March 24, 2022

How support for women facing Domestic and Family Violence is saving lives

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1 in 6 women in Australia, 1 in 4 women in the USA, and 1 in 4 women in the UK have experienced physical or sexual violence by a current or former partner. It is the leading cause of homelessness, as women and children fleeing abuse often have nowhere safe to go. It’s been called our silent epidemic, and progressive companies are now realizing that supporting women as they escape from domestic and family violence (DFV) is a non-negotiable.

We spoke to five Endorsed Employers who are taking steps to support women fleeing abuse, and several brave women who shared their stories.

There is a content warning for this blog, some readers may find these women’s stories distressing. 

If you or someone you know is experiencing violence in the home, please call 

  • Australia: 1800-RESPECT
  • UK: The Freephone National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247
  • USA: The National Domestic Violence Hotline on 800-799-SAFE (7233)

What to do if someone you work with needs help

“I was in a violent, emotionally and financially abusive relationship. The physical aspects started many years before I joined CommBank. I never anticipated how bad things would get at home. I knew in the future I might have to ask for understanding and support, and when I needed it the most, CommBank was there for me. They were immediately understanding, supportive and discreet about my situation. They knew this was a sensitive topic and that I was in trouble. I was able to access unlimited Domestic Violence leave, which helped me attend court and police meetings, along with access to HR services such as counselors to help me get through.” 

“I knew CommBank was doing a lot of work around financial abuse with Next Chapter. So I was very grateful for the care that was shown to me, to help navigate my situation and help me get back on my feet. I couldn’t have asked for anything more from my employer.” 

This brave woman decided to keep her name anonymous, and CommBank’s quick, confidential and supportive response is exactly what employers should do when someone discloses their abuse.

Reward Gateway also understands that offering leave and financial support enables women to be safe while they are changing their circumstances. Rob Marsh (he/him), Community Innovation Lead, shares their support package.

“Reward Gateway provides 10 additional days fully paid leave to our employees to help them leave any abusive environment and seek refuge. We also provide a resource hub on our internal engagement platform, and financial support for any individual wanting to take legal action against any perpetrator of domestic violence. Any incidence brought to our attention is of course treated with the highest levels of sensitivity and confidentiality.”

At Vaultex UK Ltd, they have recently introduced a new Domestic Abuse Protection Package to support all their people. Mahdiya Malik, HR & CSR Manager, shares,

“This includes financial support for legal action for any of our people wanting to take legal action against perpetrators of domestic abuse, special leave arrangements where people may need to take additional time off due to a multitude of reasons linked to domestic abuse and emergency accommodation. Additionally, we have released a Domestic Abuse Support Toolkit; including information and resources that you can use if you believe you may be: 

  • Experiencing domestic abuse; helping people to spot the signs of different forms of domestic abuse and tips on how to protect themselves. 
  • A perpetrator of domestic abuse; helping potential abusers to recognize their behaviors and seek help to manage anger and abusive tendencies.
  • A manager or work colleague of someone experiencing or perpetrating domestic abuse; raising awareness of the different signs and indicators of domestic abuse and helping to guide people managers to be able to recognize, respond and refer anyone who may be experiencing domestic abuse.” 

Clear policies support women seeking help

In order to access support and services, women have to feel confident and courageous enough to speak up. Knowing there are clear policies in place to help women fleeing violence makes it easier to ask for help.

At Transgrid, Arabella Ollerenshaw (she/her), Senior Diversity, Inclusion & Wellbeing Advisor says,

“Transgrid is committed to supporting the prevention of and response to domestic violence in our society.”

Available support includes their Employee Assistance Program, access to 10 days domestic violence leave, and flexible working arrangements for employees affected by domestic violence including changes to working times and work location. 

Additionally, to protect at-risk women, they have changed their contact details such as work phone numbers and email addresses to protect privacy, and blocked phone numbers and emails from contacting victims.

Transgrid provides ongoing DFV training for managers, and during COVID-19 lockdowns all offices and depots were open for use by employees for whom home was not a safe place. Transgrid knew lockdowns presented a greater risk for some employees and did their best to create safe spaces for these women. 

At JP Morgan, raising awareness and offering a range of support means women can safely speak up and ask for assistance. Helen Tabeshfar (she/hers), Executive Director, explains,

“In 2021, we created a series of webinars to raise awareness around Domestic Abuse for employees and line managers. To complement this offering we updated our intranet resources with signposting for help and support both inside the firm and externally and put in place financial support for those in a controlling relationship who needed to leave.”

Advice from women who have escaped

Knowing there is support available, and then being brave enough to seek it out, is key to accessing the support your workplace might offer. 

From the brave woman at Commonwealth Bank, she shares:

“My advice would be to plan for the worst and hope for the best. Be careful not to fall into the trap of isolation from your support networks, which happens in many domestic and family violence relationships. Make sure you keep your ability to earn, have financial independence and keep your support network aware of the situation.”

“When you’re ready and comfortable, it’s useful to talk to your employer about your circumstances.

“It helps to understand what you may be going through, and connect you with the right support services. Finally, work with the police domestic violence units to help with planning and documenting the events. Once you have a confidential plan and things in place, move quickly and don’t warn your abuser.”

“I know this is heavy advice but the important message is to tap into CommBank’s Next Chapter information. There’s so much support there for everyone.” 

One woman from Vaultex UK Ltd shared how learning more about what constitutes DFV helped her seek help. Understanding what was happening to her, and knowing Vaultex offered confidential leave to support her, allowed her to safely accept help.

“The Domestic Abuse Toolkit has been a tremendous help to me. I was in an emotionally abusive relationship and didn’t realize the severity of it until I read the toolkit and started to realize what was actually happening to me and why I was behaving in certain ways. The Protection Package allowed me to take time off without feeling judged and knowing that I had the option of counseling really made me feel like I mattered and that I was valued.”

Charlotte Neal (she/her), Senior Enterprise SDR at Reward Gateway, raised her concerns about women’s safety. Reward Gateway listened, collaborated and responded, to create a new benefit. 

domestic and family violence

“The business really listens to employees and as reports continued surfacing about violence against women, I expressed concern to our women’s network and asked what we could do to support our people – both men and women – especially as many of us travel home alone after dark. I felt listened to and together we came up with the idea of the Safely Home benefit. It means if we ever feel we need to escape a threatening situation, we will have the funding available to do so. It removes the financial burden. Hopefully nobody will ever need it, but it’s great to know it is there and shows how RG supports its people.”

When women and children are being subjected to domestic and family violence, it can be hard to know how to help. Clear policies, confidential responses, support to escape a dangerous situation and help in rebuilding can all play a part in keeping people safe and preventing a crisis.

If you or someone you know is experiencing violence in the home, please call 

  • Australia: 1800-RESPECT
  • UK: The Freephone National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247
  • USA: The National Domestic Violence Hotline on 800-799-SAFE (7233)

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About the Author
Samantha Sutherland is the Chief Storyteller at WORK180. She is a Diversity and Inclusion specialist with an analytical background, making her work evidence-based and data driven. Host of WORK180’s Equality Talks podcast and her own Women at Work, Samantha divides her time between interviewing amazing women for WORK180, mentoring and coaching women in, or aspiring to, leadership roles, and providing high-level advice on diversity practices to Australian corporations. You can learn more about the Samantha Sutherland consultancy at

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