Part 2: Intimate Partner Violence and the Workplace

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So why is intimate partner violence a workplace issue?

As we talked about in our last video, intimate partner violence has far-reaching impacts on nearly every aspect of the victim’s life and their work life is no exception. Intimate partner violence can become a workplace threat when an employee, or anyone with a familial or intimate relationship with an employee, engages in violent and/or threatening behavior designed to control or harm the person they are targeting.

Intimate partner violence, sexual violence, and stalking – no matter where it occurs – can make workplaces less productive and less safe. One national study revealed that 96% of domestic violence victims who are employed reported experiencing problems at work due to abuse. A survey of American employees found that 44% of full-time employed adults personally experienced domestic violence’s effect in their workplaces, and 21% identified themselves as victims of intimate partner violence.

Trauma and fear can significantly impact brain function, triggering a flight or fight response which can diminish cognitive functioning, and therefore focus and productivity. Some abusers may also keep survivors up at night in efforts to sabotage their employment.

One survivor recounts their story of how their abusive partner attempted to sabotage their work: “She called my work to try to get me fired. She would call twice a day, sometimes 12 times a day. I would have other people at work answer the phone for me. They would say you have to make your ex-wife stop calling you here and I would say I can’t make her stop. There is nothing I can do. My work requires a background check every five years. That’s when I learned she had maxed out five credit cards in my name – I had all these debts that had gone to collections that I was unaware of. She wanted these to go to collections so I would lose my job.”Outside of individual impacts that can affect victims, intimate partner violence can also have a significant financial impact on a company.

Nearly 8 million days of paid work each year are lost due to domestic violence issues – the equivalent of more than 32,000 full-time jobs. The cost of intimate partner violence is high and comes in the form of missed days of work, hospital and medical bills, decreased productivity, and more.

As we mentioned in our last video, abusive partners can and often do target victims at their place of work, especially if the victim is trying to exit the relationship. Sometimes this looks like the abusive partner calling the victim's workplace constantly, showing up to the victim’s worksite unannounced, sending unwanted gifts and more. This can of course create an unsafe work environment for the victim and other employees.

Stacy Jurado-Miller, co-founder and former chief mission officer of the Vecino Group, recounts an experience in her business when an employee was experiencing intimate partner violence: “When a valued employee began missing work and not meeting responsibilities, something didn’t seem right. In discussing the work situation, we found out she had been struggling with domestic violence at home.” Jurado-Miller and another Vecino leader listened as the employee shared the details of her personal situation and outlined the ways her abusive circumstances were impacting her job. Things like having to miss work to seek a restraining order and not being able to focus and produce due to lack of sleep and increased stress were discussed. Not long after the company became aware of the situation, the same employee called one morning to say that she could not come back to work and warned the Vecino Group that her ex-husband might show up at the workplace. "Despite having worked with Harmony House in the past, none of us had any idea of how to handle domestic violence as it extended to the workplace. In the long term the situation made us more aware of how domestic violence isn’t just something that impacts a home. There’s a direct correlation to the workplace. How can someone who is being abused at home show up at work the next morning and be a functional employee? That’s asking the impossible. It was such a reminder that our jobs require us to be sensitive to what people are going through when they are not at work.”

These reasons and more provide incentive for employers and colleagues to play a part not only to support their employees, but also to improve their business. With all this information and the resources below, we now know that intimate partner violence is an issue that can have significant impact on the workplace. What can you as an employer, manager, or colleague do about it? Over the next couple of videos we are going to discuss the three R’s to address intimate partner violence in the workplace: recognize, respond, and refer and provide you with resources and information on addressing this issue in the workplace.

Company Resource Downloads

The Impact of Violence on Workplace Communities PDF Violence affects the workplace in a number of ways. Absenteeism, impaired job performance, and loss of experienced employees are only some of the costs that companies bear as a direct result of violence. Download this document to learn more about how violence affects the workplace. 

Model Workplace Policy: Domestic Violence, Sexual Violence and Stalking PDF Not sure how to develop a company policy to show your commitment to a safer and more supportive organization climate? Download this model policy to outline the appropriate measures to prevent and/or address violence. 

Confidentiality is Critical PDF Survivors of domestic and sexual violence and stalking are much more likely to report and seek assistance if they know that their privacy will be respected.  Download to learn more about the policies and procedures you can put in place so employees feel safe disclosing and seeking assistance without fear of reprisal. 

Advocacy Empowerment Wheel PDF  Created by the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence, this wheel depicts the major components which engender empowerment through advocacy. Download this one-sheet visual to post in a centralized location for all employees. 

Power and Control Wheel PDF This one-sheet infographic shows the eight primary ways a perpetrator can exert power and control over their victim. Download this PDF to post in a centralized location for all employees.

Incident Prevention and Response Strategies PDF This four page document outlines some employer initiatives to prevent and respond to domestic and sexual violence and stalking impacting the workplace. Download this PDF for safety planning tip, employee-centered threat assessments, and steps to take following an incident. 

Recognizing the Signs of IPV in the Workplace This two-page synopsis of how to identify signs of intimate partner violence in the workplace is a helpful and quick reference tool. Download to share with all employees in a centralized location or include in your company's employee handbook.