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Making Workplaces that are Safe, Supportive and Sought-After

TAG | domestic violence at work

A few days ago I received a call from a Human Resource Director who urgently needed help and advice with an employee situation that was escalating quickly. The employee was missing work, bruised when she was there, and her spouse was threatening co-worker’s and demanding information of his wife’s whereabouts and schedule.  I guided her through dynamics, processes, legalities and options.  Then offered her suggestions and advantages to have an individualized, customized complete domestic violence program for their organization now.  She said management wouldn’t go for it, “They’d rather wait until something happens.”

“It already has.” I told them.  Still, the employee’s unproductive missed time, cost for injuries, personal stress level and anxiety to the workplace isn’t enough.  They apparently would rather wait until she’s dead too.

This happens on a regular basis.  How do these people stop the reactionary mindset? What is the point of doing a program after-the-fact in the honor of the dead?

Having said that, it’s always a good time to address the issue.  My favorite clients are the ones that know the reality is that they don’t have to actually see evidence of a problem, they are realistic, preventive and proactive.

This is a painful reminder of what can, and does happen.

Want to know more or know somebody who might be interested in  my services?

Please contact me via phone 480-726-9833 or just reply to this post.


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People who’ve had conversations with me often hear me say, “I live, sleep, eat, breathe domestic violence”.  Meaning it’s what I do.

Ha!  Thought you caught me- silly people!  It’s not what I do.  I don’t perpetrated  it!  It’s what I do, what I am, and what I have a passion for as a Consultant Subject Matter Expert – SME.

Even in company Train the Trainer situations the trained individual will lack the in-depth, expertise, knowledge and experience of the SME.  Worse yet, they may have personal biases to the issue.  They may not be able to answer challenging questions or handle uncomfortable situations.  Their facts and statistics may be out of date; all of which may be reflected in the training itself, the outcome for attendees and long term results for the company.

To bring, or keep, an in-house trainer up-to-speed will cost time and money that detracts from their regular duties. All of that is moot when you bring in an SME whose career is based on:

  • being a problem solver to make an immediate impact with minimal ramp-up time,
  • lowers the client’s risk by conveying correct information,
  • is a valuable information resource and provides a wealth of knowledge and support to clients,
  • may serve as liaison to the functional area from which they obtained their expertise or adjacent resources and industries (i.e. Human Resource Essential’s long-term relationships with EAPs, attorneys and shelters),
  • an SME will have strong expertise in one or more areas directly related to their subject,
  • SMEs are often the “go to” people for assistance and up-to-date information on policies, processes, and critical incidents – for example, our clients are comfortable, and even prefer, their employees contact us directly for information and a place to voice personal issues.

Do you expect your in-house trainer to live, sleep, eat, and breathe domestic violence?

SMEs have a passion for their work.  When it comes to something as emotionally demanding as domestic violence – how the material is conveyed will make a significant difference in the outcome.

I’m always happy to talk with you about improving your domestic violence initiative.  Just give me a call at (480) 726-9833 or send an email to I’d love to hear from you.

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To my readers:  I have the humbling privilege to know Dr. Maria Garay, Sojourner Center’s new Executive Director.  Together we are creating energizing, meaningful initiatives to address relationship violence.  Recently Sojourner published a newsletter to introduce Maria to the community and she has generously allowed me to post her newsletter for you.


Dear Friends & Supporters,

My name is Dr. Maria Garay and I am so excited to be joining the Sojourner Center team as the new Executive Director. I come to Phoenix from Los Angeles, CA and have been working at the executive level for the past twenty years in the human services field. I have been at Sojourner Center since the beginning of September and can already see how special and amazing this place is. I am honored to be a part of this wonderful organization, with its rich history and mission of helping women and children overcome the impact of domestic violence.

You see, ending the cycle of domestic violence is something I am very passionate about. While this is a multi-faceted problem without an easy or clear solution, I believe Sojourner Center has and is ending the cycle of violence for the women and children we serve. I believe you can help us break the cycle of violence too, by talking about this issue and the work we are doing, with your friends, family, and coworkers. A recent study revealed that despite 80% of Americans acknowledging that domestic violence is a problem in our society, only 15% think it is a problem among their friends. We know this can’t be true, since studies show 1-in-4 women will be a victim of domestic violence in her lifetime.

This widespread silence is a problem for many reasons. First, it makes domestic violence victims feel isolated and alone. Second, the silence perpetuates the shame and embarrassment that domestic violence victims might feel. Third, by not talking about it, people don’t always know how to recognize abuse or how to help someone who is being abused.

Let’s break the silence about domestic violence and make it easier for victims to get the help and support they need.

I also want to make sure you know about two very important numbers. The first is easy to remember, 2-1-1. This is a 24-hour bilingual hotline that will connect people in crisis with domestic violence and homeless shelters throughout Arizona. The second is 602-244-0089, this is Sojourner Center’s 24-hour crisis line. We are available day or night to talk to anyone who may be in crisis have questions about domestic violence, or need help planning how to leave an abusive relationship. I hope you will put these numbers in a safe place where you can find them and share them if you ever need to.

Thank you all for your continued support and partnership with this amazing organization. Together, we can end the cycle of domestic violence for every woman and child we serve.




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It sounds horribly morbid, I know, to think of domestic violence victims as the walking dead.  But with October being domestic violence awareness month and the month we celebrate Halloween, I couldn’t help but think of how the two collide.

Like some evil witches brew; domestic violence boils and bubbles- and eventually spillover.

Someone close to me, Lynn R. once wrote in her journal about the unshakable feeling that one day he’d kill her.  Where Zombies are already dead and still walking, she was walking and felt already dead.  The Walking Dead

The eerie, haunted, hunted, feeling of his eyes always on her.

To the outside world- and to his friends, family, coworkers and employer, he was candy sweet.  But it was a costume- a masquerade.  Towards her he was a monster, the Grim Reaper waiting to trick her once again behind his devilish disguise.

Halloween also marks a time for Superheroes – and you can be one.  Help recognize offenders.  Call them out of their ghastly behavior.  Shine a flashlight in their face.  Direct them out of the fog and into resources for offenders.  Out of the darkness and into the light.


**Characteristics of a Potential Batterer
• Jealousy
• Controlling behavior
• Quick involvement
• Unrealistic expectations
• Isolation of victim
• Blames others for his problems
• Blames others for his feelings
• Hypersensitivity
• Cruelty to animals or children
• “Playful” use of force during sex
• Verbal abuse
• Rigid sex roles
• Jekyll and Hyde type personality • History of past battering
• Threats of violence
• Breaking or striking objects
• Any force during an argument
• Objectification of women
• Tight control over finances
• Minimization of the violence
• Manipulation through guilt
• Extreme highs and lows
• Expects her to follow his orders
• Frightening rage
• Use of physical force
• Closed mindedness


**Excerpt from Make Your Workplace Safe, Supportive and Sought-After Includes pages of cues to look for, discussion tips and more.

Batterer/Offender Resources:


I’m always happy to talk with you about improving your domestic violence initiative.  Just give me a call at (480) 726-9833 or send an email to I’d love to hear from you.

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Carl Mangold and I were talking the other day about our webinars and projects for TheDVU and I asked him if he was going to attend the meeting for a committee I’m on.  He wasn’t, and he expressed his opinions about the interpersonal problems with the committee and why he won’t participate.

I couldn’t help but agree with him – I’d recently had my own experience which left me – to say the least, disappointed.

The group is made up mostly of law enforcement, attorneys, advocates, and social workers.  People whose primary expertise is to help others – particularly those that have been hurt and affected by domestic violence.  There are years and years of combined experience in the group.

But a few months ago I attended a meeting on a particularly bad day.  Thankfully, I’m not a victim of physical or emotional abuse.  But everyone has bad days sometimes.  Days where family difficulties or problems at work can be more than just nuisances and inconveniences; they can be immensely stressful.  And I was having one of those days.

Let me be clear, I don’t walk around wearing my heart on my sleeve and doing my best Eeyore imitation.  Eeyore, you might remember, is the gloomy discontented donkey from “Winnie the Pooh”.   I’m a pretty happy person; I just wake up that way.  This particular day had taken a turn and I know it was hovering over me.  I’m not proud of it – but who hasn’t had that at one time or another?

So as much as I participated in the meeting; offering suggestions and sharing in the conversations, I know I wasn’t my usual ‘me’.  And yet not one of these people said a word.

I even reassured myself that, surely, one of these people, who’d known me for years, would stop me for a private conversation on our way out the door, call me or email me…something…

But nada, zip, zero.  Ever.

At the risk of being accused off complaining (some would call it “venting”- thank you) I am simply stating that this is a case where the opportunity for these people to exercise Emotional Intelligence (EI) was completely missed.  What a shame.  If they missed it with me, how many other people do they miss it with?  Are they only looking for it in the people who come right up to them; that are dropped off in taxis and police cars? It honestly made me see these people a little differently. I was disappointed.  They all have a huge place in my heart and I like working with them on this committee.  That hasn’t changed.

Please keep your open for opportunities to help – to reach out to other people.  Raise you antennae to the subtleties around you.  It will pay off in ways you could never predict.  What you do matters.  The companies that have taken advantage of Human Resource Essential  EI based trainings know it.  Even Eeyore has been known to smile.

Surely Carl and I aren’t the only two people this has ever happened to.  Has it happened to you?  Have you had an Eeyore Day Lately?



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So proud of client SCF Arizona

for heading off a potential DV issue.  A recent conversation with Bobbie J. Fox, SCF Attorney, Legal Compliance and Risk Management, revealed that a female employee was having serious concerns with a former intimate partner.  The partner (IP) was harassing her and threatening her at her second job.  The employee obtained an Order of Protection and per SCF Domestic Violence Policy, she notified the Human Resources Department.  HR took the matter seriously and made sure small, but simple steps were taken to assure the employee’s safety.  And then…nothing.  The GOOD kind of nothing.

The employee had no further problems with the former boyfriend.  All was, and is quiet at SCF.

That’s exactly what you want. Training works!  My training programs lead with phrase: ‘Small changes at work make big changes at home’.  This is an example of that and how successful a broad spectrum DV initiate at work can be when everyone is trained annually for their level of responsibility. And when you have a corporate culture, like SCF does, where the executives lead by example and embrace the knowledge that you can make a workplace that is safe, supportive and sought-after.

I came across the following portion of an online newsletter from the Minnesota Coalition Against Domestic Violence:

Fear has a profound effect on all of us. It affects our ability to concentrate and be productive. But a victim’s fear is particularly unique and profound. It is frequently misunderstood not only by males, but by other females who have had no similar personal experiences. As a result, a woman may be reluctant to report a threat or an attack. She may be unwilling to leave an abusive relationship because she fears her risk will increase. If the incident is reported at work, she may fear the loss of her job, or pressure from peers or her boss to take action which she is not yet ready to take. Or perhaps she fears the unknown – how the employer will react to a threat that may impact the workplace. The more effective a company is in creating an environment where a victim feels safe to report problems, the more successful it will be in learning about these types of risks before there are violent outcomes.

Addressing domestic violence in the workplace does not have to be accompanied by a large budget. Safety precautions may be as simple as allowing a victim to use flexible hours so her arrivals and departures are not predictable; providing a temporary cellular phone to increase her safety as she travels back and forth to work; temporarily transferring her to a different office site; or simply having emergency procedures in place in the event a situation escalates.

Every organization has an opportunity to make a difference by:

  • Taking a clear and loud stand on the side of preventing domestic violence at work and in our homes and communities.
  • Paying attention to warning signs of victims and perpetrators.
  • Being supportive of victims or co-workers who report threats.
  • Referring victims and co-workers to counseling agencies for help.
  • Creating an environment that encourages people to come forward with concerns.
  • Treating every situation seriously and taking actions that may reduce risk in the workplace.



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HRE ProcessSSS

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.

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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?

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Dear Readers,

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.

Warm regards,



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 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. 


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