TAG | domestic violence at work
By guest contributor Erika Evans
President Obama announced Friday that he will sign the expansion of the Violence Against Women’s act to include lesbians, gays, transgender people, Native Americans and immigrants after Congress voted 286 to 138 in its favor. Vice President Biden noted that there has been a 64 percent drop since he first wrote and pushed the bill in 1994.
Even if there is evidence that there has been a decrease in domestic violence there will never be a time where we should stop addressing it. The Center for Disease Control did a report in 2011 that states that 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States.
The Violence Against Women act website states that there has been an 11 percent increase in the reporting of domestic violence over the past 10 years. This is proof that addressing the issue has made progress. Also, we have only just begun to acknowledge domestic violence and intimate partner abuse in the work place and need to push forward with doing so to ensure the safety of employees and their right to work in a protected environment.
The only way we can continue to make progress is to keep laws, prevention programs, employment policies and education in place and to address domestic violence in society past, present and future.
It was October and the call enter employer had an epiphany: “let’s do something for all the employees to get them engaged in a local charitable cause! I have it, let’s do domestic violence awareness training. After all this IS National Domestic Violence Awareness Month – I read it in the paper!” So awareness training they did. They called a local advocacy group which did a free training for anyone who wanted to show up to the Lunch-n-Learn. The employer sat back, satisfied that they were doing something important and the community would be blanketed in the warm-fuzzy feeling that the neighborhood corporation was ready to help by donated large sums of money to keep the local shelter doors open.
Except that’s not what happened. What happened was that a four of the people who voluntarily attended the training did so because they suspected that the trauma they lived with day in and day out actually had a label, “Domestic Violence” and they were loath to identify themselves as “victims”. But what was happening at home was wrong – they said so in the training. They wanted help. After all this was a company sponsored training for the purpose of helping people, wasn’t it?
So, one by one, they went to Human Resources. And it backfired. Big time. Each of the four people thought they would get help of some sort. It wasn’t until later when they managed to learn that individually they were not alone in this dilemma did they discover they each had the same response from HR. Something akin to a cross between “deer in the headlights” and “bear on a rampage”. HR treated these people with utter lack of concern and blatantly told them they had no idea what to do and it wasn’t up to them to find out. It was, after all “a personal problem”.
Each employee left more bewildered, confused and frightened then when they came in. Because they “cat was out of the bag’ now. Have they jeopardized their jobs? Will everyone know their most embarrassing personal issue? Will their abuser find out they talked and retaliate?
My clients understand the importance of having all managers trained to recognize the signs, even the subtle ones, of abuse – before they do employee training. In addition, they participate in skill practice exercises where we experience talking with an employee that has self-disclosed their circumstances, or ones that management has had to approach due to the recognition of the very signs they’ve learned to identify. The skill practices help managers become comfortable with what would normally be considered an off-limits conversation because managers are typically unsure of what to do and afraid of embarrassing the employee. Here though, we even laugh. Not at the issue, but at ourselves. What could be more fun than making actors of ourselves and stepping out of our usual roles for the benefit of the learning experience? You can even see some scenes from these on my website.
That’s among the benefits of the workshop It Happened at Home- It Cost Us at Work. That’s the clear benefit of a subject matter expert in domestic violence in the workplace. You have the opportunity to learn how to listen and respond with empathy and offer clear guidance and resources, as a manager, without stepping into the role of therapist. That’s how you create a workplace that is Safe, Supportive and Sought-After. Who says it has to be a personal problem?
It’s an honor to be participating as a panelist at this discussion. I’ll represent employers and provide advice on measures they can take to prevent abuse, what employers can do and what policies can support their employees.
I hope you will make time next Saturday to attend this important event in recognition of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month – and all the Amy’s out there.
consulting · conversation · crime victim’s rights · domestic abuse · domestic violence at work · domestic violence awareness month · domestic violence in the workplace · domestic violence prevention · employees · family · personal safety · training · victim · victim’s rights · violence
Years ago I worked for a hospital that had a division that was a physician billing company and we had an employee whom I’ll call “Dee”. Dee came forward to me in the HR office and said that she was going through a very, very difficult divorce and that her husband was actually stalking her and waiting outside of her door to her house all the time. He was threatening her and threatening the safety of their two young boys who were only three and five years old. And he was also threatening to go to court and say that she was an unfit mother. She was scared that she was going to lose custody. She was scared for her safety and the boy’s safety. As you can imagine that would make it really hard for her to concentrate on the job.
I called my counterpart in Human Resources, a woman who I’ll call “Mary”, who had the same job that I did, but at another division and what Mary and I did was create a job transfer for Dee so that she could go to Mary’s division and work the same hours and get the same pay and do a very similar job to what she was doing for us. And that would really be helpful for Dee because money was critical. That was the one thing that would help her get back on her feet and away from her husband and successfully get divorced and be able to support the two boys. But then when, and if, the husband ever came to our workplace and looked for her we could truthfully say “She’s not here anymore, and she doesn’t work here.”
The night before Dee was supposed to transfer a couple of her co-workers came to me in my office and said, “Did you know that Dee was sitting out in her car in the parking lot crying her eyes out?” I said, “Well no, I didn’t know that.” I went out there and I tapped on the window, Dee rolled the window down and she’s crying, that kind of sobbing crying that probably all of you have done at one time or another when something horrific was happening. I said, “What’s going on Dee?” and she cried, “I told that other HR manager I didn’t want the transfer, and she screamed at me and she said, ‘do you know the hoops that I jumped through to get you this position, do you know the time it took me to create this job for you!’” Dee was just absolutely mortified. And I was stunned, stunned that a human resources professional, somebody like you, somebody like me, would have the audacity to re-victimize Dee in the manner that she did. Here Dee was fearful for her life as it was, feared for her children’s safety, and just because this woman had really an ideal situation, happily married, and no children, and just because she couldn’t really understand these situations and wasn’t putting herself in Dee’s shoes, that she only thought about the time it took her to create this position. She didn’t think about Dee at all.
I was mortified, and that was a real turning point for me. Although I had worked in human resources for many years and had other issues with employees that were dealing with domestic abuse and also grew up with it in my own life. That was really one of the moments, for me, was the intersection for helping HR managers understand the business case for addressing domestic abuse at the workplace. And I don’t know why Dee didn’t want that transfer. I never really asked her, but I’m going to guess that it’s because she knew that if she stayed with us we would validate her and we would do whatever we could do in our power to keep her safe, which is exactly what we had demonstrated by trying to get her that transfer. And the good news about all of that is we didn’t have to replace Dee we were able to retain a really, really valuable employee. It’s all about making your workplace a safe place to ask for help. And, it’s things like that, those small changes that have really big positive results that each one of you can do in your own workplaces as well.
How has your workplace succeeded? What could be improved? If you have comments and suggestions on how to make your own workplace a Safe Place to Ask for Help I’d love to hear them.
domestic abuse · domestic violence at work · domestic violence prevention · Domestic violence training · employees · Human Resources · management · personal safety · Safe place to ask for help · strategic leadership · training · victim
A friend of mine spent months, all last winter in fact, dodging the bullying, badgering and intimidation of a male coworker. She wasn’t alone. Several of her coworker’s requested shift changes and altered job duties to avoid this man. And it wasn’t just women who were suffering. This anti-social bulldog was every bit as ruthless with men. He seemed to want to sabotage every relationship he had.
But for one. Because they always seem to need an ally. Someone who will believe them incapable of wrong and who will help pave the way for future damage. In this case it was a female coworker. We’ll call her “Wanda”.
So when the co-worker’s abuse finally came to a head and formal charges were filed against this jerk, “Jerry”, he fled the state. And guess where he stayed? In another state at the home of Wanda’s extended family.
While the police grappled with getting Jerry back to town. The employer grappled with what to do with Wanda. Clearly she had enabled this man to abuse several members of the workplace. And those that suffered were mad as hell and talking class-action suit (much deserved in my opinion).
So what’s an employer to do? Not much, unfortunately, because they weren’t prepared. Their workplace policies and procedures were written around the time cell phones still looked like bricks and hadn’t been updated since. They had nothing to protect them, nothing in writing to reinforce that Wanda’s actions were wrong and terminable offences. Tisk, tisk, tisk.
It doesn’t have to be like that. Progressive companies have a policy to promote a safe environment for its employees. They are committed to working with employees to provide a work environment free from violence, threats of violence, harassment, intimidation, and other disruptive behavior and they would include language in the policy that outlines all employees’ responsibilities to prevent workplace aggression in all its forms.
Let me know when your company is ready to protect itself from the Wanda and Jerry’s who put you and every one of your coworkers in jeopardy. If you’re going to dodge something all winter, wouldn’t you rather it be a snowball?
It Can Be Too Late
How many times have you heard someone say, “It’s never too late to get out of a domestic violence situation?” Or “It’s never too late to get help”?
I hate to say it but they’re wrong. It can be too late. If you’re in Arizona (and I imagine the news has traveled across the states) you’d have seen the news footage and read the articles about 5 deaths in Gilbert, Arizona on Wednesday, May 2nd. When J.T. Ready allegedly (love the legal term) shot his girlfriend, her adult daughter, the daughter’s daughter (only an infant!) and the daughter’s girlfriend. Then he shot himself. Five people dead.
According to what I’ve read and heard the girlfriend, Lisa Mederos, was a victim of domestic violence; and it had been going on for a long time.
According to the most recent fatality report on the Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence’s web site, as of December 23, 2011 there have been 101 domestic violence related fatalities in Arizona.
I shudder to think what 2012 will show.
A friend of mine recently commented that the key to domestic violence prevention is to not get involved with guys like this in the first place. She’s right. Because it’s a long, hard, dangerous battle if you believe someone with abusive tendencies is going to change for you. Yes, by all means, it can happen. Just don’t risk your personal safety and gamble your life on it. And if you see it happen to someone you know, and yes if you are exposed to domestic violence at work, there are resources. No one should ever feel there are no options to getting out.
Whether you’re heterosexual or LGBTQ here are a few red flags to look for:
- breaks things
- slaps, kicks or punches you
- shoves you
- bites you
- chokes you
- hurts your children
Verbal and Emotional Abuse
- calls you stupid, worthless or other insulting names
- becomes extremely jealous of family and friends
- has a temper that frightens you
- says, “I did it for you own good”
- accuses you of being unfaithful
- will only be pacified if you “give in”
- forces you to do things you don’t want to do sexually
- rapes/sexually assaults you
Abuse through Control
- controls the money
- tells you what to wear
- monitors your whereabouts at all times
- questions your parenting skills
- criticizes you in front of the children
- belittles your family and friends
If you feel:
- afraid to tell others what is happening at home
- like it is all your fault
- you were wrong and somehow provoked the abuser
- the abuser should be forgiven because of abuse of alcohol or drugs
- no one else would want you.
These are all signs of an abusive relationship. Services are available. Please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 for more information.
Please contact me with your questions. We’ll develop strategies so this doesn’t happen to you, your company, friends and coworkers.
An unintended outcome of my work with executive leaders and their employees is that I hear no shortage of stories from people who have lived with abuse. Many are former victims, now survivors, or they were indirectly victimized because they lived with someone, like a parent, who was directly victimized. I’m glad this happens; these stories. It never ceases to amaze me; all the heinous ways in which one person can purposefully torture another.
There are lots of success stories from these courageous people who found a way to leave their abusers. The list below are 10 ways to leave an abusive situation. The order in which they appear is my own opinion. Yours may be very different. And besides that, rarely is only one of these tips going to lead to escape; it typically takes a combination. So don’t despair.
In my book Battered and Abused – Bringing the Darkness into the Light Dawn wrote the story of the atrocious abuse at the hands of her live-in boyfriend. She finally fled with the help of a friend.
“He had total control over me.
How could I let this happen? How could I let things get so out of control? Why didn’t I stand up for myself? Why didn’t I leave again? It was because I was ashamed. I didn’t want my family and friends to know what was happening to me.
I knew it wasn’t my fault. I knew it was wrong. I knew all of these things in my rational mind, but every time I thought rationally, I would hear that scared irrational voice in my head. What if he was right? What if my family and friends thought I was the crazy one? What if they believed him and not me? What if they thought less of me? What if they were ashamed of me? What would everyone think when they found out all of the horrible things he had done to me?”
Dawn did everything on this list, expect #3 because she didn’t have children or a job at the time. She did them in her own order and at a pace that felt right and felt safe for her. But she survived.
10. Contact the National DV Hotline for someone to talk to
9. Contact a local shelter and/or an alternative safe place to go. Or call the National domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-7233.
8. Collect things you’ll need in an overnight bag for you and your children) hide the bag someplace you can get to it.
7. Talk with your children about a plan
6. Set aside money and spare keys.
5. Make copies of important documents; i.e. Marriage license, insurance, driver’s license, Orders of Protection.
4. Be sure to clear the history, cookies, internet searches and private conversations from your computer. Use only computers not accessible to your abuser or the abuser’s friends who might help them find you.
3. Talk to your children’s school about your safety plan. Talk to your employer.
2. Keep notes of the abuse; what was said, who witnessed, dates times – the devil is in the details. Keep photos of injuries and keep medical records. Maybe it’s the Human Resources manager in me but the credo here is: document, document, document. Be crystal clear and very specific.
1. Contact the police to help you get your things out of the house. Never go along and resist the urge to bring your friends.
- Put Safety Plan Shoe cards in all of your shoes; hide them in books too. Available in English and Spanish at http://hressential.com/resources.html
- YOU must absolutely, completely and totally stop coming up with excuses to stay, denials that the abuse will happen again, and the belief the abuser will stop. Abuse is not love. Why would you deny yourself the opportunity to have a healthy relationship? Why would you continue to expose your children and risk lives? This is NOT re-victimizing you. Face it though – there comes a time where you – and only you can make the decision to go.
- Don’t get involved with an abuser in the first place. Know the warning signs and red flags early on. Refuse to accept excuses and justifications for abuse!
What constitutes abuse? The National Domestic Violence Hotline asks the following questions.
“Does your partner:
• Embarrass you with put-downs?
• Look at you or act in ways that scare you?
• Control what you do, who you see or talk to or where you go?
• Stop you from seeing your friends or family members?
• Take your money or Social Security check, make you ask for money or refuse to give you money?
• Make all of the decisions?
• Tell you that you’re a bad parent or threaten to take away or hurt your children?
• Prevent you from working or attending school?
• Act like the abuse is no big deal, it’s your fault, or even deny doing it?
• Destroy your property or threaten to kill your pets?
• Intimidate you with guns, knives or other weapons?
• Shove you, slap you, choke you, or hit you?
• Force you to try and drop charges?
• Threaten to commit suicide?
• Threaten to kill you?”
You may be thinking “What’s the value in reading people’s thoughts on what a healthy relationship means to them?” The value is that we all have similar wants, but the vast majority of people are deaf to other’s internal needs.
Valentine’s Day is a great opportunity to open up to what really makes for healthy relationships. At the end of the day (and I don’t literally mean Valentine’s Day!) it’s a win-win better – than chocolate fountain dipped marshmallows with zero calories!
Did You Know?
Approximately 141 million Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged annually, making Valentine’s Day the second most popular card-sending holiday after Christmas.
To victims of domestic violence or abuse Valentine’s Day may represent a rare reprieve from abuse and or be a part of the “honey moon” phase when things in the relationship are temporarily stable, but the abuse is lurking around the corner.
I asked friends of mine for their thoughts on what a healthy relationship means to them. It was wonderful to have them share their most heartfelt sentiments:
A healthy relationship is one that enhances and adds to your life, never changing who you are.
All relationships are healthy if you use them to learn about yourself and grow.
Life is too short to waste hating anyone
You don’t have to win every argument, agree to disagree
Make peace with your past, so it won’t screw up your present
If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn’t be in it
Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie, don’t save it for a special occasion
Today is special
No one is in charge of your happiness, but you
Life is short, eat dessert first
Spend time with those you love
Donna H. (who got it from a 90 year old woman).
I found my perfect mate later in my life. I was forty something and found someone who make me laugh every day. I can say we are a shining example of mutual respect, and he is my most trusted advisor. He may spin his responses for sensitivity sake, but he is nothing if not always honest. I am blessed every day to have him. Respect, Integrity and Humor work for any type of relationship.
Healthy relationships don’t just happen. They take work. Any relationship – whether it’s in your office, your personal life, with your partner, your children, or extended family – needs nurturing. First comes listening, then add humor, followed by empathy.
Karen Cortell Reisman
A healthy relationship is one where each other’s ideas, suggestions, concerns or even quirks can be discussed without fear of retribution.
To trust someone and for him to trust you back is the greatest fulfillment in life.
He loves me for who I am, even when I do or say something really stupid. At least we can laugh about it.
My best friend is my husband.
My best friend is my sister – she’s always there for me!
What do you think? Would you send me your thoughts too?
Have a wonderful Valentine’s Day!
Kudos to Superior Court Judge Susan Brnovich for getting tougher on DV. http://tiny.cc/hve1r . In this case, the accused killer of Jamie Laiaddee, Rick Valentini gets 42 years plus an additional 12 for other fraud charges. Bronovich was the prosecutor in 2002 for Tracy’s case which led to dismal and disappointing sentence http://tiny.cc/wbapi
In October of 2010, Tracy and I had the opportunity to speak to a room full of City of Phoenix Prosecutors and they were stunned as well when they learned how lax the sentence was for Tracy’s ex-husband.
Tracy and I were not passing judgment of our own, nor pointing fingers. What we expressed to the crowd was a combination problem. A lack of strong [prosecution mired with restrictions from a judge who appeared to sympathize with Tracy’s ex-husband. How else would you attempt to explain the judge barring so much impactful and clearly relevant information from being brought to the jury’s attention? For example, information like her ex-husband’s nearly identical attack with a knife on a former girlfriend? The very girlfriend who wanted to testify on Tracy’s behalf in support of the prosecution and was not allowed to by the then judge. The “excited utterance” was also not allowed. This was the statement Tracy made to the very first person who came in contact with her, the EMT, to whom she said “my husband did this”. And yet the judge wouldn’t allow the statement since it was uttered beyond two minutes of the attack. (So by his own rules he’d reinforced the truth that the attack lasted for nearly two hours!)
Serrated is a mind boggling, anger inducing book. It’s a must read that will propel you to speak out, as we have, to serve justice the way it should be served.
The Family Violence Prevention Fund’s (FVPF) research from various sources shows:
- Nearly one-third of American women (31 percent) report being physically or sexually abused by a husband or boyfriend at some point in their lives.
- More than one million people report a violent assault by an intimate partner every year in the U.S.
- At least one million women and 371,000 men are victims of stalking in the U.S. each year. Stalkers often follow the victim to the workplace.
Those are just three reasons, of many why an employer should be concerned about relationships in conflict and domestic violence’s effects on the workplace. We haven’t begun to touch on the safety and security concerns, legal costs, costs to health care and other employee related areas, turnover, or productivity, all of which have a tremendous impact on employers.
This is the time to care about what others struggle through. It’s time to stop the ambivalence and “it’s not my problem” self talk. Places of employment are well suited to be the best place for employees with relationships in conflict to receive the referral and resources they need. But only if the employer is progressive enough to realize that whether they know about it or not, domestic violence is happening in the lives of their employees.
If you’re ready to dip your toe in the water of awareness you can start by registering for webinars offered by Human Resource Essential on July 8th and 15th.
You will walk away with immediately applicable increased emotional and business intelligence to effectively address relationships in conflict and domestic violence in the workplace.
You will walk away with immediately applicable skills which will help prevent violence’s costly affects on the workplace and mitigate legal fees and lawsuits.
If you’re a Human Resource professional you will also earn 1.5 recertification units pre approved by the HRCI.
To find out more about the sessions visit www.hressential.com
You may also go directly to the registration link: https://pivotalsolutiongroup.webex.com/mw0306l/mywebex/default.do?siteurl=pivotalsolutiongroup&service=7
If you would like information on the exact sources of the FVPF research please contact me or view their website www.endabuse.org
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