Dr Layla Mottahedin-Fardo

The 25th of November marks the first day of ‘Sixteen Days of Action Against Domestic Abuse’. This is a campaign to encourage businesses to play a part in noticing and acting against domestic abuse which employees and those involved with the company may be experiencing. The idea behind this campaign made me start thinking about responsibility. Is it the businesses’ responsibility to notice and act against domestic violence? Is it a supervisor’s, a colleague’s, a human resources manager’s? Where does that responsibility lie, and do we feel comfortable with having that responsibility? Do we even feel comfortable talking about domestic abuse?

The term ‘domestic abuse’ covers a myriad number of ways in which someone may be mistreated by someone they are closest to. It covers physical violence, sexual abuse, coercion and control, emotional and psychological abuse, stalking and harassment, online abuse and intimidation, as well as financial abuse. Domestic abuse can be experienced by people of all ages, socio-economic statuses, ethnicities, genders and sexualities. One commonality is often the secrecy which shrouds the abuse which is occurring. The truth of what is happening is often hidden from family, friends and colleagues. This can be a significant factor in the abuse continuing and the power someone has over another person can be at its highest when no-one else is aware of what is happening. Domestic abuse can cause the person experiencing the abuse to be separated and alienated from those closest to them. This can leave them feeling very alone, except for the partner or family member who is being abusive, making it much harder to get support.

Domestic abuse is not rare. The figures are shocking and, probably, underestimate the real numbers. Research suggests that around 30% of women and 17% of men have experienced domestic abuse at some point in their lives. Research also tells us that half of all women who are murdered each year are killed by their partner. In 2010/2011, 7.4% of women and 4.8% of men had experienced domestic abuse within that year.  These statistics suggest that we all have people in our lives who are experiencing or who have experienced domestic violence in some form. This is an uncomfortable and saddening thought and certainly made me think of how little domestic abuse is talked about compared to how prevalent it clearly is.  

The impact of domestic abuse is significant and impacts upon individuals, communities and on society as a whole. For the individual it can cause significant and long-term mental health difficulties and trauma, as well as physical injury and financial difficulties. For society, time off work due to injuries from domestic violence is estimated to cost around £1.9 billion.

This all shows us that domestic abuse is actually more widespread than we may expect, that it can happen to those around us, and we may not even be aware of this, and that it also has an impact upon society.  We are all, therefore, invested in bringing an end to domestic abuse and, in fact, have a responsibility to end it. This is what the ‘Sixteen Days of Action Against Domestic Abuse’ highlights. Shining a light on domestic abuse is about talking – talking about what is and is not acceptable behaviour and therefore creating safe places in all aspects of life which can give support when people need it. I hope this campaign helps us all feel a little more confident in talking about this difficult topic.

Report it

If you, or someone you know, is a victim of domestic abuse find out how to report domestic abuse.

If you are in immediate danger, call 999 and ask for the police.

If you are in danger and unable to talk on the phone, call 999 and listen to the questions from the operator and, if you can, respond by coughing or tapping on the handset.

Call 999 from a mobile

If prompted, press 55 to Make Yourself Heard and this will transfer your call to the police.

Pressing 55 only works on mobiles and does not allow police to track your location.

If you are deaf or can’t verbally communicate

You can register with the emergencySMS service. Text REGISTER to 999. You will get a text which tells you what to do next. Do this when it is safe so you can text when you are in danger.

Get help if you, or someone you know, is a victim

We publish a list of the main organisations you can speak to for support. Women’s Aid also has a list of useful links for websites and organisations providing relevant information and support.