Out of the shadows

Katrina Humphreys urges CSP members to help support people who have been subjected to domestic violence.

One woman in four and one man in six has been subjected to domestic violence. And, as a direct result of this abuse, four women in 100 and three men in 100 make a suicide attempt. NHS staff need to use domestic violence policies and resources to help give options to people who have experienced domestic violence – let’s give them the support they need to feel that they can break free from abuse. Let’s give our managers the resources needed to tackle this growing challenge. 
The CSP’s National Group of Regional Safety Reps has been trying to do just that by raising awareness of this topic among colleagues, managers and delegates at this year’s Annual Representative Conference (ARC). Delegates heard Penny Clough describe how her daughter Jane was abused, stalked and ultimately murdered by her ex-partner. A nurse, Jane was murdered in a hospital staff car park. This is not an isolated incident, as every week two women die due to domestic violence. Thirty men a year die in similar circumstances. There are no stereotypes or typical cases in cases of domestic violence and NHS staff are not exempt – the charity SafeLives estimates that 50,000 NHS staff are victims of abuse each year (out of about 2.1 million people in the UK). 
Two charities, Refuge and Respect, have produced domestic violence resources, including a draft domestic violence policy for employers. This resource outlines the behavioural changes that staff experiencing domestic violence at home may display and how to spot the subtle changes, whether you are a manager, colleague or friend. Domestic violence does not happen in isolation and violent behaviour can escalate and lead to other members of staff being intimidated, threatened and stalked. 
Domestic violence clearly has safety and welfare implications for all staff – not just the victim. A lack of awareness and a lack of understanding about domestic violence can lead to difficult and stressful working environments. If employers fail to pick up on domestic violence, the financial and human consequences can be costly. The drive towards having a domestic violence policy requires commitment to training, support and, if necessary, a review of relevant organisational cultures and practices at every level. Thought this may appear daunting, the rewards can be significant.
If managers are going to raise the subject, they will need guidance about how to approach staff and how to record any information gathered in the best way. They will also need to know about referring staff on to sources of support. It can take up to five interventions before victims will accept support – so it is important that the resources are readily available. 
  • Katrina Humphreys is a CSP health and safety rep, a clinical specialist physiotherapist and a physiotherapy research facilitator 

More information

  • The charity SafeLives has published guidance on how to respond when colleagues have been abused.
  • Visit Refuge, the anti-domestic violence charity, offers various resources via its website, including a manual for employers. 
Katrina Humphreys is a CSP health and safety rep, a clinical specialist physiotherapist and a physiotherapy research facilitator

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