Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Dow Jones Companies, Nonprofits Work To Aid Domestic Violence Victims

Here is a great story from the Dow Jones Newswires about the work we are doing with Safe Horizon and many Dow Jones companies on SafeWork 2010:

Dianne Merrigan knew she had to get out of the relationship after the verbal abuse started again. She saw the warning signs. The first time, her husband's remarks had escalated into a beating that put her in the hospital, she said. The second time, the abuse had cost her a high-paying position as a human resources generalist at an insurance company.

So Merrigan, who now works as a human resources recruiter for a hospital, had her employer deposit 5% of her paycheck into a separate checking account, small enough so that her husband wouldn't notice. Had her husband realized what she was doing, she feared he would have emptied out their shared bank account again or worse, said Merrigan.

Advocates for domestic violence victims understand the importance of employment and financial security in getting women out of abusive relationships.

This is why companies and nonprofit organizations are partnering to focus on victims' financial management and why employers are making sure they have the resources to safeguard their staff and their bottom line.

The impact of domestic violence on the workplace includes safety issues, dangerous and stressful situations, and low productivity.

"For domestic violence victims, the violence and abuse at home doesn't stay at home. It follows them to work," said Scott Millstein, interim chief executive of Safe Horizon, a victim assistance organization.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report in 2003 that intimate-partner violence against women exceeds $5.8 billion in health-related costs each year, including about $4.1 billion for direct medical and mental health care services and productivity losses of about $1.8 billion. In 2005, the CDC also found that one of four women have experienced physical or sexual intimate-partner violence in their lifetime, and one of seven men have experienced the same.

This type of violence is linked to health risk behaviors such as smoking, binge drinking and sexual risk taking, and chronic health conditions such as asthma, arthritis and stroke, the CDC reported.

"(Finances) can be one of the main reasons why women decide they can't leave an abusive situation, or end up returning to one," said Rene Renick, director of programs and operations for the National Network to End Domestic Violence.

Renick's organization and the Allstate Foundation are working together to create tools to improve short- and long-term financial opportunities for domestic violence survivors, including providing small grants for education and job training purposes. The Click to Empower campaign is raising funds to address needs not covered by other financial resources, such as books and supplies for school, certification fees, tuition, child care and even fees for computer access.

"What our company found, and what experts agree on, is that there was and there still is a significant gap of resources that address this specific issue," said Jennifer Kuhn, program manager for the Domestic Violence Program at the Allstate Foundation, part of Allstate Corp. (ALL).

For its part, Safe Horizon, through its SafeWork 2010 campaign announced last fall, is sending out CEO Action Kits to various corporations nationwide in order to raise awareness about domestic abuse and what companies can do to help employees. The kits include such resources as organizations employees can go to and tips on making the workplace a safe zone where they can ask for help.

The Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence, an organization that focuses on the workplace and a SafeWork 2010 national partner, states victims can also approach their medical or wellness departments or employee assistance programs.

If the victim feels at risk in the workplace, he or she can contact security personnel and provide them with a photograph of the abuser.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2005 Survey of Workplace Violence Prevention reported that over 10% of private industries have policies addressing domestic violence in the workplace. Less than 5% of all work establishments, including state and local governments, provide training on how to address the issue.

Verizon Wireless, a national partner of SafeWork 2010, said it has helped about 100 employees over the past couple of years.

"We'll change someone's phone number, relocate people, change hours. This benefits our business because employees are an investment and we want them to stay with the company," said Verizon Wireless spokeswoman Debi Lewis. She added that employees can ask for help by talking to their supervisors or local human resources representative, or by calling the employee assistance program number.

The company also offers #HOPE, part of its HopeLine program, which anyone with a Verizon Wireless phone can access by dialing #4673 on his or her handset to be connected to the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

Lewis said the training employees receive through SafeWork 2010 shows them what signs to look out for that might indicate domestic violence so that they feel more comfortable approaching their co-workers in order to point them to a supervisor or someone who can help.

Other SafeWork 2010 founding members include Liz Claiborne Inc. (LIZ), Altria Group Inc. (MO), Mary Kay Inc., Avon Products Inc. (AVP) and several others.

"Batterers try to keep partners in the relationships, and (financial control) is a very powerful way of doing that," Renick said.

Susan Hurlbert, who used to work as an executive assistant at a national insurance company during her turbulent marriage, said her husband controlled everything from how she cooked to allocating her an allowance to spend on personal needs.

The couple had merged their accounts at her husband's insistence, Hurlbert said.

However, when her husband chose to leave the relationship, he also left with their savings, cleaning out their account and leaving nothing to pay the mortgage, utilities and other expenses, she added. She went from a four-bedroom house in one of Connecticut's wealthiest neighborhoods to a two-bedroom apartment.

Community organizations such as the Interval House in Connecticut, which Hurlbert and Merrigan went to for help, offers abuse victims services such as an emergency shelter, support groups and advice on how to regain financial stability.

Renick explained that survivors might not understand their own financial situation, or may have been prevented from accessing their bank accounts or assets.

She recommended that in addition to working with advocates to plan for personal safety before leaving an abusive relationship, survivors also should try to find out what assets they do have, try to learn the passwords and make copies of important documents like driver's licenses, marriage certificates, birth certificates and Social Security information. Survivors also should change personal banking, investing and email account passwords and open up a post office box so that important financial information doesn't end up in the abuser's hands.

The Allstate Foundation's Web site,, offers more tips on how victims can rebuild their financial future by, among other things, obtaining and monitoring their own credit reports and calling utility companies, wireless phone services and banks to secure private information with a new password and/or PIN.

The program also advises against using one's Social Security number, birthday or mother's maiden name to verify one's identity and suggests making changes if the partner is listed as a designated beneficiary on the victim's insurance, will or trust account.

Women are at risk the first year after they leave an abusive relationship, Renick said, giving examples of situations where the abuser can threaten the victim at the workplace and harass co-workers.

Merrigan said she was terminated from a job after she informed her employer that she had placed a protective order against her husband.

"I remember what (the human resources vice president's) exact quote was, and I will never forget it: 'This isn't the right time in your life to have a career,'" Merrigan said.

However, for Merrigan and women in her situation, employment comes at exactly the right time as they look for support and a way out.

-By Saba Ali, Dow Jones Newswires; 201-938-5400;

Monday, February 25, 2008

Verizon Wireless Funds $100,000 HopeLine Scholarship at Rutgers University School of Social Work

OK -- here is a company looking around and seeing the importance of addressing domestic violence not only within its own workplace, but also looking at prevention and the idea of helping fund educators and professionals who can make a difference.

Continuing its commitment to domestic violence prevention and awareness, CAEPV Member Verizon Wireless joined with CAEPV Member Rutgers University on February 19 to announce the creation of a new $100,000 scholarship fund at the Rutgers University School of Social Work and its Center on Violence Against Women and Children.

Named the Verizon Wireless HopeLine(R) Scholarship, income generated by the endowment will be used to award scholarships, annually, to at least three Rutgers graduate social work students enrolled in the School of Social Work's Master of Social Work (MSW) specialization on violence against women and children, the first such program in the country. The Rutgers University School of Social Work is one of the largest social work programs in the country. This groundbreaking scholarship on violence against women and children will prepare future social work professionals to work as executives or advocates in domestic violence and sexual assault organizations nationwide.

How did this get funded? By recycled cell phones donated throughout New Jersey! The Verizon Wireless donation was made possible through the company's HopeLine phone recycling program, which collects old, no-longer-used cell phones at Verizon Wireless Communications Stores throughout New Jersey. The phones are refurbished, recycled or sold and the proceeds are donated to domestic violence advocacy groups in the form of cash grants and prepaid wireless phones for victims. Phones that cannot be refurbished are disposed of in an environmentally sound manner.

Verizon Wireless was the first wireless carrier in the nation to collect and recycle old cell phones and has done so since January 1999, first in New Jersey and then across the U.S. Nationally, the HopeLine program has collected nearly 4.2 million wireless phones, and given more than $4 million in cash grants and nearly 40,000 phones with airtime to domestic violence prevention organizations.

In addition to a successful phone recycling program and funding for non-profit domestic violence prevention organizations, HopeLine includes free wireless service and voice mailboxes for survivors, community and corporate awareness initiatives, and a bilingual "Invest in Yourself" program designed to help survivors re-enter the workforce. HopeLine phone donations also are accepted at all Verizon Wireless Communications Stores across the nation. For store locations and additional information, visit

For more information about the Center on Violence Against Women & Children at Rutgers University, visit

It will be interesting to see what comes of this new scholarships program. And imagine if MBA programs started training HR professionals about domestic violence as a workplace issue before professionals entered the workplace. . . wow, what an impact that would make!

If you are interested in what you can do in your workplace today, as always, you are welcome to visit our website at

Monday, February 18, 2008

New Research From Liz Claiborne Indicates Dating Violence For Tweens As Young As Eleven

What were you doing when you were 11 years old? Riding bikes? Watching re-runs of the "Andy Griffith show? Maybe you had a crush on a boy or girl at school and were "going with" them? Maybe going to the mall with friends?

A new survey released on February 14, 2008 by CAEPV Member Liz Claiborne Inc. reports that something really sad going on -- a surprising number of young adolescents are experiencing significant levels of dating violence and abuse. One in five children between the ages of 11 and 14 (20%) say their friends are victims of dating violence and nearly half of all tweens in relationships say they know friends who are verbally abused.

Alarmingly, 40% of the youngest tweens, those between the ages of 11 and 12, report that their friends are victims of verbal abuse in relationships and nearly 1 in 10 (9%) say their friends have had sex. (This was not going on when I was 11, I am pretty sure.)

The survey on Tween and Teen dating relationships conducted by Teenage Research Unlimited (TRU) and commissioned by Liz Claiborne Inc. and the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline explores how relationships among young adolescents are fueling high levels of dating violence and abuse. The data reveals that early sexual experiences can be a precursor to dating violence and abuse among older teens.

For example, among American teens who had sex by age 14, one out of three teens (34%) say they have been physically abused (hit, kicked or choked) by an angry partner compared to 20% of other teens. 69% of teens who had sex before 14 said they had experienced all aspects of dating abuse including verbal, emotional physical and mental abuse. In response to the concerns about teen dating violence and abuse across the United States, the incoming president of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG), Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch, said that he will introduce a resolution at NAAG's June meeting that will call for the inclusion of curricula on teen dating violence in schools in every state.

New survey results show that dating relationships begin much earlier than expected:

-- Nearly three in four tweens (72%) say boyfriend/girlfriend relationships usually begin at age 14 or younger.
--More than one in three 11-12 year olds (37%) say they have been in a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship.
--62% of tweens who have been in a relationship say they know friends who have been verbally abused (called stupid, worthless, ugly, etc) by a boyfriend/girlfriend.
--Two in five (41%) of tweens who have been in a relationship know friends who have been called names, put down, or insulted via cellphone, IM, social networking sites (such as MySpace and Facebook),etc.
--One in five 13-14 year olds in relationships (20%) say they know friends and peers who have been struck in anger (kicked, hit, slapped, or punched) by a boyfriend or girlfriend
--Only half of all tweens (51%) claim to know the warning signs of a bad/hurtful relationship

Significant numbers of teens (15-18) are experiencing emotional and mental abuse and violence in their dating relationships; this is even more prevalent among teens that have had sex by the age of 14.

--Nearly half of teen girls who have been in a relationship (48%) say they have been victims of verbal, physical, or sexual abuse by their boyfriends.
--More than one in three teens report that their partners wanted to know where they were (36%) and who they were with (37%) all the time.
--Among teens who had sex by age 14, it's much higher (58% and 59%, respectively).
--29% of teens say their boyfriends/girlfriends call them names and put them down, compared to 58% of teens who had sex by age 14.
--22% of teens say they were pressured to do things they did not want to do, compared to 45% of teens who had sex by age 14.
--24% of teens in a relationship said their boyfriends/girlfriends called them stupid, worthless, and ugly compared to 45% of teens who had sex by age 14.

And if you are a parent, and think you know what is going on, it appears you don't. The survey found that:

-- More than three times as many tweens (20%) as parents (6%) admit that parents know little or nothing about the tweens' dating relationships.
-- Twice as many tweens report having "hooked up" with a partner (17%) as parents reported of their own 11-14 year old child (8%).

Here's the "Survey Methodology" for those of you who care about those kinds of things (and I am one of those people):

Teenage Research Unlimited (TRU) was commissioned to conduct quantitative research among tweens (ages 11-14), parents of tweens, and teens (ages 15-18) who have been in a relationship about young dating relationships and the presence/absence of sexual activity and abusive behaviors. TRU independently sampled the three groups and fielded a customized 15-minute survey online to each group from January 2-18, 2008. A total of 2,192 interviews (1,043 tweens, 523 parents, and 626 teens) were completed and processed for analysis. The resulting margin of error (at the 95% confidence level) is plus or minus 3.0 percentage points for tweens in total, plus or minus 3.9 points for parents, and plus or minus 4.1 points for teens. (the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline) provides resources for teens, parents, friends and family, advocates, government officials, law enforcement officials and the general public. All communication is confidential and anonymous. In the first year of existence, Loveisrespect has received 5,455 calls and 3,026 chats with the most common participant identifying themselves as a "victim/survivor". The Helpline is operated by the National Domestic Violence Hotline and was established through a gift from Liz Claiborne Inc.

Do you notice something interesting here about "loveisrespect"? It received a total of 8,481 "contacts" in its first year -- and 35% of those were not calls, they were "chats." And I happen to know that the chat function is not even on all the time. That means something about the way people of this age group communicate, share information, and get advice -- and it is not always through a phone call. That is why it is SO important that "loveisrespect" is an interactive web-based resource. After all, if you are going to reach an 11 year old, you are not going to reach him or her the same way you are going to reach a 45 year old.

Are you as blown away by the findings of this research as I am? I think it really gives us all pause to think about what is going on in the relationships of our young people -- and bigger picture, how we are all doing in our relationships. How healthy are we? I don't think this is the "pony-tail pulling" of the Andy Griffith days. . .this is something a lot more serious. As young people mimic adult relationships and adult clothing and "adult lifestyles" it seems they also mimic our unhealthy relationships.

I think talking about it in school is great -- but I think talking about it at home is essential. So if you haven't started yet, start now. And if you think it is too early, I hope the survey information above has unfortunately convinced you otherwise.

Friday, February 15, 2008

What A February 14 It Has Been

I am glad it is Friday. What a week this has been. From a personal perspective, Valentine's Day was a difficult day here in Illinois with the awful situation at Northern Illinois University and my heart goes out to all the families involved and impacted.

It was a little weird for me personally because my dad teaches part-time at NIU (it is his "retirement job") in the graduate marketing department, and I did not know if he would be on campus or not yesterday. I was so relieved to hear his voice when I called and found out he was not there yesterday. I cannot imagine what it must have been like for people who were there, or who had family members there. They did not get to make such fortunate phone calls.

I know it is my job to discuss workplace violence and workplace safety issues and prevention and all that-- but now is not the time. There will be other days and other times to talk about that. Right now the focus should be on the people and their families and what they need. And especially for those who have lost family members.

My heart and my prayers go out to all involved. I am so deeply, deeply sorry for you all. God bless you.

Monday, February 11, 2008

CDC Finds 24% of Women and 11% of Men Are Domestic Violence Victims in US

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has just released new information finding that one in four women (23.9%) and one in nine men (11.5%) in the US suffers physical or emotional violence at the hands of an intimate partner. This harms their long-term health, the CDC reports.

The new data come from the largest-ever US survey of intimate-partner violence -- a range of behaviors that includes physical violence, sexual violence, unwanted sex, emotional abuse, threats, and stalking. Perpetrators include spouses, ex-spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends, and dates. CDC researchers asked adult participants in the 2005 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey if they would answer questions about intimate-partner violence. More than 70,000 Americans participated. (That is a LOT of people in a survey -- a really, really great scientific survey may have 5,000 people in it, so 70,000 means this is really an excellent representative sample).

Here are the results:

- 23.6% of women and 11.5% of men reported at least one lifetime episode of intimate-partner violence.
- In households with incomes under $15,000 per year, 35.5% of women and 20.7% of men suffered violence from an intimate partner.
- 43% of women and 26% of men in multiracial non-Hispanic households suffered partner violence.
- 39% of women and 18.6% of men in American Indian/Alaska Native households suffered partner violence.
- 26.8% of women and 15.5% of men in white non-Hispanic households suffered partner violence.
- 29.2% of women and 23.3% of men in black non-Hispanic households suffered partner violence.
- 20.5% of women and 15.5% of men in Hispanic households suffered partner violence.

"The majority of those who report violence -- and the burden is predominantly on women-- reported multiple forms. They experienced threats and attempts and assaults and unwanted sex," said Michele Black, PhD, an epidemiologist at the CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.

The CDC is also concerned about something else -- the link between domestic violence and long term health problems. The study found a number of outcomes related to intimate-partner violence, including current disability and activity limitations, asthma, stroke, arthritis, and, in women, heart disease.

The study author was quick to point out that survey data do not show whether partner violence caused these health problems. But they note that previous studies have found high stress levels in people with abusive spouses -- and that high stress levels are linked to chronic health problems. Stress isn't the only health issue for victims of domestic violence. A perpetrator limiting access to healthcare may also be an issue. Or an abused person may feel depressed or disempowered, making it hard for them to get to the help they need or to adhere to medications.

Because of the link to health problems, the CDC recommends that doctors ask patients about intimate-partner violence. That may be harder to do than it would seem.

That is a lot like the workplace -- it is hard to address domestic violence as a possible reason for changes in employee performance/behavior or to think of domestic violence as a workplace safety issue because we are not sure about the resources and are afraid to ask the question. But as the CDC report indicates related to healthcare, "Those asked about intimate-partner violence do respond very well to being asked."

For resources and help at the workplace go to

The CDC's ultimate goal is to prevent intimate-partner violence in the first place. I agree!

The CDC report appears in the Feb. 8 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Want to See A Report Card For Your State on How it Responds to Dating Violence?

As we wind up National Dating Violence Prevention Awareness and Prevention Week here in the United States, I thought I'd write a note to let people know that Break the Cycle, one of the nation's leading organizations addressing teen dating violence, issued the first ever state-by-state report card evaluating the level of legal protection each state offers young victims of domestic and dating violence earlier this week

The report cards are designed to draw special attention to the discrepancies between the protections afforded to adult victims of violence as compared to teen victims. States were graded on an A through F scale. States that do not allow minors to obtain restraining orders were given an automatic "F." According to Break the Cycle, 15 states received an "F" while only three -- California, New Hampshire and Oklahoma – received "A's."

The grading system is made up of an in-depth assessment of key elements within each state's domestic violence statutes. The system was established after Break the Cycle conducted a nationwide review of state laws. The study revealed a number of common trends -- both positive and negative -- that directly impact the protection of teens.

Considered in the equation were such factors as: age restrictions; parental consent requirements; and whether or not dating even qualifies as a "domestic relationship." Along with the grading system, Break the Cycle released recommendations for improvement of state domestic violence laws. The organization is working with law enforcement, community leaders and politicians across the country to raise awareness and strengthen protections for teens. For more information or to view the full report, visit

I was glad to see that my home state of Illinois scored a "B" -- it is not an "A," but certainly not an "F." Break the Cycle has done a great job of putting the information in easy to use fact sheets that are really easy to understand and very helpful.

If you are a parent, a teen, or someone who cares about these issues, or if you are just curious, you should take a look. You may be surprised about what it takes to get help if you are involved in an abusive or stalking relationships and you are underage.

And turning the page a little bit, with Valentine's Day coming up next week, I think it is worth taking time to look at ALL the relationships in our lives -- family, friends, co-workers, community-- as well as our intimate ones -- to see if they are as healthy as they can be. After all, the people around us are really the most valuable things in our lives and worth the time, aren't they? If you ever need more information about such things, check out our website at

Happy Valentine's Day -- and I wish for all of us to feel loved and safe and secure with the people who love us most!