skin.
Disabled women and domestic abuse
Disabled women can be particularly exposed to abuse and violence. A Women’s Aid report, Making the Links: Disabled Women and Domestic abuse²², found
that disabled women are twice as likely to experience gender-based violence than non-disabled women. They are also likely to experience abuse over a longer period of time and suffer more severe injuries as a result. They are less likely to seek help and often the help they do receive is not appropriate. The lack of accessible refuges and temporary accommodation, the scarcity of information on tape or in Braille, and the unavailability of sign language interpreters may compound the problems that disabled women fleeing abuse face.
Workplace support networks will be vital for disabled women who may have smaller support networks outside of the workplace or feel more socially isolated than their non-disabled peers (e.g. because they might be excluded from social activities due to physical and environmental inaccessibility or because of stigma or discrimination.) It is also important that disabled women can be directed to appropriate and specialist support services.
Employers and line managers should be aware that disabled women may need a significant number of days of paid leave to leave their abuser. For example, it may be more difficult and time consuming for a disabled woman to find a new home or refuge that is accessible, and they may also need time to arrange for new health care arrangements. Finding appropriate care may be particularly difficult if the survivor’s primary carer was their abuser. Workplace policies, practices and environments must be flexible and inclusive enough to accommodate any additional needs that disabled women experiencing domestic abuse may have.
Pregnant women and domestic abuse
Pregnancy can be a trigger for domestic abuse, and existing abuse may get worse during pregnancy or after giving birth. It is estimated that four to nine in every 100 pregnant women are abused during their pregnancy or soon after the birth.²³ Nearly 60 per cent of survivors using domestic abuse services are also mothers.²⁴
Unfortunately, pregnant women and women returning from maternity leave can also be treated poorly and unlawfully by employers. Some are unjustly subjected to capability procedures, others are selected unfairly for redundancy, others are simply driven out of work through poor treatment.
Workplace discrimination will compound the impact of domestic abuse on pregnant women and make it unlikely that they will seek workplace support.
The NEU will support any member who believes they have been discriminated against. If you think you may be experiencing pregnancy or maternity discrimination, you can find out your rights.
Economic status and domestic abuse
Economic insecurity can increase a victim/ survivor’s vulnerability to domestic abuse. This is because economic insecurity and poverty reduces a victim/survivor’s ability to leave their relationship, particularly if they are financially dependent on their abuser.
Research by the TUC shows that Black workers are more likely than white workers to be in insecure work, such as zero hours or casual contracts. Migrant educators
can also be particularly vulnerable to exploitative terms and conditions as well as facing additional barriers to getting support from public services.
Increasing numbers of education workers are in insecure work, such as zero hour or casual contracts. Insecure working conditions may also increase a survivor’s reluctance to disclose domestic abuse if they feel it may negatively impact on their employment contract.
Employers and line managers should respond to victims/survivors’ circumstances on a case by case basis, using the advice outlined above. In situations where it becomes apparent that a member of staff experiencing abuse needs financial support, employers should make efforts to address this, such as through supporting a request for an advance of pay, an interest free loan or bursary.
¹⁴ ONS (2019) Domestic abuse victim characteristics, England and Wales: year ending March 2019: ONS
¹⁵ Safe lives (2017) Safe Young Lives: Young people and Domestic Abuse: Safe lives
¹⁶ Safe Lives (2016) Safe Later Lives: Older people and domestic abuse: Safe Lives. Age UK (2019) No Age Limit: The Hidden Face of Domestic Abuse: Age UK
¹⁷ Scottish Transgender Alliance (2010) Out of sight, out of mind? Transgender People’s Experiences of Domestic Abuse: Scottish Transgender Alliance. See also: ONS (2018) Women most at risk of experiencing partner abuse in England and Wales: years ending March 2015 to 2017: ONS
¹⁸ Siddiqui H (2018) Counting the cost: BME women and gender-based violence in the UK, IPPR Progressive Review, Vol 24:4
¹⁹ Thiara, R and Roy, S (2020) Reclaiming Voice: Minoritised Women and Sexual Violence Key Findings: Imkaan and the University of Warwick
²⁰ Women’s Resource Centre; Women&Girls Network (2011) Young Women and Violence: London Councils
²¹ NEU (2017) Visible and Invisible Barriers: the impact of racism on BME teachers: NEU
²² Hague, G et al. (2008) Making the links. Disabled women and domestic abuse: Women’s Aid
²³ Taft, A (2002) Violence against women in pregnancy and after childbirth: current knowledge and issues in healthcare responses: Australian Domestic and Family Violence Clearinghouse, UNSW
²⁴ Women’s Aid (2019) The Domestic Abuse Report 2019.The Annual Audit: Women’s Aid