Monday, October 24, 2005

Domestic violence spills into workplace, study finds

Domestic violence is affecting more workers in the office, with altercations sometimes spilling from the home into the workplace, a study by an antiviolence organization has found.

The study, conducted by the Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence, found that 57 percent of American workers know someone who has dealt with domestic violence, and 44 percent have ''personally experienced'' the impact of domestic violence situations at work.

The ways that domestic violence spills over into the workplace may vary, but responses to the survey showed that overall, it affects people fairly consistently at jobs requiring all levels of education. Workers with the greatest mount of education in the survey saw slightly more incidents of domestic violence situations than those with less education: 48 percent of college graduates surveyed reported direct knowledge of problems that affected co-workers, followed by 44 percent of those with some college education and 43 percent of those with a high school degree or less. Of those employees who had witnessed or experienced domestic violence in the workplace, a majority — 71 percent — believed victims they worked with lived ''in fear of discovery,'' the report said.

Behavior by co-workers' partners in the workplace is often embarrassing for the victims, respondents said, and workplace friends and allies often offer support by helping out with workloads.

About 31 percent of workers said they felt ''strongly'' or ''somewhat obliged'' to cover for a domestic violence victim by either performing their work or covering up their absences.
Domestic violence in the workplace affects more than the victims. Of those surveyed, 38 percent said they were ''extremely'' or ''somewhat concerned'' for their own safety, often because the abusive partner would visit the workplace.

In general, employers do not offer support programs for victims. Two-thirds of those surveyed said they did not know whether their company had a domestic violence policy or whether they offered support services for victims, while 31 percent said they knew none were available.

Kim Wells, executive director for the alliance, said a hands-off policy by employers on domestic violence issues is unhealthy for employees who need help.

''Because domestic violence's impact does not end at the office front door, America's employers need to take action,'' she said in a statement released with the study.

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