A report conducted by AIC has found that the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to work from home coincided with the onset of domestic violence (DV​) for many women. 47% of women who experienced coercive control ​(a type of DV, designed to make the victim dependant on the abuser) before Feb 2020 said the abuse increased with severity, 39.3% said it had remained the same, and 13.7% said it had decreased.

There has been a spotlight on DV over the past few years coinciding with a push for DV legislative reforms to address coercive control.  An eye-opening documentary also aired on SBS this year called See What You Made Me Do”. It highlighted that those experiencing DV or coercive control may not have the financial means to ​leave the relationship or are bound by fear due to their abuser’s behaviour.

To help provide professional support to employees separating, some businesses are now offering employees access to assistance programs. This offers a discreet, cost-free means to help employees experiencing domestic violence too.

How your employer can help you through a separation 

Australia’s first non-profit law firm, New Way Lawyers, has formulated a new Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that specifically responds to the challenging issues of domestic violence and family law.

The EAP will allow employees to meet with an experienced family lawyer for 90 minutes either online or in person. They will receive tailored legal advice and clear options for how they can resolve their current situation. Employers can also choose how many employees they cover.

“Changes in work arrangements due to COVID has meant working from home has become very common and these personal family issues are now no longer separate from the workplace. In fact, employers have an obligation to provide a safe work environment and have to consider how to respond to domestic violence if it is occurring when an employee is working from home” says Carolyn Devries, CEO of New Way Lawyers

Devries also highlights the unique give-back aspect of the EAP program in responding to and taking a stand against domestic violence at a broader community level. She explains that “if EAP coverage for an individual employee is not used within a year of being taken out by the employer, the service offering under the EAP will be donated to New Way Lawyers’ Domestic Violence Fund which provides free services to vulnerable individuals in the community who experience domestic violence and are unable to otherwise access legal advice.

What if you don’t work?

If hiring a lawyer seems out of reach, try signing up to the Lunch with a Lawyer Facebook group. It is free, and every lunchtime a lawyer will jump on to answer your questions and point you in the right direction. You can post your question privately or publicly.

If you or someone you know is living with a controlling or abusive partner, help is available. Here are some other helpful contacts:

1800RESPECT: 1800 737 732
DVConnect Womensline: 1800 811 811
DVConnect Mensline: 1800 600 636
Sexual Assault Helpline: 1800 010 120
Kids Help Line: 1800 55 1800
Lifeline: 13 11 14
If you believe you or your children are in immediate danger, please call 000.