Why Domestic Violence Is Your Business

Date posted: October 19, 2011

By Kim Wells, executive director of Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence and Ellen Yu, editor of the Verizon Small Biz Blog

October is known for being Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It’s also Cyber Security Awareness Month.  But did you know it’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month? The issue of domestic violence is not widely discussed, which is why many call it the silent epidemic. Guest blogger Ellen Yu, editor of the Verizon Small Biz Blog ask Kim Wells, executive director of Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence why domestic violence matters in the workplace.

Kim Wells

Kim Wells: October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, an opportune time to educate employees about the impact of domestic violence and to evaluate the policies employers have in place to keep their workplaces safe and productive.

Why should employers care about domestic violence? In a national survey of full-time employed adults, 21 percent indicated they were victims of domestic violence – and 64 percent indicated their ability to work was significantly impacted*.

Studies also show that victims lose a total of nearly 8 million days of paid work a year—the equivalent of more than 32,000 full-time jobs, and that the cost of domestic violence to the U.S. economy is more than $8.3 billion in medical care, mental health services and lost productivity.

Are there simple steps employers can take to address domestic violence? There are steps employers of any size can take to address domestic violence and keep their workplaces productive and safe.

Most importantly, employers should try to help by suggesting the employee get help.  It’s a very sensitive subject… and yes, that black eye could really be from an accident.  However, if you suspect an employee or a colleague is in an abusive relationship, you should try to offer help.

What I suggest is putting this in your company’s policy. Having established program on domestic violence, integrating both proactive education on the issue and guidelines for addressing domestic violence at the workplace helps to bring this issue to the light and lets employees know this behavior is not tolerated.

What should be included in a policy? A policy should include these things: a clear definition of domestic violence, a clause prohibiting violence and/or threats of violence, the employer’s commitment to addressing domestic violence as a workplace issue, and clear direction on where and how staff can get help if needed. (A sample policy is available at http://www.caepv.org/getinfo/docdetail.php?docID=43&catID=5.)

Should training should be provided? Yes, employers or managers should be trained to recognize signs of violence for potential victims and perpetrators. Local domestic violence service providers often can assist with this training at little or no cost. Because you as the business owner or the manager must be careful to address concerns in the context of employment (unless the employee self-discloses), managers must know how to respond—to appropriately address changes in behavior that is affecting performance. They should also know how to refer an employee to internal or external resources.  Managers should not give personal advice or counselling.

Employees should be trained to understand domestic violence, identify possible warning signs, and respond sensitively and confidentially to an abused co-worker. As in the case of managers, co-workers are not counsellors and should not give personal advice, but should refer to internal resources like human resources or an EAP, or external resources like the National Domestic Violence Hotline (800-799.SAFE).  Verizon Wireless customers can quickly reach the National Domestic Violence Hotline by dialing #HOPE.

There are great training tools out there.  Corporations, community organizations, nonprofits and government agencies have used “Telling Amy’s Story,” the award-winning documentary about a domestic violence homicide – of a Verizon Wireless employee – to illuminate the complexities of domestic violence and its impact on the workplace.

It’s also important to incorporate information about domestic violence into employee orientation, handbooks, intranet-based human resources information, etc. Employee wellness fairs, workplace safety programs, town hall meetings, and family issues seminars are effective venues for sharing information about domestic violence.

Any final thoughts? Employers who take on the challenge of addressing intimate partner violence as a workplace issue are true leaders. This month, I encourage you to educate employees about the impact of domestic violence and to evaluate the policies you have in place.  You can find more information – including a sample policy – at www.caepv.org in our Take Action/Starting a Workplace Program Section.

The Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence (CAEPV) and Verizon Wireless joined forces to increase employer and employee awareness of domestic violence as a workplace issue and are offering tools to respond to it through the CAEPV HopeLine® from Verizon Webinar Series, which will run through December 2011.  For more info on the webinar series, please visit: http://www.caepv.org/about/program_detail.php?refID=70.
The Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence is the leading force in the fight against domestic violence, and the only national organization of its kind founded by business leaders and focused on the workplace.

* Source: Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence (CAEPV)

**Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Verizon Editor’s note: Domestic violence doesn’t just affect the victim, but in a home where there are children, it has a devastating affect on their growth… according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, witnessing violence between parents or caregivers is the strongest risk factor for transmitting violent behavior from one generation to the next.  Please join Verizon in putting an end to domestic violence. Check out this video and share it http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=367JvtoTm34.

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