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WOW Women's Advocate Program For Workplaces

Updated: Sep 21, 2019

Did you know women are five times more likely to speak to someone they know...

WOW's Women's Advocate Program to be rolled out across businesses in 2020 will play a frontline role in supporting women impacted by Domestic and Family Violence (DVF) and requiring support at their workplace.

After a trial to be undertaken later this year, the program will be offered to businesses providing immediate support to women who need someone to talk with in a confidential space. It does not duplicate existing services, rather aims to operate as first responder practical care and refers on to appropriate support, recognising safety issues.

The program has been developed in consultation with women across five large employer workplaces and will now be tested in a trial.

Role of the Women’s Advocate In the workplace:

• Listen, believe, validate and assist.

• respect confidentiality.

• respect a woman’s right to make her own decisions.

• promote access to community services.

• when necessary help plan for future safety.

• work with leadership.

In the Community:

• Lobby for child care, housing and funding for women’s programs.

• promote women’s equality campaigns.

• network with coalition partners.

• speak out, take action!

• get involved. Be a voice.

FAQs on the Women’s Advocate Program

What is a Women’s Advocate?

A women’s advocate is a specially trained workplace representative who assists women with concerns such as workplace harassment, intimate violence and abuse. The women’s advocate is not a counsellor but rather provides support for women accessing community and workplace resources.

The women’s advocate program is an example of a safer communities/ management initiative that helps create respectful, healthy and safe workplaces.

What role does a Women’s Advocate perform in the workplace?

The most important role is to assist women who are faced with situations of harassment, violence or abuse in the workplace or in their personal lives. Women are five times more likely to speak to someone they know when they are looking for help. The advocate is there to help women access workplace or community services.

How does the Women’s Advocate Program benefit the employer?

By affecting the bottom line. If a women’s advocate can keep just one woman working who is experiencing violence, the employer will have benefited. And of course, maintaining employment for women experiencing DVF may be the key to rebuilding life beyond DVF and moving towards financial safety. Early prevention strategies minimize the effects of violence for women by providing avenues through which they can seek assistance. When the advocate assists women with support and resources she helps women stay at work.

What is the role of the employer?

The employer assigns a female management support person to work jointly with the women’s advocate. The role of the employer is to provide the women’s advocate with training, support and adequate resources to effectively do her job.

Why does a Women’s Advocate have to be trained?

Women who are in abusive relationships risk further violence, even death, as they seek to leave or break contact with the abuser. The advocate needs to be trained “in depth” to recognize signs, make appropriate referrals and work with the employer to consider safety planning for the workplace if necessary.

What is the cost of training?

The week long training costs include attendance, travel, accommodation and registration. There is some pre-reading involved. Advocates with lived experiences of Domestic and Family Violence also participate in the trainings to give first hand insights into the complexities of Domestic and Family Violence. In keeping with WOW's principles to encourage economic safety for all women, these lived experience case study attendees are paid appropriate remuneration for their expertise. Ongoing support to the Women's Advocate is also provided.

We are currently calling for expressions of interest from appropriate lived experience advocates to be involved with training. To this end, training for lived experience advocates will be held in December 2019 with the program itself anticipated to be rolled out to business from February 2020.

WOW Advocates Program works from a feminist, social justice perspective.

Domestic and family violence must be understood in a framework that recognises women and children are the primary victims of domestic and family violence and that violence, discrimination and gender inequality impact upon a woman’s capacity to reach her full potential.

The WOW Advocates Program recognises and values diversity and is committed to promoting access to and equity of services for all women. WOW also recognises that additional disadvantage and barriers are experienced by particular groups and that these communities are more vulnerable because they are less likely to seek help, identify family and domestic violence in their relationships, or may perceive that their needs might not be met by mainstream services or dealt with sensitively and in confidence.

Who are the victims of violence?

While some men do experience violence within an intimate relationship, the vast majority of victims are women.

Does an employer assume added liability?

No. Although employers sometimes fear that they will expose themselves to added liability, in fact they have an obligation to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstance for the protection of a worker. Violence is a recurring issue and if not addressed through workplace violence prevention programs it can often end tragically.

Incidents of workplace violence can take their toll in other intangible ways. By having proper tools in place in the form of a formal workplace violence prevention program, employers can better protect their workers and their organizations, and do what the law requires at the same time.

Three reasons why employers should be part of a campaign to end violence against women

First reason:

It makes economic sense In a survey, 56% of senior corporate executives were aware of employees who have been affected by violence. Violence against women affects the workplace when an abuser harasses an employee who is on the job, or when a victim is absent because of injuries or stress. Health care costs related to violence against women are estimated at billions per year. Women who experience violence were significantly more likely to report being in “fair or poor” health and almost twice as likely to be coping with some form of depression.

Second reason:

A safe workplace is an employer’s responsibility. Violence against women is a security and liability concern. An abuser’s interference in the workplace or in the work success of his “target” is one of many ways that an abuser exercises and flaunts his power and control.

Third reason:

It’s a whole of community responsibility. Employers can make a difference in their workplaces and in the lives of employees who are facing abuse by sending a clear message that they are on the side of ending violence. It will not be tolerated. Recognizing it is the first step. Taking the warning signs seriously and being supportive can make a real difference. We all have a role to play.


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