Scotland’s biggest health board, with over 38,000 staff, has launched a powerful new policy which offers support to staff who have experienced or are experiencing any kind of gender based violence.
The introduction of the new policy has the full backing of Ministers and women’s support groups, and has led to one member of staff telling her story.
Marie Garrity (59), a Glasgow health visitor, suffered years of domestic abuse at the hands of her husband and welcomes the new policy and the support it will offer victims of abuse.
Marie, who married at 16, was the victim of physical, verbal and sexual abuse for 26 years. She was regularly told by her partner that she was fat, ugly and stupid and ended up with numerous trips to hospital as result of physical abuse.
Marie said: “Twice I ended up in the hospital ward where I worked with a broken nose, and I’ve been to A&E with my head split open, but of course I told lies about what had happened and nobody was suspicious.
“There are different reasons why people don’t leave an abusive relationship, most importantly for me was fear and also embarrassment because you don’t want family to know what’s really going on and with colleagues you try to hide things and pretend everything is ok.
“Also I didn’t want to disrupt my daughter’s education and move away from where all her friends lived.
“So I concentrated on my career because I knew one day I would get away and I wanted to be able to support myself and my daughter.
“Eventually I told another health visitor what had been happening to me and their help put me on the path to getting out.
“I had started to squirrel money away, it took me a long time, but I finally saved enough for a deposit for a flat and after that I just went from strength to strength.
“If I could go back I would get out much quicker but I don’t think there was as much help out there at the time, and there was a stigma attached to it, but I know things are different now and this policy will help other people like me get the support they need.
“Even after 15 years I still have mental and physical scars, and I have flashbacks. It’s like a kind of post traumatic stress, but I’ve had counselling and great support from my colleagues.
“I want people, and that includes men, because they suffer from domestic abuse as well, to know that you can come through this. Confide in a colleague who will help you and go along to support groups as a buddy, but seek help and don’t be embarrassed to tell your family and friends.”
NHSGGC’s Director of Corporate Planning and Polic, Catriona Renfrew, said: “This policy has been introduced to ensure staff at all levels within the organisation feel empowered to disclose any form of abuse they may have experienced.
“One in five female staff members within NHSGGC will have experienced domestic abuse at some point in their lives and many male and female staff will have personal experience of sexual violence, including childhood sexual abuse.
“The policy offers support to those employees to help minimise any impact on their safety, attendance and performance at work and professional development.
“It is also designed to offer support to perpetrators of abuse who are worried about their behaviour and would like help to consider the effects of their behaviour.”
Jan McLeod, Senior Development Officer, Women’s Support Project added: “We very much welcome the introduction of this policy by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.
“Unfortunately violence and abuse occurs in all areas of our society, and is an issue for health workers as well as for those who use health services. This statement of commitment from the Health Board to challenge violence and abuse, along with clear guidance for managers and workers, will undoubtedly encourage those affected by violence to speak out and go some way towards ensuring that positive support is available.”
Shona Robison, Minister with responsibility for equalities said: “Violence against women devastates individuals, families and communities. Its consequences are far reaching and its costs are considerable.
“That is why the Scottish Government has invested £34.5 million over 2012-15 to tackling violence against women, including domestic abuse.
“We welcome this new staff support policy from NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and would encourage other agencies to consider developing their own violence against women policies for staff.”
The policy is part of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s (NHSGGC) commitment to meeting the needs of its diverse workforce and staff at all levels can now access support if they have experienced any form of abuse.
Guidance for managers is available on how to respond to a staff member who discloses that they have been subjected to any form of abuse or where the manager is concerned that this may be the case. Guidance is also provided in responding to perpetrator of abuse who work within the health service as the policy is also designed to offer support to men or women who are worried that their own behaviour towards a partner is abusive.
For further information either telephone 0141 201 4429 or email [email protected].
Pic: Marie Garrity, Health Visitor, NHSGGC