Domestic Abuse


Anyone can be a victim of domestic abuse irrespective of gender identity, social class, race, religion, sexuality or disability. The Crime Survey for England and Wales showed that an estimated 2.3 million adults aged 16 to 74 years experienced domestic abuse between March 2019-March 2020 (Office for National Statistics).

Domestic abuse is often associated with physical abuse however can be experienced in many forms (Refuge):

  • Psychological abuse
  • Economic abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Coercive control
  • Physical abuse
  • Tech abuse


Government have recently launched their Workplace Support for Victims of Domestic Abuse Report which highlights the important role employers have in supporting their employees. This report raises awareness that employers are not being requested to be specialists in offering domestic violence support, or be counsellors or healthcare workers, but that there is a role for each and every one of us in reducing the stigma, having an awareness of the signs and encouraging conversations if it feels that something isn’t right.

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted individuals in many ways including a rise in domestic abuse. The charity Refuge reported an around 65% increase in demand to its helpline and a 700% increase in visits to its national domestic abuse helpline website during the period April –June 2020. Evidence also highlighted the impact of the loss of access to the workplace as a safe space which has made it harder for colleagues or managers to spot the signs of abuse (Gov UK).

“The more supportive atmosphere an employer can create, whether in the office, for staff operating on the road, or through online team activity, the more likely employees are going to feel comfortable disclosing abuse” (Employers Initiative, Toolkit for Employers).

Look out for the signs

The Employers Initiative Toolkit for Employers highlights the changes to look for which include:

Work productivity

  • Change in the person’s working patterns: for example, frequent absence, lateness or needing to leave work or meetings early
  • Reduced quality and quantity of work: missing deadlines, a drop in usual performance standards
  • Change in the use of the phones or email: for example, a large number of personal calls or texts, avoiding calls or a strong reaction to calls, texts and emails.
  • During working from home this could present as being difficult to get hold of or regularly having a partner in the room during meetings
  • Spending an increased number of hours at work for no reason, or being anxious to get back to the office after lockdown
  • Frequent visits to work by the employee’s partner, which may indicate coercive control


Changes in behaviour or demeanour

  • Conduct out of character with previous behaviour
  • Changes in behaviour: for example, becoming very quiet, anxious, frightened, tearful, aggressive, distracted, or depressed
  • Being isolated from colleagues
  • Secretive about their home life or give reasons not to turn the camera on when meeting online
  • Worried about leaving children at home


Physical indicators

  • Visible bruising or single or repeated injury with unlikely explanations
  •  Change in the pattern or amount of makeup used
  • Change in the manner of dress: for example, clothes that do not suit the climate which may be used to hide injuries
  • Substance use/misuse
  • Fatigue/sleep disorders


Other indicators

  • Partner or ex-partner stalking employee in or around the workplace or on social media
  • Partner or ex-partner exerting unusual amount of control or demands over work schedule
  • Isolation from family/friends/ colleagues


Responding to domestic abuse

It can be difficult to know what to do if someone discloses to you that they are experiencing domestic violence. The Employers Initiative Toolkit for Employers encourages all employees to download the Bright Sky app and take the time to have an awareness of responding to disclosures such as reading the UK Says No More guidance which can be found here:


National helplines

England – Refuge. For women and children. Against Domestic Violence: 24 hour helpline: 0808 2000 247, live chat and BSL helpline also available –

Northern Ireland – Domestic and Sexual Abuse 24 hour Helpline 0808 802 1414, live chat and email support also available –

Scotland – Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage 24 hour Helpline 0800 027 1234 live chat and email support also available –

Wales – Live Fear Free: 24 hour helpline 0808 80 10 800, live chat, text and email support also available –

Respect Men’s Advice Line – 0808 8010327, live chat and email support also available – see website for contact times –

Other support

Hestia’s Respond to Abuse Advice Line & App are free resources for employers. Employers can call 020 3879 3695 Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, or email for support, guidance or information about domestic abuse and how to support employees and colleagues experiencing domestic abuse.

Bright Sky – Bright Sky is a safe, easy to use app and website ( that provides practical support and information on how to respond to domestic abuse. It is for anyone experiencing domestic abuse, or who is worried about someone else. Bright Sky helps you to spot the signs of abuse, know how to respond, and help someone find a safe route to support.

Local Women’s Aid Support –
Ask for ANI – If you are experiencing domestic abuse and need immediate help, ask for ‘ANI’ in a participating pharmacy. ‘ANI’ stands for Action Needed Immediately. If a pharmacy has the ‘Ask for ANI’ logo on display, it means they’re ready to help. They will offer you a private space, provide a phone and ask if you need support from the police or other domestic abuse support services.

Safe Spaces – Safe Spaces are also available in Boots, Morrisons, Superdrug and Well pharmacies, TSB banks and independent pharmacies across the UK. Once you are inside, specialist domestic abuse support information will be available for you to access. Many Safe Spaces are also prepared to respond to the ‘Ask for ANI’ codeword, to provide victims with a discreet way to access help calling the police on 999 or specialist support services.


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