Figures from the ONS and specialist charities tell us that domestic abuse cases in the UK have risen significantly since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, with increases across the board in the percentage of domestic abuse crimes, cases referred to victim support and calls to the National Domestic Abuse Helpline.
Some are describing this distressing trend as the "epidemic beneath a pandemic". April 2021 saw the Domestic Abuse Act come into force in the UK. Its aims are to better protect survivors and strengthen measures to address the behaviour of perpetrators.
This has been coupled with additional investment for domestic abuse services, such as helplines and online support, safe accommodation and awareness campaigns. Since 1989, October has been designated as the UK's National Domestic Abuse Awareness Month.
While these are positive moves that pave the way for a better future, more needs to happen to tackle the problem practically and effectively.
Domestic abuse is incredibly serious, sensitive and occurs in a variety of forms. The impact on victims and their families can be highly destructive and, in all cases, obtaining timely and specialist support to navigate complex issues is crucial.
This is where we believe we, as an employer, can help.
Fieldfisher's Domestic Abuse Support Service
Under our WorkWell programme, which offers Fieldfisher staff advice and assistance on financial, psychological, physical and social wellbeing, Fieldfisher has launched a new Domestic Abuse Support Service that is available to all staff and is fully firm-funded.
The service is being provided in partnership with Caroline Glass, an independent specialist and highly experienced domestic abuse adviser.
Caroline has worked for the charity Refuge for the past 12 years, during which time she has supported thousands of clients through her work on the National Domestic Abuse Helpline, as an Independent Gender Violence Advocate (IGVA) supporting victims who have been assessed as being at high risk of homicide, and her work in the Early Intervention team at the Gaia Centre (a Refuge service).
Under Caroline's expert supervision, Fieldfisher's service provides individuals in need with practical advice, guidance and support to safeguard, validate and empower them to break the cycle of abuse.
The service will be tailored to the individual's circumstances following the completion of a risk assessment.
We will also be working to raise awareness of domestic abuse and to remove the stigma attached to this issue that prevents many victims from seeking help.
In 2022, Fieldfisher will hold awareness sessions, open to all staff, discussing the prevalence of domestic abuse, tactics and methods of control, common myths, indicators when assessing risk and the kinds of support available.
Commenting on the launch of Fieldfisher's Domestic Abuse Support Service, Carole Ohl, HR Director at Fieldfisher said:
"While we sincerely hope that this service will not be widely needed by our staff, we recognise that domestic abuse is an invisible scourge on the lives of many people and we think it is important that our colleagues know there is help if they need it.
"Many abuse victims find it difficult to access support from external organisations due to their personal circumstances, so offering a service at work provides a safer, less intimidating option.
"We are thrilled to be working with Caroline to offer this service and hope we can make a difference to any of our people who may be in need."
Caroline Glass, Domestic Abuse Consultant added:
"I am delighted to be working with Fieldfisher. There are multiple barriers to survivors of abuse from reaching out for support, including; fear, shame and accessibility.
"By shedding light on domestic abuse as part of their WorkWell programme and offering support in a confidential and anonymous way, Fieldfisher is enabling anyone surviving abuse to explore their options and move forward in a safe and informed way.
"My approach to victims or anyone in need of advice is to start by carrying out a risk assessment and working alongside them to discuss what they feel are the safest next steps. This may be to explore protective injunctions, housing options, how to manage social service intervention or child contact arrangements, or it may simply be to discuss what is happening and what is likely to happen in the future.
"The first step is the bravest and most difficult one. Fieldfisher and I will support anyone who needs to take back control and to do this in a safe, planned way."
Fieldfisher is a European law firm built around its people. We are a full-service firm with market-leading practices in energy and natural resources, technology, financial services and life sciences.
Our network of more than 1,700 expert people spans 25 offices in 11 countries, including our US and China locations, acting alongside our international partner firms, enabling us to advise clients around the world with seamless efficiency and dedication across time zones and disciplines.
A Times Top 20 Law Firm, we are highly commended by the European Financial Times Innovative Lawyers rankings and repeatedly nominated for awards in areas including dispute resolution, public and regulatory, M&A and IP.
Our lawyers are consistently recognised by legal directories as leading professionals in their areas of specialism and we are ranked tier 1 or 2 in a number of our key practice areas.
For more information about our firm, please see: About | Fieldfisher.
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