Perpetrators of domestic abuse are taking advantage of Covid restrictions to sabotage their victims’ ability to work, a charity has warned.
Research by Surviving Economic Abuse (SEA) found that perpetrators have started to adopt new tactics that take advantage of lockdown restrictions to interfere with their victims’ work lives and economically control them.
These techniques include hiding work equipment, refusing to help with childcare and wrongly informing the victim’s employer that they had broken lockdown rules.
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The report, which surveyed 360 victims of domestic abuse, found nearly one in four (38 per cent) who lived with the perpetrator had been working from home since the first lockdown. SEA has warned that this has greatly increased their risk of being abused.
The research, which also polled professionals supporting victims, found seven out of 10 had reported the number of victims of economic abuse coming to them for help had increased over the last 12 months.
SEA has called on the government and employers to prioritise women’s economic safety.
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Nicola Sharp-Jeffs, the charity’s founder and chief executive, said: “Our research into the impact of Covid-19 demonstrates how integral economic safety is to the overall safety of victim-survivors. For this reason, government and business alike must start to make economic safety a priority when working towards ending violence against women and girls."
In the SEA report nearly half of victims (45 per cent) said their employment or education had worsened because of the perpetrator’s actions. Almost eight in 10 (79 per cent) said their perpetrator tried to control their finances, while 72 per cent said their financial situation had gotten worse as a result of the abuse.
Furthermore, nearly all respondents (94 per cent) reported feeling worried about their access to economic resources and necessities.
The research also revealed that 8 per cent of respondents were planning to leave their abusive partner before the pandemic, which the report argued meant they were forced to stay and experienced more harm.
Women who experience economic abuse are five times more likely to experience physical abuse and are at increased risk of homicide and suicide, according to SEA.
Commenting on the findings, Louise Aston, wellbeing director at Business in the Community, said employers have a duty of care and legal responsibility to safeguard the health and wellbeing of their employees, whether they were working from home or in the office.
“By acknowledging the problem, employers must understand that domestic abuse takes many forms, including psychological, physical, sexual, emotional, verbal and financial,” Aston said. “They need to enable staff to understand that domestic abuse is an issue anyone can experience and that all employees can play a collective part in tackling.”
Aston called on employers to implement policies and processes to create a workplace that was supportive of victims of domestic abuse, and provide access to internal confidential support for colleagues as well as signposting appropriately to external organisations.
“Now is the time to smash the stigma that surrounds the issue and talk openly about domestic abuse in all its many forms, to prevent people suffering in silence,” she said.