Safe Places? Workplace Support for those Experiencing Domestic Abuse

on 04 October 2018 Domestic Abuse

‘Midwives trained to recognise domestic abuse and support women, were sometimes not recognising that they themselves are victims of domestic abuse says RCM’

Midwives, maternity support workers, nurses and healthcare assistants are reported to be three times more likely to have experienced domestic abuse in the last year than the average citizen within the United Kingdom.1

Today (Thursday October 4th) The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) has launched a report entitled Safe Places? Workplace Support for those Experiencing Domestic Abuse’ at its Annual Conference in Manchester Central.

Between July and August 2018, the RCM invited its members to participate in an online survey in relation to support for staff experiencing domestic abuse. The RCM asked questions in relation to workplace support for staff experiencing domestic abuse, via the annual survey of Heads of Midwifery and Directors of Midwifery services.

As a supplementary activity, the RCM also obtained information from NHS Trusts, using the Freedom of Information Act to determine whether Trusts have relevant policies in place to support staffs who are victims of domestic abuse.

The aim of these activities was to gain a better understanding of the incidence of domestic abuse RCM members may have experienced and to explore the availability and nature of workplace support for them.

The data was analysed by the RCM both qualitatively and quantitatively to capture the range and diversity of thoughts, feelings and experiences.

Based on the findings the RCM has put forward the following evidence-based recommendations. These will enable maternity service managers and NHS Trusts/Boards to support staff experiencing domestic abuse more effectively.


  • All NHS Trusts/Health Boards should develop specific policies to support who are victims of domestic abuse, aligned to existing guidance from the NHS Staff Council developed in 2017.


  • NHS Trusts/Health Boards should provide and publicise confidential domestic abuse support services for affected staff, including access to IDVAs, external counselling and legal services as appropriate.


  • NHS Trusts/Health Boards should ensure that all managers and supervisors are trained on domestic abuse issues, so that they can recognise signs of domestic abuse in their staff and confidently undertake their safeguarding obligations.


  • NHS Trusts/Health Boards should ensure that staff at all levels are trained on domestic abuse issues and made aware of relevant workplace policies as part of their induction programme and continuous updating and are made aware of support services.


Commenting Gill Walton, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) says; “It is utterly shocking how widespread domestic abuse is. Two women are killed each week in England and Wales by a current or former partner and 1.2 million women were affected by domestic abuse in the year to March 2017. Domestic abuse is destructive in its nature. It has a deep and long-lasting impact on the physical and mental health and wellbeing of victims.

“Midwifery is predominantly a female profession and victims of domestic abuse are mostly women. In all of this, it is so easy to forget that a great many midwives and maternity support workers (MSWs) may themselves be victims of domestic abuse.

“Although the results from this survey of our members are a snapshot in a specific period of time, analysing these findings and reading the testimonies of those who responded, gives us a good understanding of the scale of the problem.

“The irony is that some midwives and MSWs as frontline health professionals, who are trained to recognise domestic abuse and support women, were sometimes not recognising that they themselves were victims of domestic abuse. If they did, many felt fearful and ashamed about what was happening to them. The stigma that affects so many survivors of abuse affects our RCM members too.

“Our members told us in this survey that a supportive and confidential environment in the workplace, where they feel able to disclose information about domestic abuse without fear or shame, could well be the light at the end of the tunnel. They need leaders and colleagues to be supportive, have robust policies to give that support some structure, and know that disclosing makes them stronger.

“This is why the RCM is bringing forward recommendations for the NHS and managers of maternity services on the back of this survey, so that midwives and maternity support workers can get the same help and support they are being asked to provide to the women they give care to.”


A collection of anonymous comments from those RCM members surveyed;

“I was allowed to stay overnight on my delivery suite to avoid going home to my abusive partner”

“I was made to feel I was a nuisance, constantly asking me and contacting me, pressurising me in to coming back to work. I gave in and did but I was soon off again as I still wasn’t well, and I then left midwifery because I didn’t want to be dismissed. I didn’t receive any support that was effective for me”

“I have and was been treated very badly by my place of work, absolutely no support or care and compassion”

“I was given a specific senior midwife who I could go to for support, to discuss things at times when home was particularly bad and to deal with any sickness absence - helpful as one person knew what was going on and I could be truthful, especially about the reasons for sickness absence sometimes”

“All staff should be asked about domestic abuse or violence on a regular basis”

“Police and social services were unhelpful, and no support provided. Neither I nor my children were offered counselling or directed to appropriate services despite asking several times for help. One police officer even commented that due to my ethnicity I could handle the situation myself.”


Read report in full here


The RCM’s Annual Conference 2018 takes place in Manchester Central on October 5th and 6th and all the details are available here:


RCM Conference Programme available here:



1.    World Health Organization. Global and regional estimates of violence against women. Prevalence and health effects of intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual violence. In: Anonymous Global and regional estimates of violence against women. Prevalence and health effects of intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual violence, 2013.


To contact the RCM Media Office call 020 7312 3456, or email [email protected].

The RCM is the only trade union and professional association dedicated to serving midwifery and the whole midwifery team. We provide workplace advice and support, professional and clinical guidance and information, and learning opportunities with our broad range of events, conferences and online resources. For more information visit the RCM website at