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Domestic Violence – Make it Your Business

Starting Point recently participated in the Mt Washington Valley Chamber’s Business Expo to highlight the devasting cost of domestic and sexual violence to victims and employers.

Last year, survivors lost 8 million days of paid labor due to interpersonal violence from abuse, rape, stalking, and human trafficking.

This amounts to more than 32,000 full-time jobs and more than 5 million days of lost household productivity. The direct medical and health care costs are estimated to be $5.6 billion a year and $1.8 billion in productivity for employers.

According to an article from SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management), 21 percent of full-time employed adults said they were victims of domestic violence, and 74 percent of that group said they’d been harassed at work. This has made 56% of them late for work at least five times a month, 28% leave early at least five days a month, and 54% miss three or more full days of work per month. Seventy-one percent of employee assistance providers have reported an employee being stalked at work, and another 83% have assisted an employee with a restraining order.

This would indicate that domestic violence as a “private” concern is not true.

There is also shocking evidence, according to an Injury Epidemiology publication, that two-thirds of mass shootings are domestic violence incidents or are perpetrated by shooters with a history of domestic violence.

Significant to a resort community like the Mt Washington Valley is the finding that the most common locations where workplace homicides among women occurred were retail businesses such as restaurants, cafes, convenience stores, or hotels and motels, followed by commercial stores, public buildings, and parking lots.

Domestic violence is everyone’s concern, and everyone, including employers, suffers the negative impact of abusers.

The SHRM also conducted research that showed that only 20 percent of businesses offer training on domestic violence.

With the prevalence of the negative impact on workplace productivity and safety, more companies will need to implement training in order to improve these adverse conditions for victims and employers.

Recognizing the signs of abuse and providing basic safety planning and support to the victim can be key to preventing further incidents of abuse. Unfortunately, this work is only one half of the equation in reducing the incidence of violence. The lack of programming and systemic intervention for perpetrators is dismal at best. However, until there are better intervention programs for the rehabilitation of perpetrators, recognizing signs and providing intervention for victims does have an impact.

One or more of the following signs or behavior may be an indicator of domestic violence.

  • Visible physical injuries and extreme attempts to hide them
  • Stress-related illnesses, examples might include headaches, depression, gastronomical problems, self-harm like cutting, risky behaviors including placing oneself in physical peril and addiction, fatigue
  • Marital or family concerns
  • Absenteeism, lateness, leaving work early, arriving early, strict adherence to starting and ending times
  • Inability to travel away from the office for work-related events
  • Unexplained decreased job performance
  • Unusual/excessive number of phone calls
  • Disruptive personal visits or the excessive presence of a partner in the parking lot or the job place
  • Abrupt change in personality, isolation from co-workers, lack of participation in work functions/events

The presence of one or more of these signs is not a definitive indicator of abuse, but if you suspect that a co-worker might be a victim, there are things you can do in private, away from other staff, to help.

For example, you can ask if anything is going on outside of work that is making it hard for them to do their job or get to work and if there is something you can do to help. You might suggest that you have noticed that they seem upset and that you are concerned for them. Acknowledging that you care for them personally outside of performance requirements and that you are non-judgmental may be helpful to a victim in disclosing.

Then what?

Many people are afraid to ask about abuse in part because they don’t know what they can do to help.

Empathetic listening is sometimes the most essential care one can offer, making a victim feel believed, safe, and less alone may help them consider, perhaps for the first time, options for help.

However, this may not be enough if the situation has an element of imminent danger. If this is the case, providing them with the contact information for a crisis intervention center like Starting Point and encouraging them to reach out may be critical. Let them know that advocates are available 24/7 to assist with safety planning, emergency shelter, and court advocacy, among other supports. It may be important for the victim to know that their call to Starting Point is strictly confidential and that all services are free. Providing them a private place to call from and perhaps a phone other than their own can be helpful as the perpetrator may be tracking their phone calls or internet use.

Some people may be afraid that they will say or do the wrong thing in these situations. Rarely does an empathetic listener cause harm. But there are some things that a supporter should not say.

Don’t suggest marriage or family counseling. Services that require a victim to participate in joint sessions with their abuser can increase the victim’s risk of harm.

Don’t ask questions that judge a person’s situation, such as “Why do you put up with that” or “Why do you keep going back.” This places an element of victim blaming on the victim and can cause them to isolate further.

Don’t suggest that a victim go home, pack up and leave. Although this feels like a solution, and may in the long run be, it can also be the most dangerous advice offered. 85% of domestic homicides occur when a victim is leaving. Victims need professionally guided safety plans in place in these situations. Starting Point can help provide critical support for staying safe while planning to leave.

And above all, don’t do nothing. Starting Point can support you in supporting others.

Starting Point can also provide training to local businesses that include recognizing the signs of domestic and sexual abuse, steps to take to help a victim, and prevention for workplace sexual harassment.

If you are a business owner, please consider speaking with Starting Point to learn more about ways to support employees experiencing abuse or have a Starting Point prevention specialist provide training to your staff.

If you or someone you love is experiencing abuse, please call Starting Point at 1-800-336-3795 to speak with an advocate 24/7/365 days a year.


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