Learning to recognize “Mr. Nice Guy”

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“I don’t know why women stay in abusive relationships. They should have known what they were getting into.”

“Why is she still with that horrible man? Why doesn’t she just leave?”

We have all heard these types of comments. Understanding why someone batterers a person they supposedly loves is complicated. It often becomes easier to blame the victim than to understand, let alone to hold a batterer accountable.  Abusers are often very capable at manipulating their victim to believe the abuse is their fault. And abusers can also be equally capable in hiding their abusive tactics and behavior from others, therefore creating surprise and disbelief when the abuse becomes known.

Our new awareness campaign by focusing not on abused women or children, but on the abuser. Who he is. And how incredibly manipulative he can be. It also lets people know they can come to HAVEN when they need support and a fresh start.

The TV spot is chilling. The print, digital and out-of-home executions use strong words to show the transformation of loving words to frightening threats. Each medium demonstrates the ability of someone who starts out treating a partner well to quickly turn and put her at risk of continued violence and possibly even murder.

The campaign was developed by Lowe Campbell Ewald in Detroit, an advertising agency that’s been helping us with education and fund-raising efforts for 15 years. They also negotiated with many generous local media channels who donated time and space to getting the message out.

This is strong stuff. But it all stems from the brutal realities of the abuser and his effect on the abused. Every ad ends with the message that HAVEN is a place where they can seek refuge and gain the support and the confidence they need to walk away from their abusers. For many, their lives depend on it.

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Odds are, Domestic Violence has Touched Your Workplace; What’s an Employer’s Responsibility?

Maybe you’re convinced that none of the employees in your organization can possibly be a victim of domestic violence. Sure, they may have had a marital spat here or there but they just don’t fit into your depiction of a battered person. I’m here to tell you that they don’t have to.

Domestic violence affects people of all walks of life – any age, any race, and any socioeconomic status. It also affects 1 in 3 Michigan families. So odds are that your organization employs someone who is experiencing abuse.

If your employee is a victim of domestic violence it can follow her to work, as well as impact her coworkers and your entire organization. Do you know what to look for? The more educated your employees are, the more likely they will be able to come forward in the event they are being abused.

One of your employees is being abused by her partner. What now?

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) does not have laws that specifically protect victims of domestic or dating violence, sexual assault or stalking. However, when considering employment decisions, be advised that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act may apply to employment situations involving applicants and employees in these situations.

With no federal law that mandates specific action by an employer, you can just leave it up to the employee, right?

If you are aware of an issue but don’t address it and an incident occurs, you not only put other employees’ safety at risk but you can also expose your business to negligence liability, OSHA penalty and/or workers’ compensation expenses. Even without an incident, you may end up paying unemployment compensation to an employee who was justified in leaving due to safety concerns.

What laws exist that will help my employee escape the abuse?

According to the American Bar Association, in the last 12 years the legal system has advanced to, “…reflect a progression from addressing the immediate legal needs of victims to addressing the long-term needs that enable them to live lives free from violence.”

It is ideal to connect the employee to a local domestic violence organization that employs advocates who can provide support and education through the legal system. Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) time away from work may be available to an employee who is being abused to address health-related issues from the violence. There are also domestic violence statutes that exist to help hold abusers accountable.

Filing a personal protection order (also known as a PPO or restraining order) may be necessary in seeking protection from an abuser. The purpose of any PPO is to protect the person requesting the PPO by restricting the respondent’s (person the PPO is against) contact with them. The need for this protection may be due to ongoing harassment, threats of violence or harm, assaults or stalking behavior. As an employer, you would want to be aware of a current PPO in case the abuser shows up at your place of business.

As you can see, what you may have once dismissed as a “marital spat,” may actually be much larger. I urge you to voluntarily educate yourself and your employees and establish a policy that protects your staff and your business. We all have a responsibility to help bring an end to the prevalent community issue of domestic violence because everyone deserves to live without fear.

HAVEN is available to host employee and employer education sessions. For more information please contact Emily Matuszczak at (248) 334-1284.

This post originally appeared on Beth Morrison’s Crain’s Detroit Business blog.

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Domestic Violence in the Workplace: Signs to Watch For

Domestic violence is a pattern of coercive behavior including emotional, verbal and physical abuse, used by an abuser to gain and maintain power and control over a current or former spouse, intimate partner or dating partner. It knows no boundaries and transcends all socio-economic classes, levels of education, occupations, religions and races.

Also known as intimate partner violence, domestic violence doesn’t stay home behind closed doors. It is a public health and safety issue that can have high emotional, medical, personnel, and job-related costs. A preventable crime, domestic violence can endanger your company’s most valuable resource – your employees and have a negative impact on your business.

The good news is that no matter the size of your company – large or small – you can help prevent it. The first step is to create an environment where employees know that they will be supported if they come forward. Contacting an organization, such as HAVEN, who can provide employee training can help you do this.

Part of educating your organization and its employees is recognizing the signs of domestic violence. Knowing what to look for can allow you to connect an employee experiencing abuse to resources that can help. When watching for signs, be aware of an employee who:

  • Experiences numerous disruptive visits from their partner at work
  • Receives numerous phone calls throughout the day
  • Is uncharacteristically absent or late
  • Has a decline in work performance
  • May avoid taking phone calls
  • Avoids socializing outside of work
  • Suddenly starts wearing an unusual amount of makeup
  • Frequently requests time off for court
  • May be anxious or “jumpy” when the phone rings or someone enters through the door
  • Has frequent bruises
  • Has disclosed they are leaving a bad relationship
  • Frequently reports a lack of sleep due to family issues

These could be signs that the abuser is using the following tactics:

  • Checking up on where the employee is at all times
  • Limiting where the employee can go and who they can see
  • Sabotaging transportation or child care
  • Threatening to hurt family members or pets if the employee leaves them
  • Repeated putdowns, name calling and verbal abuse
  • Threatening to take children
  • Not allowing access to money
  • Attempting to isolate the employee from friends, family and support systems
  • Threatening suicide/homicide
  • Destroying property/belongings

What you can do to help an employee affected by domestic violence:

  • If an abuser is onsite making threats or refusing to leave call 911
  • Ask the employee what would be helpful – they are the experts on what is right for them and their unique circumstances
  • Don’t judge or give advice
  • Don’t blame the employee for the consequences of the abuser’s behaviors
  • Connect the employee to domestic violence experts, such as HAVEN’s 24/7 Crisis and Support Line: 877-922-1274
  • Connect the employee with your business’ Employee Assistance Program

For more information please contact HAVEN at www.haven-oakland.org or 248-334-1284.

This post originally appeared on Beth Morrison’s Crain’s Detroit Business blog.

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Domestic Violence is Every Workplace’s Issue

Suspended NFL running back Ray Rice has exposed the public to the horror of domestic violence. The issue has been brought to light, discussed and debated nationally, while right here in Southeast Michigan many are still in the dark. At HAVEN, Oakland County’s center for the treatment and prevention of domestic and sexual violence, every day we see victims who suffer at the hands of someone they love and fear.

Too often, these women flee their homes with little or nothing but their children, overwhelmed by the maze of decisions they face. To help them more holistically, we’ve designed a facility based on the proven Family Justice Center model, which we are breaking ground on in Pontiac this month.

Our new $8 million facility will have 36,000 square feet of space for services that many domestic violence victims need to heal and move forward. Those include access to legal support, counseling, residential space, medical care and job training. The facility will also house our 24-hour Crisis and Support Line, which saw a 17 percent increase in domestic violence-related calls for the first three weeks of September compared with the same time in 2013. Coincidentally, that’s around the same time the Ray Rice video was released and the national conversation began.

When you read that statistic, did you stop to wonder if any of those calls came from someone you know? A friend? A co-worker? An employee, perhaps? You may think it’s none of your business, but the truth is that domestic violence, also known as intimate partner violence, does not exist solely at home behind closed doors.

Violent partners may follow victims to work or harass them with threatening phone calls or emails. Sleep deprivation, injuries or emotional stress may impact the victim’s role in the company and translate to tardiness, impaired job performance and missed workdays. Co-workers who suspect domestic violence may fear for their own safety as well as the victim’s and may result in additional lost productivity from discussion about and preoccupation with the circumstances.

Despite the potential for legal costs, many businesses do not have workplace violence policies that specifically address domestic violence. Whether due to concern for employee privacy or discomfort with the subject, ignoring or avoiding the issue can prove to be detrimental to employees and the bottom line.

According to The White House Blog, “More than 8 million paid days of work are lost every year because of domestic violence; and even by conservative estimates, domestic violence costs our economy more than $8 billion a year in lost productivity, health and mental health costs alone.”

One in four women in the United States will be abused by an intimate partner in her lifetime. Among employed men and women, the number is one in five. Given those statistics, it is likely that in every business there is someone who is either a victim or an abuser. Therefore, it is an important workplace health and safety concern that needs attention.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Please take this opportunity to understand the issue, create awareness in the workplace and community, and establish policies that respond to the issue.

HAVEN is available to help in the process. We provide management and employee training on what signs to look for, recommended actions to take and resources to offer. We also offer assistance with establishing and communicating workplace policies and counseling and support for an abused person.

I urge business leaders to recognize that stopping domestic violence goes beyond offering compassion. Bringing an end to the issue requires providing support for victims and conducting awareness campaigns for all employees, because no business is immune from its effects.

This post originally appeared on Beth Morrison’s Crain’s Detroit Business blog.

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I’m Back and I’m Ready!

After having spent the past two months on a sabbatical away from HAVEN, I feel recharged, refreshed and ready to go! It is amazing how time away from your daily routine, can give you a new perspective on so many things, both personal and professional. I spent time conducting uninterrupted academic study at Stanford University, as well as researching and reading. It was incredible and invaluable. After many years of working so intensely, having two months off was a true gift.

Probably the one aspect of work that I missed the most was being a part of a team, being part of something greater than myself. I’m not so sure that I am cut out to be an independent contractor or single employee. I missed the discussions, give and take, discord, comradery, humor, and passion that comes with being part of a team. And especially part of the team at HAVEN – they are one special group of people!

On the flipside, it is because of this great team that I was able to go off on my two-month adventure without worrying about what was happening at my HAVEN home. This group afforded me the luxury of time away without worry or interruption, which I know makes me the envy of many of my colleagues. Having the pressures of operating a 24/7 program taken off my shoulders was again a gift – one that will keep on giving.

So today, I am ready to dive in and the next few months at HAVEN promise to be exciting. Here’s a snapshot of what we have to look forward to as we start to wind down 2014:

  • Literally seeing the earth move! With the paperwork of our New Market Tax Award wrapping up, the earthwork at our future home is underway. I cannot wait to start to see the building take shape in the coming weeks. You can also keep track of the progress of #BuildHAVEN by connecting with us on Facebook and subscribing to our E-Newsletter.
  • Many enjoyable fundraising events – yes, raising money can be fun! On October 12th we will hold our Second Annual Tailgate Event at the Birmingham Country Club and on October 28th our 21st Annual Courage House event with the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. As the Detroit Lions’ season is underway, with new leadership and enthusiasm, we are excited to partner with the Lions at both of these special events. I hope you will plan to join us at one of these FUNdraiser events!
  • National Domestic Violence Awareness month in October. Although breast cancer awareness is also very critical to women’s health, October is much more than pink. With domestic violence currently in the national spotlight, we hope that you can help us in raising awareness of this CRIME in your community – including taking and sharing our #HAVENPledge (stay tuned for details). Do you know that based on national statistics and state information that we can estimate that at least 150,000 homes in Oakland County are impacted by domestic violence? Someone on your street, at your office, attending your children’s school, working at your local grocery store, is suffering right now and living in fear.
  • A panel for parents (date to be announced) on raising boys to be non-violent is in the works. As the mom of a son, now a young adult, I am excited about this conversation. It is easy to forget when we look at the Ray Rice’s of the world, that they were once a young toddler, a preteen and a teenager. It is important that we all look at how we can help shape young men to become adults who respect and value women as their equals, can respect those who are different, and who don’t buy into misogyny. I hope you will be able to join us to learn more from a diverse panel of parents and professionals. Even those of us who are no longer actively raising children will benefit from this presentation. As the proverb goes, “it takes a village to raise a child,” so even when our own children are grown or if you don’t have children, there’s still work to be done.
  • Our Prevention Education team is ramping up to share their knowledge in schools after summer vacation. I can’t wait to hear their stories of what they are experiencing in their work with area school children. Unfortunately they are operating barebones after losing significant funding for prevention activities. Please consider supporting these efforts by making a donation.
  • The summer weather really made our garden grow! I am anxious to participate in our final fall harvest and revel in results of how much produce we were able to grow and share with those individuals and families we serve.

I hope that your summer was a relaxing and restful, that you had the opportunity to spend time with family, eat a s’more or two, and are now cherishing the return to a more normal routine. I also hope that you are ready to roll up your sleeves along with me and dig in to make a difference in the community – let’s work together to bring awareness to others and support to those in need. Everyone deserves to have a life without fear. It is great to be back!

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Ray Rice was Once a Little Boy

Before the NFL spotlight and the success, Ray Rice was just a little guy. A sponge ready to learn. Ready to be loved.

What messages did this young boy receive? Was he told to be a man? Was he shown that being a man meant using force to get his needs met? Was he surrounded by male role models that demonstrated respect and equality for the women in his life? Was he told that boys don’t cry? Were incidents of physical aggression explained away by “boys will be boys”?

Ray Rice was once a preteen, presumably playing youth sports. Was he surrounded by coaches that mimicked him if he “ran like a girl”? Was he part of a system where male teams and players were celebrated as heroes and demi-gods? Was he given a free pass for bad behavior due to his status? Did anyone talk to him about the sexist depictions of women that are commonplace in TV, music, movies and video games? Was he taught to respect his female peers? Did the males around him model respectful and healthy relationships?

Ray Rice was once a teenager. Did his teachers, coaches, and family members have high expectations for the non-athlete side of his life? Did he use his male athlete privilege for the good of others? Were girls seen as an athletic conquest and a reward for his athletic success on the playing field? Was he in a locker room that objectified women and girls? Was he or his fellow athletes held accountable for their off field behavior? Did he still carry that free pass, given earlier in life, that “boys will be boys”?

Ray Rice was once a college student. Did his status as a college football player give him a road free of accountability? Did his coaches and trainers convey the messages to suck it up, be a man, victory is everything? Did anyone ever sit him down and talk with him about healthy relationship, gender equality and gender respect? Was his locker room environment filled with sexism and misogyny?

Ray Rice is now, after many years of privilege being held accountable for his abusive behavior towards a woman. He is now being told that such abuse is not acceptable at work (football) and in life. Initially, he was given a near “free pass” with his two-game suspension. It seemed that the Baltimore Ravens and the NFL wanted to ignore or forget the part that happened behind closed doors, albeit an elevator door. But now with the world watching the video of him actually hitting his fiancé, they are on fire.

Imagine now if Ray Rice, as that cute little toddler, was surrounded by people, male and female, who gave him clear instructions and information on how to be a person (regardless of gender). A person who as he grows through life, respects those different than he is, that values women as equals, that uses his privilege for good, that would walk away from conflict, that doesn’t buy into the belief that “boys will be boys.”

The country and media are now playing Monday morning quarterback with this story and placing a lot of blame on the NFL for how the violence was initially handled. And rightly so, the NFL as an employer, should be held accountable. But I wonder, at the same time, how many of these same folks are holding their own employees accountable? Or how many of us are sitting down with our young boys – budding athletes, artists, scientists, doctors, spiritual leaders and having a conversation with them about how what happens behind doors matters – every single time – it matters.

What are you telling your little boy, your preteen, your teen, your college student, your young adult?

This blog was also featured on the Huffington Post Impact Blog

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Join Health Alliance Plan in Supporting HAVEN

HAP Volunteers

Smiling HAP volunteers lend a hand for the Groundbreaking Ceremony for HAVEN’s new campus.


Guest Post by: Susan Weaver Schwandt, APR, HAP

HAP supports HAVEN because we believe that no one should have to live in fear. Every person in our community has the right to live in peace, with a sense of well-being and security.

Recently HAP volunteers supported the Family Justice Center groundbreaking. Even a severe thunderstorm didn’t dampen their spirits because the volunteers knew that this new facility will be able to accommodate the growing demand for HAVEN’s services in Oakland County. As the only comprehensive treatment and prevention center, HAVEN helps more than 30,000 people each year. Last year, HAVEN had to turn away people 810 times due to lack of space.

The process for victims seeking shelter, personal protection orders, copies of legal documents and restraining orders can be overwhelming. By housing these services in a central location, HAVEN’s Family Justice Center will make it easier for victims to get help; thereby reducing the frustration factor and risk of returning to their abusers.

HAVEN’s domestic violence and sexual assault prevention and treatment programs help victims pick up the pieces of their shattered dreams. Victims find hope with HAVEN when they realize that they are no longer alone.

Survivors need a resourceful advocate, ally and protector who can speak for them and let their voices be heard. Caring, compassionate and knowledgeable HAVEN professionals earn the victims’ trust. They listen to each person’s story with no judgment, and provide the reassuring support, job training and resources necessary to help them recover and rebuild their lives.

HAVEN approaches domestic violence and sexual assault victims in the same way that HAP treats our members—with a sense of urgency, understanding, compassion and respect.

Please join HAP in supporting HAVEN’s Plant the Seeds of Hope campaign to raise the funds needed to build the Family Justice Center. Click here for more information.

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