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Partner violence - a hidden cause of unemployment?

Every fourth woman in Sweden has at one time or another been exposed to partner violence. Every three weeks a woman is killed by a man that she was in a relationship with. Many of these women were registered at the Swedish Public Employment Service as jobseekers. In this Podcast we will be talking about why did the Swedish Public Employment Service was commissioned by the Swedish government to become better at increasing the detection of partner violence and where to get help and support if you were exposed to partner violence.

Textad version

Title: Partner violence - a hidden cause of unemployment?

Host and responsible for production: Tara Khaffaf

Recording technician: Andreas Damgaard

Guest: Åsa Frostfeldt

Tara Khaffaf:

Every fourth woman in Sweden has at one time or another been exposed to partner violence, which can affect your health and your ability to have a job and financially support yourself. Partner violence takes place between people involved in an intimate relationship whether married or not and whether or not they are living together.

Every year, the Swedish Social Insurance Agency (Försäkringskassan) handles 11,000 cases of sick leave that are linked to partner violence, and several of these cases are also handed over to the Swedish Public Employment Service (Arbetsförmedlingen) when there’s a need for further rehabilitation to be able to return to work. Now we will talk about why Arbetsförmedlingen might ask you as a jobseeker about partner violence. You listen to the podcast - New in Sweden, with me - Tara Khaffaf. Today we welcome Åsa Frostfeldt. Åsa is the project manager at Arbetsförmedlingen and is responsible for the government initiative called Increased detection of partner violence. Åsa has worked with quality enhancement in the public sector and human rights for over 20 years. Welcome to Arbetsförmedlingen's podcast - New in Sweden.

Åsa Frostfeldt: Thank you very much!

Tara: Can you tell us about the government initiative Increased detection of partner violence?

Åsa:

The government has commissioned Arbetsförmedlingen, Försäkringskassan, Migrationsverket, Socialstyrelsen and Jämställdhetsmyndigheten to become better at increasing the detection of partner violence. The reason for this is that we know that having experience of partner violence or honour-related violence can affect your health both in the short and long term, which can be a hidden cause of unemployment and can affect a person's ability to get and keep a job.

We got this assignment as an outcome of the Socialstyrelsen’s death investigations, also called inquests, which are a type of accident investigations carried out when a person is murdered by their partner. One of the conclusions is that the victims have often had had many contacts with various public agencies, but no one asked them if they were exposed to partner violence. Many of the victims were unemployed and sometimes Arbetsförmedlingen was the only contact the person had with a public agency. Had we asked the person if they were experiencing partner violence, we might have been able to save these people's lives and guide them to the right support, protection and treatment.

Tara:

Why is this topic of partner violence and honour-related violence important to talk more about?

Åsa:

It is important to be able to talk about how violence affects our health, in the same way, as that we talk today about how alcohol and drugs affect our health. It is important to remove the shame from these issues and focus on how we can stop partner violence and honour-related violence. These types of ’hidden’ violence are major health problems. No one can solve this on their own. Everyone must help out to stop the violence. The role of Arbetsförmedlingen, is to help detecting the violence and ensure that the jobseeker receives the right support, that they are in need of, to find a new job or the right education.

Tara:

What kind of violence is Arbetsförmedlingen asking about?

Åsa:

We can ask if you have experience of physical, psychological, sexual or financial abuse. It can be anything from serious physical violence to one's partner having access to one's e-identification and perhaps indebting their partner without even knowing about it, or stalking the person and monitoring everything that the person does both on-line and in real life. Honour-related violence and oppression can lead to restrictions, so you may not be able to decide for yourself what education you can choose or what profession you should have, or whether you can choose your friends or join social events. It may also be the case that you are prevented from having contact with Arbetsförmedlingen, if your family does not want you to work outside the home.

Tara:

Who are the people affected by partner violence?

Åsa:

Partner violence can affect everyone, regardless of whether you are a man or a woman, young or old, poor or rich and in all types of different relationships. The only thing that is common, is that the victim and the perpetrator are experts in hiding their situation and we must therefore understand the importance of screening for partner violence and reaching out a helping hand.

Tara:

How common is partner violence in Sweden?

Åsa:

Last year in Sweden, about 50 000 women and about 12 000 men reported to the police that they had been exposed to partner violence, but the numbers of unreported cases are estimated to be much higher.

It is more common for women, in comparison to men, to be exposed to more serious violence, that leads to the need for hospital care, but also need for domestic violence emergency shelter and the need for long term protection of your personal data about where you live and other personal information.

A study from the The Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention (BRÅ) has revealed that approximately 7 percent of Sweden's population had been exposed to partner violence during one year. If one thinks that jobseekers are a cross-section of the Swedish population, it will mean that out of half a million jobseekers who are enrolled in Arbetsförmedlingen, that about 35,000 jobseekers are exposed to partner violence.

Tara:

Why can it be extra difficult to be exposed to partner violence if you are unemployed?

Åsa:

A jobseeker can be financially dependent on his or her partner. For example, it can be difficult to leave an abusive relationship and get new housing if you do not have a permanent job.

If you are experiencing violence and feeling scared it can also be extra difficult to "be your best self" when you have to promote yourself to a new employer. If someone is stalking you and need to feel safe at work, that could limit the types of jobs you can apply for.

Tara:

Why should the Arbetsförmedlingen ask questions about violence?

Åsa:

It can be important for Arbetsförmedlingen to know if a person face restrictions in their job searching, for example if they cannot stay in the same geographical areas where the perpetrator is staying or if certain occupations are not suitable. For example, you probably should not have a publicly exposed job if you have a threat against you. It is important to tell if there are such restrictions because, otherwise Arbetsförmedlingen may make the assessment, that you mismanages the job seeking and can tell the unemployment insurance fund (A-kassan) so you can be without financial compensation.

But it can also be the case that the violence has affected your health, so that you have cognitive impairments such as learning problems, memory disorders or concentration problems, which can create problems when, for example, trying out a new job or doing an internship. But if Arbetsförmedlingen knows why you are experiencing these problems; we can make adjustments for you.

Tara:

What can you expect from Arbetsförmedlingen if you are in a vulnerable situation?

Åsa:

First, it depends in what type of violence the jobseeker is experiencing. Is it ongoing violence, is the person in the process of breaking-up, are they survivors of previous violence that is still causing problems for example post-traumatic stress syndrome or is it post-partner violence? Post-partner violence is the violence that the person can be exposed to after breaking up the relationship with the perpetrator, for example, trying to intimidate and harass the person that can create stress. Depending on where the person is in this process, there are different kinds of adjustments that Arbetsförmedlingen can make.

Our mission is to help to increase the detection of partner violence and then help people get the support and protection they need. We will not investigate the violence or make risk assessments, the police or the social services will do that. If the person needs to be placed in a domestic violence emergency shelter, it is the social services that make that placement and pays for it. Nor can we offer therapy, but healthcare services can. What we can help with, is to refer to these contacts, and we can adapt the planning for finding a job or the right education for you.

Tara:

Has the jobseeker who has been exposed to partner violence any obligations to tell Arbetsförmedlingen about it?

Åsa:

It is of course completely voluntary for the jobseeker to tell Arbetsförmedlingen about the experience of violence. However, we can provide better support if we get to know how someone’s life situation affects their situation in terms of moving on to a new job or education.

Tara:

Other than Arbetsförmedlingen, where else can you get help?

Åsa:

First of all, I want to say that everyone has the right to a life without violence and there is help available. We at Arbetsförmedlingen can guide you in this process.

If it is an emergency situation, you should call the police on 112 and contact the local social services if you need domestic violence emergency shelter. If you want advice, you can call the national helpline Kvinnofridslinjen 020-50 50 50, and you don’t need to give your name and can remain anonymous. There is also support available if you want help to stop your violent behavior. You can, for example, call the helpline for perpetrators and you also remain anonymous. Välj att sluta 020 - 555 666 or contact the social services in your local municipality.

Tara:

You have listened to Arbetsförmedlingen's podcast New in Sweden with Åsa Frostfeldt and me Tara Khaffaf. Recording technician for this program was Andreas Damgaard. This program was produced in the spring of 2021. In the description of this podcast, we have collected webblinks with support for those who are jobseekers and who are survivors of violence or perpetrators who wants help.