Thursday, June 21, 2007

Oregon Governor Signs Bill Allowing Victims of Domestic VIolence and Sexual Assault to Take Unpaid Leave

On May 25, 2007, Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski signed Senate Bill 946 into law, allowing survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking to take unpaid leave from their jobs to get services or treatment.

It is interesting to note that the bill also won support from Rob Quesnel of Tualatin, the Oregon director of American Family Insurance, the nation's third largest mutual-insurance company. He also leads the board of a domestic-violence shelter. "In many cases, a woman's place of employment is the only safe haven she has," he said. "This bill will help their safe havens continue to be safe."

There was no opposition to the bill, which is similar to laws in nine other states. The bill would allow unpaid leave for survivors to secure their homes or move, and give them time to seek law enforcement or legal help, medical attention, crisis-center services and counseling.

It applies to employers with six or more workers. Employers could limit leave time if it would create an undue hardship on the business, and the leave must be "reasonable." Accrued vacation leave or other paid leave could be used. Rules will be specified by the state Bureau of Labor and Industries, which administers Oregon's family-leave law.

The bill went into effect immediately upon being signed by the Governor.

You may wonder why the director of an insurance company would be proactively support such a bill -- after all, why would an employer want a state required leave bill?

I am guessing a few things:

1) This particular employer leads the board of a domestic violence shelter so he is aware of the importance of job security for victims of domestic violence -- as well as the importance of victims being able to get safely to court, to services, and to shelter. The leave law signed by the Oregon Governor allows for this without the victim risking his or her job, and without the employer facing an undue hardship.

2) This employer is also director of an insurance company. Insurers understand something many employers do not -- the real cost of domestic violence as a health issue. It may be that this is a case of "enlightened self-interest" -- an employer recognizing that if a victim of domestic violence can safely get the help needed, injuries and lost work are less likely in the future, thus reducing absenteeism, turnover, lost productivity, healthcare costs, and the also keeping the workplace safer.

In the state in which I live (Illinois) we have had a similar law since August of 2003, and employers have not found the law to be an undue burden.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Dating Violence and Sexual Assault Increase Suicide Risk

Here is a new study that gives us another reason to be proactive about preventing abusive relationships in young people -- a study of 8,080 public high school students in New York City finds that females who recently experienced dating violence and males who experienced sexual assault some time in their lives are more likely to report suicide attempts than their counterparts without similar histories of violence.

“Dating Violence, Sexual Assault, and Suicide Attempts Among Urban Teenagers” is published in the June 2007 edition of the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine. In the survey, 9.6 percent of females and 5.4 percent of males reported a lifetime history of sexual assault -- first of all, those are heartbreaking percentages all by themselves.

Then to the dating violence itself -- 10.6 percent of females and 9.5 percent of males said they had experienced dating violence in the past year. Dating violence was defined as being hit, slapped or hurt on purpose by a boyfriend or girlfriend.

Adolescent girls who reported dating violence were 60 percent more likely to report one or more suicide attempts in the past year, the survey found, and males who reported sexual assault were four times as likely to have attempted suicide. Suicide is the third leading cause of death in adolescents.

(An interesting twist is that a history of sexual assault in females and a history of dating violence in males did not increase the rates of attempted suicide.)

The study did not assess why dating violence is associated with suicide attempts, but the authors note that other studies have found that teenagers who are depressed are more likely to enter into violent relationships, and that dating violence can lead to mental health issues.

Researchers surveyed 8,080 students age 14 and older in 87 New York City public high schools.

This is why the new National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline,, is such an important and valuable resource. If you have not taken the opportunity to view the web-based portion of the resource, please do so. It offers live-chat from 4:00 PM to 2:00 AM Central Time as well as a toll-free 24 hour hotline at 1-866-331-9474 or TTY 1-866-331-8453.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Verizon Wireless Polls Men, Finds Vast Majority Think The Workplace Should Address Domestic Violence

On June 7, CAEPV Member Verizon Wireless released the results of the first-ever “Father’s Day” poll of 1,020 American men, and found broad support for employer-based efforts to address domestic violence. What did they find? Here are just a few results:

87% said employers should provide information for victims about how to get help
83% said employers should have policies in place to assist victims in getting help, including job security if they take leave to get help
77% said employers should provide training for supervisors/managers on supporting victims
72% said employers should provide information/resources with guidance on talking to kids about violence-free relationships

The poll also found that 61% of those surveyed thought employers should be doing more to address domestic violence.

For full results of the poll, click here or visit

I was actually pretty surprised by these poll results. Since I spend my time talking with people about domestic violence as a workplace issue, people are not usually quite so aware of it until you start to explain how it impacts productivity and absenteeism and healthcare and turnover and workplace safety. Then they start to understand that you are not talking about getting into people's "private business," but rather taking proactive steps to address a workplace issue that affects employees and employers.

Clearly from this poll, there is a really good understanding from men in the US that workplaces can and should be addressing domestic violence in this way. That was really a great discovery.