The Impact of Domestic Violence in the Workplace
Updated: Aug 7
Domestic Violence is a hidden threat because businesses typically do not know that there could be an employee with a domestic violence problem. Often, even if the employer does know, the information usually does not end up in the hands of the security team or upper management who are able to help the employee. Therefore, the entire organization is at risk if there is a domestic violence victim in the organization and nobody knows about it. They do not know how to help because they do not know there is a problem, and the security team does not know who to keep an eye out for because they have not been alerted.
The risk for your entire organization escalates should the domestic violence victim choose to leave the home and come to work. In most instances, work is the only place the offender knows where to find the victim. Now, that risk is transferred to the entire workplace to include the parking lots. It is not just the victim that is at risk at the workplace. Anyone else who is in the parking lot, near or inside the building, will potentially be impacted by the offender who is trying to find their partner or ex-partner. You owe it to your employees to keep them safe. The Centers for Disease Control reports that alarmingly 1 in 4 women and 1 in 10 men have experienced some form of domestic violence in their lifetimes. In the U.S., an average of twenty people experiences intimate partner physical violence every minute, which equates to more than ten million abuse victims annually, according to The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Domestic violence affects people of any race, age, gender, sexuality, religion, education level, or economic status; anyone can be a victim or offender of domestic violence. The biggest impact an employer can make for his or her employees in terms of having a domestic violence policy is through education. Educating the victim about what you an employer can do to help them. For example, how can we help you? Let us know how we can feel that this is a safe place for you? It’s important to remember that if an employee has a health problem, they typically tell the employer and tell them they need an accommodation. In a domestic violence concern, the victim may be extremely uncomfortable. The employer must take that first step to educate and tell every new employee during onboarding that this is what our domestic violence policy is and if you have a problem, please come, and talk to us. In doing this, you are telling your employees that you are open to helping and if they feel they have a coworker who is at risk they would feel more comfortable talking with their coworker or talking with Human Resources about helping their coworker. Sadly, not every organization has a Domestic Violence Policy. It is important that anyone within an organization (Human Resources, Security, Legal, Janitorial Services, housekeeping etc.) go into upper management and ask what the policy is. By not having these conversations, we are putting the organization, it’s employees, vendors and invited guests at risk. We want our employees to feel safe, ask for that help and not feel embarrassed or in fear of losing their job. Almost daily we are hearing about workplace violence, active shooter, active assailant, and hostile intruder but less about domestic violence in the workplace. Why has domestic violence in the workplace been a hidden threat? It starts with the victim. Victims of domestic violence are dealing with a lot at home. They are clearly going through a complicated decision matrix about how to best manage this scenario. Do they leave, do they stay, do they try and work it out? The dynamic for them to ask for help is exceedingly difficult. Victims are afraid their coworkers are going to judge them, their supervisors will not promote them, or that they will lose their job. Employment is the biggest requirement for victims to feel like they can leave their abuser. With all the other emotional complexities, the victim must have a job to be able to afford another place to live or possible move to another town, city, or state. It’s an overly complex dynamic with the family and it’s important that they know that they will not lose their job because they have a problem. As with any companywide initiative, executive buy-in and a comprehensive plan are essential. It is important that the workplace have an open-door policy so employees will feel like they have someone with whom they can talk. If we incorporate this into our ongoing educational training, employees may be more willing to talk with someone. Safety must be a top priority. Domestic violence thrives in a culture of silence. Workplaces and communities can support victims, their children, and families by working together to create a safe work environment through awareness, education, and a commitment to safety and security as part of a comprehensive workplace violence prevention program.
About the Authors: Joseph Paul Manley – M.A. is the Founding Principal and Lead Consultant for Risk Mitigation Technologies, LLC, an Independent Security Consulting and Training practice with a focus on violence detection, prevention, response, and recovery. Paul is a retired Massachusetts Police Lieutenant, WVTS (Board-Certified Workplace Violence and Threat Specialist), CCIS (Certified Crisis Intervention Specialist), Verbal De-escalation Instructor, Security Expert, and Trainer. Wendy Kessler-Cody, M.Ed. has a BS in Criminal Justice from Northeastern University and a Master's in Education from Salem State College. Wendy has worked in the criminal justice system and in human services for most of her career. Wendy is the Co-Owner of New Focus LLC, a 12-week Anger Management Program and is a Certified Anger Management Specialist (CAMS-1) and SAS-AP certified (Situational Awareness Advanced Practitioner)