‘See what you made me do’ – A mandatory watch for all of us

May has been Family and Domestic Violence Awareness Month and SBS has raised awareness with the premiere of their three-part series ‘See what you made me do’. Journalist Jess Hill, breaks down the searing questions we have about this horrifying deep-rooted epidemic of family and domestic violence in Australia. “There are people around us whose lives are not what they seem. They walk among us but carry an invisible burden. They are victims of domestic violence, over 3 million adults and children in this country” says Hill.

Never before has there been a documentary that explores, in such visceral detail, the complexity of family and domestic violence. From shedding light on the dark art of coercive control to the failures in our justice systems, the series forces us to ask where can we focus our efforts and resources to keep women and children safe?

As a workplace is can be easy to say that family and domestic violence is a personal issue that should be dealt with outside of work, however this antiquated perception is just one of many that keeps this issue in the shadows and its victim-survivors silent and alone. Workplaces are vital in our fight against this wave of silent family terrorism. So just what role can workplaces play?

1. Shift the Narrative

Workplaces are in an optimum position to reach working adults and are a key setting to prevent violence against women. Research shows that when there are greater gender inequalities the risk of violence against women increases. Not only can workplaces contribute by bridging the gender gap they can also directly improve our communities deep seeded conscious and unconscious biases by building workplace cultures based on respect. Cultures where bystanders feel empowered to call out disrespectful behaviours, where sexually explicit jokes or jokes about violence against women are met with outrage instead of laughter.

But workplace initiatives need to transcend policies and a bit of lip service on awareness days, action is required. A holistic framework is essential. It should include training that not only focuses on how to recognise and respond to family and domestic violence but also address gender inequalities. Training needs to be implemented at all levels of the organisation from leaders through to frontline staff, with training supported by specific policies and procedures. Only then will we begin to shift the narrative of violence against women.

2. A Safe Place

A common thread in all perpetrators is their need to isolate and control their victims. When a victim-survivor is at work, this is often the only place they feel some level of safety. This poses an issue for perpetrators and through coercive control many place heavy restrictions on their victims of where they can work, how long they can work, or even if they are allowed to work at all. 

Workplaces need to provide support to victim-survivors through family violence leave, workplace safety planning and as a safe place to seek out the support they need to stay safe or plan how they are going to leave their abuser. As we witness in the series, when a woman decides to leave her perpetrator, this is the most dangerous time for them, a time that needs to be carefully planned out in co-ordination with an expert. A victim-survivor’s income is also a protective factor, with many staying in abusive relationships as they are financially tethered to their abuser. Keeping victim-survivors at work is a vital piece to the puzzle of keeping them safe, and when they have decided to leave, giving them the financial ability to do so.

3. The Role of Unconscious Bias

Family and domestic violence doesn’t discriminate so neither should your policies, procedures and prevention strategies. Whilst the prevalence rates of family and domestic violence show a prevalence rate for women experiencing violence (1 in 3), 1 in 19 Men experience family and domestic violence as the victim/ survivor. Males less frequently speak up around their experience of family and domestic violence due to the stigma and shame attached. As such, any policy, framework, training, or support needs to be considered through the lens of gender to ensure that the offering is equitable across gender. It’s also important to note that minorities are also at a higher risk of family and domestic violence so support also needs to be equitable across cultures, sexuality and disabilities.

Around 95% of victims of all types of violence – whether women or men – experience violence from a male perpetrator. If you suspect an employee is perpetrating family violence, it is important to seek advice from a professional as to what support can be offered to them. This is a particularly complex issue to address in the workplace, however an organisational psychologist or employment lawyer will be able to guide you in relation to specific cases.

So, workplaces across Australia, what role will you play? Will you simply shine a light on the scourge of family and domestic violence or will you shift gears and take action?

For more information on a fully integrated framework for addressing and taking action against family and domestic violence in the workplace, visit our website or call us on 02 8243 1500.