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  • Tamar Balkin

What Is The Vital Role Of Leaders In Reducing The Incidence Of Domestic Violence?

“Yes I think I'm okay

I walked into the door again

If you ask that's what I'll say

And it's not your business anyway”

Luka by Suzanne Vega (Click here for the song)

Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

Click here for the OUR WATCH interview on the Workplace and the cycle of domestic violence.


The announcement of several state-wide initiatives, government policies and legislation has raised awareness of the complexity of reducing the incidence of domestic violence in our society.

What is domestic violence?


“Any behaviour that’s violent, threatening, controlling or intended to make you or your family feel scared and unsafe can be considered family and domestic violence.”

Government Services Australia


Domestic violence includes:

Controlling behaviour also known as coercive control is when a person is forced to do or believe things they wouldn’t normally do. They may be stopped from seeing people, leaving the house or doing other activities important to them.

Physical violence is any violent behaviour or threats of violence. It can be directed at an individual, their children, other family, friends, pets or property.

Sexual assault is any unwanted sexual behaviour, such as being forced into sexual activity against your will or inappropriate touching. This includes being coerced or manipulated into sexual behaviour.

Emotional abuse is any behaviour that makes a person feel worthless and put down. This can include yelling, insulting, calling names or a slur and swearing.

Stalking is behaviour to harass or intimidate.

Technology-facilitated abuse is when one's online activity is monitored.

This may include:

  • checking your computer and phone use

  • using spyware on your phone to track you

  • publishing intimate photos of you without your consent

  • sharing or threatening to share photos or messages with the intention of outing your sexuality or gender identity, putting you at risk of stigma, discrimination or harm.


“More than 99% of Australian victims of domestic and family violence have also experienced technology-facilitated abuse (also known as tech abuse).”


Financial abuse is behaviour limiting access to money. Warning signs might be:

  • taking or using another person's money without your permission

  • not being allowed to work

  • having to account for how money is spent

  • withholding financial information

  • spending another person's payments/savings/income without consent.

What is the role of the leader?

Ensure that victims of domestic violence are encouraged to get help, feel safe, supported, and retain employment. Take action to ensure all employees feel physically and psychologically safe at work.


There are two categories of employees that leaders need to support:

  • Those exposed to domestic violence and.

  • Victims of domestic violence


Employees exposed to domestic violence:

Jobs, where there is a likelihood of encountering victims of domestic violence, require extra focus.

Job design: it is critical to identify the psychological hazards associated with the role. Remember that beyond the obvious roles (like emergency services, clinical psychologist etc.) there may be internal roles that support the organisation's operations and objectives like web designers that may be adversely impacted. Where possible alter the responsibilities to reduce repeated exposure to these hazards.

Recruitment should assess candidates' ability to handle these stressors.

Adequate emotional assistance: Proactive steps to minimise the likelihood of burnout and vicarious trauma, need to go beyond internal debriefing or supervision. Access to therapy from a Clinical psychologist should be available for employees in need of support.

Remember the negative psychological impact of poor job fit may be exacerbated in this context. (Click here for my blog on job fit)

It is incumbent on all leaders to notice the signs of burnout and vicarious trauma early and encourage support, job redesign or a complete change of job.


Victims of Domestic violence


“A supportive organisation is like giving everyone a mental health inoculation”

Julia Gillard


Creating and maintaining a psychologically safe and healthy workplace will enhance the possibility that the victim will know that work is a place where they are supported and safe.

Regular readers will know that good work is good for psychological well-being and that financial independence is a fundamental element of personal freedom.


“being late to work because the perpetrator wouldn’t allow them to leave, hid their keys or wouldn’t accept child care responsibilities. Having their work product ruined and just the general stress and trauma of being victimised and harassed means that sometimes people just; we call it presenteeism where they’re there, but they’re not there. So, their work isn’t actually up to the standard it needs to be to maintain their employment. But for some people who experience domestic and family violence, work is an absolute haven. It doesn’t affect work, and in fact, they might come in early and leave late, which is about their safety, or it could be just it’s the one place they feel competent, confident and able to function really well.”

Jan Breckenridge


Good listening, self-awareness and emotional intelligence capabilities are essential for conversations with victims of domestic violence irrespective of whom initiated the conversation.

Raising your concerns with the victim is difficult, be mindful that for many reasons they may deny or minimise what is happening to them. Remember it takes a lot of time, planning, help and courage to escape domestic violence. It is essential therefore to always listen without judgment and try to understand the many obstacles that prevent the victim from taking action at a particular point in time.

Do not become despondent if you don’t understand or you are not informed of their choices, respect them, and always maintain your support. Never underestimate the impact you will have by simply letting someone know you care and that you believe that everyone deserves to feel safe at home.

Ultimately your role is to encourage the victim to keep working and access the help that is available from experts.

What is the role of the corporate sector?

"Family and domestic violence is a whole community issue and requires the collective efforts of government, communities, and the corporate sector, including banks, to respond to the challenges."

The following industries have national guidelines that reflect good industry practice, and employers should use these principles to establish internal processes, procedures, and policies to enable the sensitive provision of goods and services to victims of domestic violence.

Telecommunications and IT:

The complex nature of domestic violence necessitates the involvement of many of the following experts:

Human resources managers provide the frameworks for the practical implementation of legislation and prepare the policies, procedures, and training focused on both addressing domestic violence and creating a psychologically safe and healthy workplace.

Employment lawyers identify and interpret relevant legislation and address any conundrums.

Social workers identify the needs and organise relevant sources of help and support.

Clinical psychologists provide therapy for victims, their children and others who are practically or emotionally impacted by the situation.

Police enforce the law to ensure the physical and financial safety of victims and other impacted members of society

IT specialists identify and rectify forms of technology-facilitated abuse.

A few things to remember:

“Is she ultra-violent? Is she disturbed?

I better tell her that I love her

Before she does it all over again”

(Click here for the song)

Family and domestic violence is always the fault of the perpetrator, not the victim.

Victims come from all backgrounds irrespective of education level; socioeconomic status; suburb; employment status; religious affiliation; ethnicity; gender; age; intelligence; mental health and physical ability.

The actions of the perpetrator often increase the difficulty of the victim disclosing the abuse and accessing help.

It is generally very difficult and dangerous for a victim to change their life circumstances.

Australian Government-funded sources of information and support:

Service Australia (click here) provides information on free government-funded services. The social workers can connect you to payments, and legal services including legal aid and support services like family and domestic violence services; emergency accommodation and long-term housing support; financial help counselling and health services.

Moneysmart (click here) can help you manage your money. They have information about urgent money help and divorce and separation.

National Debt Helpline ( click here) provides specific advice and support for complex situations including domestic violence and financial abuse.

The eSafety commissioner (click here ) Provides information on many aspects of tech abuse including identification, reporting to eSafety and collecting evidence safely. They also have free learning and development programs to up-skill frontline workers who support people experiencing technology-facilitated abuse. (click here )

Our Watch is an independent, not-for-profit organisation established to drive nationwide change in culture, behaviours and power imbalances to prevent violence against women and their children. Click here for ideas on how your workplace can support employees impacted by domestic and family violence.

Final thoughts:

On a personal note, due to the complexity and horrendous nature of domestic abuse, I found this blog both disturbing and difficult to write. The presence of a large QUICK EXIT button and the advice to clear browsing history on all the Government websites was a disconcerting reminder of the danger many victims face.

As always whenever you have an emotionally difficult conversation with someone make sure you have time to prepare yourself practically and emotionally before. It is also critical to allow time and space for the intensity of your emotions to settle afterwards. Please take care and don't hesitate to access confidential advice and support from appropriate professionals.


References: more available on request's%20violent%2C%20threatening,you%20are%20in%20immediate%20danger.

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