Family violence survivor helps introduce groundbreaking policy to help colleagues


Vineeta Srivastava is a domestic violence survivor – and now she’s helping others overcome the same trauma she once experienced.

Ms Srivastava, a senior account executive with software company SAP Australia and New Zealand, recently helped to develop a groundbreaking family and domestic violence policy in her workplace.

The new policy includes a range of measures to support employees experiencing family and domestic violence (FDV), including 10 days of paid FDV leave, free counselling and mandatory FDV training for managers.

It was developed by staff through SAP’s Business Women’s Network, which Ms Srivastava is part of and felt the statutory requirement of five days of unpaid leave was not good enough.

Ms Srivastava told news.com.au she would have benefited from a similar policy had one existed when she experienced violence at the hands of an ex-partner overseas before she moved to Australia.

“I’m married now with a great husband, but I was (previously) in a relationship that was quite toxic,” she said.

“I was doing well in my career at that point, and jealousy could have been one of the reasons, and to escape the toxic relationship I moved cities.”

Ms Srivastava said the “emotional abuse” continued long distance, and when she made the decision to finally end the relationship, her former partner tracked her down in her new city and attacked her.

“It was not the first time physical assault had happened, but the other times were not as threatening,” she said.

Vineeta Srivastava has helped to roll out new domestic abuse policies at her workplace.

“I was on the floor with a scarf wrapped around my neck, and at that time I thought, ‘This is it, this is the end’.

“I had an extreme amount of anger inside me and I just pushed him which gave me the opportunity to run away.”

In a new city without her usual support network around her, Ms Srivastava relied on her colleagues and manager who were “extremely sympathetic” and “surrounded” her with support.

“I never once felt like a victim – I’m a survivor, and I took a lot of positivity out of that fact,” she said.

But she said at the time, there wasn’t a domestic violence policy in her workplace, which meant she had to rely on the “kindness” of her supervisor.

That’s why, years later and in a new country and in a different organisation, Ms Srivastava has helped to pioneer SAP’s new policy.

She said it was essential as it not only provided much-needed time off but also the financial benefit of secure pay during a period where extra expenses – such as moving costs – were often incurred.

“We’ve had a lot of good feedback – domestic violence is more prevalent than many of us think and so the policy also affects more people than you would think, and it gives them the courage to continue,” she said.

“I hope other workplaces follow suit because domestic violence is so prevalent in our country, and I wonder why more hasn’t been done about it.”

SAP Australia and New Zealand head of human resources Debbie Rigger said she was “proud” the organisation had “listened to its employees” and implemented the change.

“Sadly, in Australia the issue of FDV is all too common and seeking help can be a difficult and scary experience. We believe we have a responsibility to support our staff when they need it most,” she said.

“Anyone suffering FDV shouldn’t have to worry about work, and this will allow staff the time to seek medical attention, counselling, legal advice, support or new accommodation in a time of need.

“FDV comes in many forms – from violence to coercive control – and can impact people from all backgrounds. We hope this creates an environment where staff feel supported to speak up and seek help.”

This article first appeared on News.com.au