When Domestic Violence Comes to Work


The landscape of the American family has changed drastically over the past fifty years or so. At one point in our country’s history, most families generally consisted of a father who went to work and provided income, and a mother who didn’t work outside of the home, but instead, raised the children and took care of the household. There was usually a set or two of grandparents on “pension” who lived around the block. Everyone in the neighborhood knew each other and looked after each other. Sometimes wives got “roughed up” by their husbands. Domestic violence existed, but since women are usually the victim, and women stayed at home, the abuse was mostly kept at hidden at home.

Fast forward to the current set-up. In most families, both parents work, the kids go to day care, then, when they are old enough, to school during the day and the evenings are marathons of sports events, grocery shopping, grass mowing and bedtime stories. With the kids in school and both partners in the workplace, it’s hard to keep what goes on at home private. Things that happen at home are taken, not deliberately, but inevitably, to work.

Think about where you work. If one in four women and one in ten men are victims of domestic violence (DV) or intimate partner violence (IPV) sometime in their life, how many victims and survivors do you think work with you, perhaps sitting in the next cubicle or desk or office or beside you on the assembly line? How many are afraid to go home after work every day? How many come to work bruised, ashamed and distracted?

The stats are staggering. Domestic violence has a huge impact on corporate America. Just Google “the cost of domestic violence in corporate America” and you can read article upon article detailing what the cost is. And of course, corporate America is concerned about money.

I’m not…I’m concerned about victims.

I’m concerned that all the baggage a DV victim is taking to work every day, and keeping bottled up inside her, is affecting her ability to do her job and maybe even keep her job. I’m concerned that the days she has to take off to go to court hearings, meet with attorneys or counselors or take care of other DV related issues will cause her coworkers to think she is getting special treatment, or worse, get her fired. I’m concerned that her fragile emotional state from being abused will suffer even more if she knows people are gossiping about her behind her back in the work place. I’m concerned that her abuser will harass her at work through phone calls and she won’t be able to concentrate.

People have a tendency to think that an abusive relationship is the same as a normal healthy relationship. So, if an abuser is harassing your coworker with many phone calls throughout the day, she should just tell him to stop, right? And he’ll listen and quit harassing her, right? Nope, that’s not the way an abusive relationship works. The abuser wants control, so if he knows the phone calls are upsetting the victim,(and he does know that) he will continue them and if she asks him to quit, that’s handing over control to her, so that isn’t happening. See? The dynamics are totally different. A victim cannot control what the abuser does, ever.

The solution?
• Educate all the employees in your company about domestic violence. People are much less likely to judge when they know the circumstances behind another’s behavior. They are more likely to be understanding and helpful if they know what a DV victim has to live with.
• Have a DV policy in place to inform and protect not only the victim, but other employees as well.
• Ask for a volunteer or assign someone to be a domestic violence awareness advocate…someone in your company that is empathetic, discrete and compassionate. Someone who can listen to a victim and provide her with support and resources. Ideally, that person will be a survivor of domestic violence, because you have no idea what it’s like unless you’ve been there.
• And hire me to train both supervisors and the assigned advocate on how to do all of the above.


I am now offering two training sessions – Domestic Violence Awareness Training for the workplace, and training for the designated DV awareness advocate.

I am so excited about these trainings. Education is the first step to understanding. Understanding leads to empathy and concern and that leads to finding solutions. The solutions you will learn in my training will help not only the victim, but management and other employees. Having a DV Awareness policy in place in your company will prepare everyone for the inevitable – having a victim of domestic violence as your employee. Management will know what to do, employees will know what to do and the victim will get the support she needs.

All my contact information is on my website. Please feel free to reach out and we can discuss how a DV policy for your employees would be, not only beneficial, but a necessary part of your employee handbook.

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