Physical & sexual violence against women within family and in the workplace – Vic Police Chief


Our co-author Madame Zena saw an article in yesterday’s Herald Sun – as part of his ongoing campaign Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Lay in an open letter to all men in today’s Herald Sun, calls on them to speak out and take a stand against all forms of physical and sexual violence against women – both within the family context and in the workplace.

Madame Zena (and thought it might be worth writing something up for our blog on the issue of violence against women in the workplace; an all too common but all hidden issue.

Physical & sexual violence against women within family and in the workplace – VicPol


Madame-Zena-authorBy Madame Zena

We applaud Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Ken Lay for his unremitting and passionate campaign to curb all forms of physical and sexual violence against women – both within the family context and in the workplace.

Chief Commissioner Lay in an open letter to all men in today’s Herald Sun, calls on men to speak out and take a stand to change the climate of opinion to make it unacceptable for women to experience violence in any aspect of their lives. He calls on employers and business leaders to make it obvious, known, and recognised that violence against women will be regarded as abhorrent.

Workplace violence doesn’t stay at work when its victims go home. It can follow them, resulting in violence both within and outside the workplace. Or it can spill over into the workplace when a woman is absent because of injuries or less productive from extreme stress.

Violence against women at work… Let’s talk about it!

The prevalence of violence against women remains unacceptably high in Australia. One in three women experience physical violence and one in five experience sexual violence in their lifetime, most often from an intimate partner. A significant number of women experience violence in their workplace from known colleagues and peers.

Violence against women at work

Women from all backgrounds are attacked each year at work. Women are routinely subject to physical and sexual violence in the workplace.

Murder is the leading cause of workplace deaths for women

Sometimes women are attacked during a robbery. Usually, though, women are hurt by someone they know, like a co-worker, customer, client, or patient. And sometimes attacks are the result of domestic violence that spills over into the workplace.

The recent findings about the impact of violence against women in the work place found more than 60 per cent of women report experiencing some form of violence at work and 75 per cent report experiencing unwanted or unwelcome sexual behaviour at work. However, the actual prevalence may be higher because there is evidence that many women do not seek help or report violence when it occurs. Supervisors and colleagues perpetrate more violence against women in the workplace than people ‘external’ to organisations (such as clients, customers, students or patients). In 40 per cent of cases of ‘internal’ workplace violence, managers, supervisors or business owners perpetrated the violence and in 60 per cent of cases the perpetrator was another worker. (VicHealth, 2012, Preventing violence against women in the workplace-An evidence review: summary report)

Violence against women in the workplace is a major public health problem and a violation of human rights. Violence against women results in major health, social and economic consequences for individual women, their families, organisations and society. It has significant effects on women’s physical and mental health as well as their material and financial stability. These can include premature death, physical injuries, depression, anxiety and social isolation. There are also considerable economic costs to individuals affected, employers and society.

It has been estimated that workplace sexual assault and harassment alone accounts for $22,500 per person in lost productivity alone. When this figure is multiplied by the fifty eight per cent of women in the workforce who report experiencing sexual assault and harassment, the organisational cost of lost productivity is projected to be greater than $1.1 trillion.

Workplaces can make a difference

Violence against women– whether it occurs in or beyond the workplace – impacts on the health and safety of women at work, their wellbeing and their productivity.

It is the employer’s responsibility to maintain a safe workplace free of violence. Supervisors should not assume violence against women is just “part of the job” and that workers shouldn’t complain.

There are ever increasing calls for the recognition of workplace violence against women as an occupational issue, not just a criminal justice issue.

However we note, with much disgust, that WorkSafe Victoria have been completely absent from the debate and has remained silent on the issue of workplace violence against women.

Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Ken Lay called on high-profile men and groups to speak out against violence against women. Chief Commissioner Lay asks men to consider “why blokes are so quiet on these issues”, challenging them to “use the full measure of your profession and passion’ to speak out – in the media, the boardroom and community meetings, with colleagues and children.” “And if none of us are saying anything, then this feral atmosphere gets worse, until it becomes an endorsement of violence against women.”

Despite Chief Commissioner Lay’s high profile campaign to curb all forms of physical and sexual violence against women -WorkSafe chooses to stay mute rather than taking a leadership role.

We applaud and commend the CFMEU for taking the lead in this regard with the Union’s launch this week of a campaign to curb violence against women. The campaign called: Real men don’t abuse women aims to spread the message that violence against women is unacceptable and to encourage more men to speak out against it.

We call upon all employers and organisations to take steps to promote safe workplaces for women by adapting organisational culture, practices and procedures and establishing a zero-tolerance policy towards all forms of violence at work, including physical and sexual violence and prevent sexual harassment.

Workplace violence against women is not OK. It is not the victims fault and it is not ‘just something you have to go through’. There are things that you can do and you can get help.

What can I do if I am experiencing workplace violence?

In an emergency, call the police
If you have experienced, or are experiencing, physical assault, threats to hurt or kill you, stalking, sexual assault or indecent assault, you can call the police. These forms of violence are against the law and the perpetrator may be charged with a criminal offence.

It is important to call the police as soon as you can if you are experiencing these forms of violence in your workplace.

If you are injured, go to a doctor
Ask the doctor to record when the incident took place and the nature and extent of your injuries. Get a medical certificate. Have photographs taken of your injuries.

Talk to someone about what is happening
For example, you could talk to your family or friends, a co-worker or manager you trust or healthcare professional.

Keep notes about what is happening
Record the date, time and exactly what happened. Write down the names and contact details of any people who witnessed incidents.

Talk to your boss or supervisor
Tell your boss or supervisor and keep notes about what they said when you told them. If your boss or supervisor is the person perpetrating the violence, talk to someone else in your workplace in a position of authority. Ask for incidents to be recorded and ask for a copy of the incident report. Again, it is important to call the police as soon as you can.

Get legal advice
No matter what form of violence you are experiencing, getting legal advice can be very useful.

Workplace violence is a work safety issue. All employers have a responsibility to protect the safety of their workers and prevent physical and sexual violence from occurring. If they fail to do this, they can be held accountable through the legal system. For example, laws that may be relevant here include the occupational health and safety laws, workers compensation laws, (employment) contract laws, personal injury liability laws and unfair dismissal laws.

You can get legal advice from your union or a lawyer (who works privately or for a Community Legal Centre).

Apply for workers compensation
If you have physical or psychological injuries, you may be able to apply for workers compensation.

If you have experienced serious physical assault or sexual assault in the workplace and have suffered a physical or psychological injury as a result, and the alleged offender is the employer/business owner or similar –

you do not need to lodge your WorkCover claim directly with the employer or with the employer’s claims agent

There is a little known section of the Accident Compensation Act that allows worker’s injured in such circumstances to lodge their claims directly with the Victorian WorkCover Authority. If their claim is accepted, they will become a direct payee of the VWA.

Likewise, if you have experienced serious physical assault or sexual assault in the workplace and the alleged offender is the employer/business owner or similar, the victim/injured worker is under no obligation to remain in the employ of the organisation in order to lodge a WorkCover claim. As there is a deemed irretrievable breakdown in the employment relationship.

If you suffer a work-related injury as a result of serious physical assault or sexual assault, we strongly urge you to engage a solicitor to handle the preparation and lodgement of your claim form directly with the VWA and handled all dealings on your behalf. Where there are concurrent police investigation and/or criminal proceedings this can also add some further legal procedural complexities to your claim and/or any WorkCover related legal proceedings you may have during your claim.


Men have to stand up and change their thinking

from Herald Sun 18 October 2013
Ken Lay , Chief Commissioner Victoria Police

EACH week a woman is killed by her partner or ex-partner. You might think that you don’t know these women – that it could never happen to you or someone you know – but you’re probably wrong.

Violence against women is not limited to any suburb, or to the poor, or to any fixed, imagined type of person you have in your head. The more than 60,000 family incidents Victoria Police attended in the previous year were spread all over the state: in many different homes, filled with many different people.

So, please: let’s talk honestly about this. We owe it to the victims. Too often female victims are subject to blame, ignorance and condemnation. Too often our discussions about violence against women are addled by myth. Let’s dispel a few.

First, family violence isn’t a discrete phenomenon, separate from the prevailing culture of the day. It doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Family violence exists on a long continuum of violence against women and not all of that violence is physical. This continuum of violence is unified by awful attitudes towards women and illustrated by some frightening statistics.

An estimated 20 per cent of Australian women have been sexually assaulted and a recent report suggested that the figure for female GPs is 50 per cent. Add to that the one woman – on average – who is killed by a partner or ex-partner each week, and the prevalence of family violence, and you see the statistical outlines of a huge problem. Keep in mind that those figures are based upon what’s reported: sexual assault is under-reported.

The figures stem from some pretty sick attitudes towards women, attitudes of sexual entitlement and possessiveness; attitudes of supposed female inferiority. Many of those attitudes are reinforced in the workplace – subtly or overtly – and they influence vulgar or criminal behaviour.

Behaviour like that of Robert Meade, who was recently found guilty of murdering his wife because she was planning to move to England with her children. Or the brutal case of Sargun Ragi, whose husband starved, raped and murdered her because of his jealousy and possessiveness. But we don’t often see it that way – we don’t see the relationship between cultural attitudes and behaviour.

It says something else about our culture that as the intimacy between victim and perpetrator increases, the community’s disgust decreases. Is that because we think it’s inevitable? Or normal? To which I say: it’s our culture and we can change what’s “normal” if it’s damaging and senseless.

In order to change our culture, we need to first appreciate the prevalence of rotten attitudes to women. Then we need to understand there’s a relationship between those attitudes and violence. Next, in order to change our culture we need to readjust our focus. Let’s make the subject of our fury the malignant entitlement of these men, rather than the supposed complicity of the victim. Let’s base our understanding of violence against women on facts, not a sense of superiority and invulnerability.

In order to change our culture, we need to examine our own professional and personal responsibilities. We can’t do that properly if we keep categorising violence against women as “normal”, if we keep blaming the victim or if we fail to see the patterns that tie this violence together.

Are our workplaces equitable? Increasingly so, but the short answer is “no”. The reasons are complex and they vary, but professional leaders must begin to question their own climates. With help, that’s what I’m doing.

We also have personal obligations. I’m really thinking of the blokes here. You have an obligation to talk to your sons and explain to them the importance of treating women with respect – and show them what that respect looks like. You need to help them negotiate a raw and immature sexuality, often influenced by porn, with gentleness and thought. You need to condemn your mates who think it’s okay to grope women, or scream at them, or insult them. And if you’ve done any of those things, you need to ask yourself: why? You need to ask yourself why you feel entitled to the woman’s respect, love or attention.

I know I’m banging a drum, but I want men to fill the vacuum of male leadership on this. I’m not suggesting that male voices are more authoritative – that would be absurd – or that blokes can solve this alone. It’s simply to correct an absence of male voices. We must help fix this together.

To the men already standing up: excellent, but remember we need much more than outrage and good intentions. We need a sophisticated understanding of these issues. Take the time to study it, talk about it with friends.

It’s important. Just ask the families of victims no longer with us.

Ken Lay is Victoria’s Police Commissioner

One Response to “Physical & sexual violence against women within family and in the workplace – Vic Police Chief”

  1. Nothing will change for females at work, i learnt the hard way. 8 years ago a customer repeatedly groped me and tried to kiss me. I told my boss and stupidly thought he would be supportive. Instead my boss flew into a rage as he was his best customer and he didnt want ME upsetting his best customer. Customer kept pestering me and after one incident I was left so shaken and frightened I left work, called my husband told him what happened and he said to report it to police. But when the police spoke to my boss, he told them that i was just a disgruntled former employee trying to cause harm to the business. WTF? I left because of it not the other way round. Then it to me ages to get another job as my former boss kept giving me bad references and bad mouthing me, he made my life hell. Would i try and stand up for myself again…NO WAY. I was taught and learnt my lesson about how it works for females at work, there is only one option…put up and shut up.
    I feel for any female going through similar at work.