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Domestic violence: What action are you taking?

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Health and Wellbeing

The 25 November is the first day of ‘16 Days’ of action against domestic violence - an international campaign that runs each year from International Day Against Violence Against Women until International Human Rights Day on 10th December.

Domestic violence damages lives every day in England, and is very much a public health issue. Violence is not just physical but also the use of control, coercion or threats and emotional, sexual, financial or psychological abuse.

In 2011 over 1.2 million women and 800,000 men experienced some form of domestic violence in the UK and a staggering two women per week are killed by an intimate partner in England and Wales.

This year, Public Health England is actively supporting the campaign and, together with the Corporate Alliance Against Domestic Violence, we’ve launched a toolkit that supports and builds capacity within businesses to address domestic abuse. The Violence Toolkit for Businesses provides practical resources to help companies and organisations take action over the 16 Days, from raising awareness internally using posters and internal communications messaging, to being visible daily through social media, blogs and podcasts. It also provides briefings for staff on how to address the issue.

With 70% of the adult population in employment, businesses have a key role to play. Workplaces are often one of the only situations where individuals report feeling safe and have a chance to be away from their perpetrator. They also provide a safe place for people who experience domestic violence to access support. With more training and increased awareness in-house, businesses can help change the culture around domestic violence and ensure that when they suspect something may be wrong or a member of staff reaches out for help, they are able to respond.

People living with violence cannot achieve their personal or professional potential as the abuse impacts on both their workplace and those around them. Too many companies risk losing great people because they did not provide the opportunity for employees to ask for help when they needed it most.

I know from my own experience at PHE how important simple actions can be, such as talking about domestic violence in internal newsletters and briefings. For individuals affected by domestic violence, seeing a colleague speaking out about the issue can make it easier to take the first step towards a life without violence.

As a clinician I worked with individuals affected by violence and saw first hand the physical and psychological impacts. Through working in public health, across local government and the NHS, I have also seen the opportunities and challenges for the public sector to respond swiftly and efficiently when people reach out for help and support.

Lastly, I have seen the devastating effects of domestic violence on individuals’ health and well-being and in contrast the incredible positive change that can happen when people receive support and are able to move out of violence, thrive and lead fulfilling and safer lives either as perpetrators or victims.

The knock-on effects, predominantly the physical and psychological health implications, of domestic violence cost the health care system a staggering £1.3 billion a year. The cost to the economy through social care, sickness absence and productivity losses are even greater.

Our main aim at Public Health England is to support and grow capacity within the public health system to prevent and respond to domestic violence. We want to draw attention to the remarkable work that is already being done by numerous domestic violence charities and organizations and support the system to get better at measuring and demonstrating their impact on lives and communities.

This is crucial work because those who suffer violence not only experience poor health and wellbeing individually, but their welfare is linked with the health and well-being of their children, families and communities.

Alongside our toolkit for businesses we have also developed, working with the University of the West of England, a new bystander intervention programme for students to address sexual coercion and domestic abuse. We hope that over the next year universities across England will seize the opportunity to integrate this training into their freshers programme so that we can help change a generation’s view on violence and abuse.

These projects are part of a wider programme of work on domestic violence and the wider violence against women and girls agenda issues which are central to our society and our desire to address inequality and injustice in England.

At the core of any individuals hierarchy of need is need to feel safe.  None of us aspire to live in violence, and yet too many of us are affected by domestic abuse and sexual coercion, both here and abroad. So as the 16 Days starts, think what action you can take each day for the next 16 days to help end gender based violence.

Home page image: ©European Parliament/Pietro Naj-Oleari

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  1. Comment by Bren posted on

    Hello Justin,

    Thanks for the very informative and excellent blog.

    I do think one of the areas is training front line staff and the recent tool kit that Dr Jane Monckton Smith has released is helpful.

    Great Blog and thank you,


  2. Comment by Dr Justin Varney posted on

    Thank you Bren, have you got a link to the toolkit as would be great to promote it if it's now available following the pilot?

    Best wishes