Domestic violence is everyone’s business
Each year, between 1 and 4 million American women are assaulted by an intimate partner. That may sound like a personal problem, but domestic violence is clearly a business problem. The impact of that violence spills over into the workplace in the form of increased absenteeism, higher insurance costs for medical claims, lower productivity, and the relative risk to other employees if the assailant decides to attack her partner at work. In fact, the Department of Justice reports that husbands and boyfriends commit 13,000 acts of violence against women in the workplace each year, and more than 70 percent of employed victims report that their abusers have harassed them at work. Perpetrators cause more than 60 percent of their victims to be late or absent from work. If the victim has left the abuser and moved to a shelter or address that he does not have, she still knows where the victim works and will often try to find her there.
What should you do if you suspect or have clear evidence that one of your employees is a victim of domestic violence? It can be tempting to simply look the other way or, as many companies have done, fire the employee for poor performance if the situation affects the quality of their work. But that does nothing to help the victim avoid serious injury or death; It also does nothing to preserve your corporate investment in employee training and work.
A better strategy is to help. One way is to provide all employees with information about domestic violence. Even if you are not aware of a specific situation, this will let them know that you are concerned about their safety and that you will support them if they have a problem.
If you identify a victim of domestic violence, work with her (or him; men can be victims of domestic violence too) to create a safety plan. Safety planning benefits the victim, the business, and the victim community. By supporting the victim and developing a plan to make them less vulnerable at work, the entire workplace becomes safer. At the same time, it sends a clear message to the abuser and to the community at large that domestic violence will not be tolerated or ignored.
For information on how to educate yourself and your employees on the dynamics of domestic violence and safety planning, as well as referrals to resources in your area, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799- 7233 or http://www.ndvh. org.