Lockdown saw the highest domestic abuse killings of women and children in over a decade. It also saw more domestic abuse calls from third parties, as the nation stayed at home and had more chance to witness our neighbours’ activities. As we return to our busy lives and workplaces, it is vital that organisations are doing all they can to identify and support those who may need domestic abuse help.

Oasis Community Housing’s new Trustee Fiona Bowman knows first-hand that employers spotting the signs of abuse and acting quickly can save lives.

“For 10 years I lived in Edinburgh and was in a violent and abusive relationship. All the time trying to hide the bruises and the injuries from friends and colleagues. Eventually, after the last and worst beating, I ended up in Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.”

Relocated 400 miles to save my life

Fiona’s workplace acted quickly and discretely to help her to relocate, away from her abuser and to safety. Fiona explains: “They covered my tracks and effectively saved my life, moving me 400 miles away in London, with only what I stood up in and nowhere to sleep that night, I began a new life, free from the horror of the abuse.”

Fiona spent the next few decades building a successful and stable career running her own business Dysart 57 Ltd, a Facilities Management Consultancy. Not satisfied with creating her own hard won safe future Fiona wanted to give back.

“It took me a long time, nearly 18 years, to disclose to employers that I was a survivor of Domestic Abuse, but when I was ready I started to go out and speak to businesses about the importance of employers in the lives of victims and how, if they can put policies and structures in place to support their staff who may be experiencing abuse, their intervention may save a life.”

Decades of campaigning

Once Fiona began her crusade to raise awareness of an employer’s role in combating domestic abuse, a fire was lit and she began an 18 year journey of talks, hosting events, meeting business leaders, setting up support groups and much more.

“I have been campaigning in some amazing places: 10 Downing Street, Guildhall, Hillsborough Castle Belfast, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, St James’s Park Newcastle. I have been on the BBC Breakfast Red Sofa and have made a programme with Channel 4 Dispatches and have been on Sky News and various other Radio programmes.

“Every opportunity to share my story and show employers how they can intervene and help staff who are affected is vital because this is everyone’s business and it is costing businesses £14bn a year in reduced productivity, sickness absence, medical support costs and recruitment when staff leave because they feel unsupported.”

A new role as Trustee

Oasis Community has a long history of working with women who have experienced the trauma of domestic abuse, recognising that domestic abuse as a major contributory factor leading to homelessness.

Fiona came to talk to our charity’s leadership team earlier this year, and they knew immediately that Fiona would be a great trustee for Oasis Community Housing.

“During my preparation for the meeting I learned a great deal about the wonderful and ground-breaking work of Oasis Community Housing and was drawn to the lovely people I encountered and the faith based culture. I was delighted to be appointed [trustee] just over a month ago.

“As a committed Christian, and active member of my local church, working with other people in the Oasis team with the same wish to reignite hope and a future for everyone facing homelessness gives a strong foundation to the work that we do.

“Believing that through faith we can transform communities and change lives, inspires me to use my talents and my God given gifts to help make those changes. This is part of God’s plan for each of us ‘to prosper and not to harm, plans to give hope and a future.’ Together we can make it happen.”

Domestic abuse is everyone’s business

“It would be good to find effective ways of embedding cultures in all businesses to ensure that survivors and perpetrators can universally receive signposting to the best help available,” continues Fiona. “Creating supportive structures with well-trained Managers and Mentors who can spot the signs early and have robust policies in place to guide these employees. Early intervention saves lives.”

Fiona is joining a panel of speakers on Wednesday 24th November to explore practical ways that employers can reduce the social harm caused by domestic abuse.

If you’d like to find out how your workplace can create a safer and more supportive environment for those facing domestic abuse, join us for a special Midday Oasis. Attendance is free, please register your interest to be sent a joining link.