Domestic Violence in the Workplace
Domestic violence has a serious impact on businesses, affecting their performance as well as the health and well-being of their employees. If you would like someone from SafeHouse Denver to speak to your workplace about recognizing the signs of abuse, referring colleagues to resources, and/or developing policies that support abused employees, please call 303-302-6130.
Domestic Violence in the Workplace Statistics
- A 2005 study found that women experiencing physical intimate partner violence victimization reported an average of 7.2 days of work-related lost productivity and 33.9 days in productivity losses associated with household chores, child care, school, volunteer activities, and social/recreational activities. – Violence and Victims, Average Cost Per Person Victimized by an Intimate Partner of the Opposite Gender, 2005.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the cost of intimate partner rape, physical assault and stalking totaled $8.3 billion annually in 2003 dollars. This includes costs of direct medical and mental health care services and lost productivity from paid work and household chores. – Violence and Victims, The Economic Toll of Intimate Partner Violence Against Women in the United States, 2004.
- About 130,000 victims of stalking (about 5% of employed victims) in a 12-month period, from 2005 to 2006, reported that they were fired or asked to leave their jobs because of stalking. About one in eight employed stalking victims lost time from work because of fear for their safety or because they needed to get a restraining order or testify in court. More than half these victims lost five days or more of work. – U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, Stalking Victimization in the United States, 2009.
Tips for the Work Place
- Place domestic violence awareness posters in waiting rooms, lunch rooms, or throughout your office—usually these will have a hotline number on them
- Place card-sized information and referrals in discreet places such as restrooms
- Ask your EAP to provide someone who has specialized knowledge of domestic violence for employees in need
- Schedule educational presentations about domestic violence for employees and management
- Develop strategies with different departments from Security to Human Resources to discourage violence or harassment on the job
- Review resources and model policies for employers and adapt practices when suitable. These steps can help keep everyone safer, healthier, and more productive. Equally important is communicating through these actions that domestic violence is not tolerated by your business and that victims do not need to suffer in silence.
Recognizing the Signs of Abuse
Some of the signs of potential abuse that coworkers or employers might notice include:
- Injuries attributed to falls, being clumsy, or accidents
- Uncharacteristic absenteeism and lateness, or marked changes in job performance
- Inappropriate dress for the weather (i.e. long sleeves or turtle neck to cover up), heavy makeup, or sunglasses
- An unusual number of phone calls or visits from a current or ex-partner
- Emotional distress, tearfulness, and depression
- Flowers or gifts after what appears to be an argument
- Sensitivity about home life or references to difficulties at home.
Responding to Possible Abuse
- Be supportive and ask questions in a nonjudgmental way
- Ask direct questions when there is evidence of abuse or a strong suspicion that the person is being abused. (I noticed some bruising around your neck and I’m concerned. Is anyone hurting you at home?)
- Ask indirect questions when there is no obvious evidence of abuse but when you suspect the person is a victim. (I’ve noticed you’ve had trouble getting your work done lately and that’s not like you. You seem distracted or upset sometimes. I’m concerned about you. Is there anything going on that you would like to talk about?)
- Do not try to force people to disclose the abuse or require them to take particular steps to stop the abuse. You empower the victim to make these choices for her/himself by expressing concern, offering support and providing referrals to community or company resources
- If s/he denies any type of abuse in the relationship or says that everything is okay, accept what s/he is telling you. Some people won’t disclose abuse but as one survivor put it: “by asking the question [my supervisor] planted the seed in my mind that what was happening to me wasn’t right.”
- Make every effort to include people trained in domestic violence intervention to work with you to respond to the particular needs and risks for the victim at the workplace.
- Be there and be patient. Sometimes what appears to be the best option to you is not the option the victim is ready or willing to choose.
Refer to SafeHouse Denver at 303-318-9989
Your role in recognizing and responding to abuse is important but you are not responsible for fixing the problem! Encourage someone to get specialized attention by calling a hotline or making an appointment with an agency that specializes in domestic violence advocacy.