Monday, August 18, 2008

So. . .THAT'S Who Domestic Violence Happens To. . .

Lately it seems like there have been several "high profile" people in the news accused of commiting domest violence - parents of actors or actors or athletes. And people are often shocked because "domestic violence does not happen to people like that."

I remember when I was at an upscale clothing store buying a suit and the salesperson asked me what I did and I was explaining it. The salesperson noted they were surprised that the kinds of businesses I worked with "had that kind of problem" (domestic violence). I pointed out that if they did not, I would not have a job.

The point is -- it can happen to ANYONE. And it does.

I don't fault people for not knowing that because people don't necessarily openly and easily discuss hurtful things like violence or abuse in their most intimate relationships -- especially if it might cost them their jobs.

I was talking with a woman this weekend about what I do, and she said "I know it can happen to anyone -- it is happening in my family. . .and maybe if my relative's employer provided resources and assistance like you are talking about, she would not feel so trapped and feel like she could reach out for help."

That is really what we are trying to do - provide avenues for help -- recognizing it is an issue for employees and an issue for workplaces. And a workplace can do well by doing good.

And this is also why I am so excited about the S2 - Safer, Smarter, Workplace Conference that the Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence is hosting in November sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. We are bringing together employers and Employee Assistance Providers (EAPs) from across the country to leverage how we can all best address this issue. Just imagine -- EAPs reach millions and millions of employees each year through hundreds of thousands of employers. And what if each and every time an employee in a domestic violence situation called the EAP -- the person on the other end was best equipped to help with resources and assistance and was in the best partnership possible with the employer? It is very exciting to me!

It is just one aspect of the issue, but we hope to make a difference.

I was doing an interview for a magazine a few weeks ago, and a journalist asked me the biggest "myth" about domestic violence and professional people. I said it was that "it could not happen" to a professional person because they would be "too smart" or "too educated" and would know better. The fact is, that simply is not true. It, sadly, can happen to anyone.

And I hope that someday, everyone can look around them and realize that it can be as close as next door, or the next office, and reach out to help.

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