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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