Protecting your Most Valuable Assets from Domestic Violence
With all of the pink ribbons swirling about in support of breast cancer awareness, we can all too easily forget that October is also National Domestic Violence Awareness month. Purple ribbons, a potent reminder of visible bruises from an often-invisible battle, represent the victims and survivors of domestic violence.
The numbers are staggering: 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men will experience violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime. Look around the conference table at your next staff meeting. Someone seated at the table could be hiding a big secret. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence defines domestic violence as, “the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another. It includes physical violence, sexual violence, threats, and emotional abuse.”
If home isn’t safe, work should be. Everyone deserves a safe haven, and work might be the safest place for many employees. How supportive is your company?
Before dismissing the issue as “not a workplace problem,” consider this. Domestic, or Intimate Partner Violence, has an enormous effect on the workplace because IPV victims “lose a total of nearly 8.0 million days of paid work—the equivalent of more than 32,000 full-time jobs—and nearly 5.6 million days of household productivity as a result of the violence,” according to the CDC. This data does not even account for the work hours lost at a place of employment should the aggressor show up at work.
Maintaining gainful employment in a supportive atmosphere is essential for many women to break the abuse cycle. In addition to ensuring physical safety, employment provides women with a sense of purpose, social connection they might not otherwise receive because of their abuser, improved self-esteem and a much-needed mental break.
While many executives concede that the effects of domestic violence touch their workplaces, fewer feel empowered to do anything about it. In addition to the lost man-hours associated with domestic violence when employees either don’t show up to work or work while looking over their shoulder in fear, healthcare costs to the employer for injured employees are also a concern. Employers who actively work to break the cycle of abuse help not only their own employees, but also society as a whole.
Since the 1990s, many laws state and federal governments have enacted many laws to protect employees facing domestic violence situations, but without clear company policies about the right to take leave, many women still lose their jobs when they run out of vacation or sick time to deal with healing, court appearances, or mental health counseling appointments. Therefore, employers who create comprehensive leave policies for domestic abuse survivors are ahead in the game.
Professional women create change everyday. Female executives and entrepreneurs play a key role in creating work environments that are safe havens in which all women and men can succeed, including those subjected to unsafe environments at home. Compassion and adequate leave make it possible for survivors to keep the employment that they desperately need. Business must also safeguard all their employees from the perpetrators of domestic violence, which can be even trickier.
How else can executives and business owners create productive workplaces free of the lingering wounds of domestic violence?
- Consult an employment attorney. They can be great sources to help businesses create policies to cover the business and its employees that take into account the overlapping anti-discrimination and workplace safety laws.
- Create a multi-disciplinary team with representatives from human resources and security to develop a response plan should a perpetrator come to the premises.
- Review safety procedures and discuss needed modifications. This might include changing locks and ensuring security can identify the perpetrator should he or she appear at the workplace.
- Educate, educate, educate. Educate yourself and your employees. Learn how to recognize and respond to employees facing domestic violence issues. Learn to understand what protective orders are and how to secure or enforce one.
- Small businesses can visit www.workplacesrespond.org for a free toolkit to get them started on protecting their employees and themselves.
With the right tools and mindsets, women have always changed the course of history. Place a purple ribbon close to your heart to demonstrate your support for survivors of domestic abuse and the stance you are taking to combat this issue. In a butterfly effect, when one woman creates a safe haven at her workplace, she sends a surge of power to women everywhere with a message that says, “You are valuable, you are strong, you are a survivor.”27