Report

Empowering victims of family violence: could anti-discrimination laws play a role?

9 Mar 2012
Description

Anti-discrimination protection could provide the missing link in Australia’s regulatory response to domestic violence, playing a normative role in discouraging negative stereotyping, and in doing so, empower victims to seek support.

Financial security is a key enabler for victims of family violence to leave violent relationships. Most victims are engaged in paid work but are typically reluctant to disclose they are experiencing family violence to employers and colleagues, even when the violence is impacting on their performance, productivity or safety at work, or they desperately need workplace flexibility in order to navigate the criminal justice system or access family violence support services. Feelings of shame, embarrassment or the fear of being negatively treated by colleagues or managers are powerful barriers to disclosure: an employee experiencing family violence may even be dismissed for performance related issues or abandon their job without the underlying problem being revealed.

To enable victims to get workplace adjustments and maintain the crucial financial and social support that paid work can provide, this stigma and fear of disclosure must be addressed. Anti-discrimination protection could provide the missing link in Australia’s regulatory response to domestic violence, playing a normative role in discouraging negative stereotyping, and in doing so, empower victims to seek support. The issue is already on the national policy agenda and it is an opportune time to examine it because federal anti-discrimination laws are currently under review, and proposed new legislation is due out "in early 2012".

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2012
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