Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Is A Little Knowledge A Dangerous Thing?

The expertise of the Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence is in the area of addressing domestic violence as a workplace issue.  We take this very seriously.  After all, helping employers thinking through how best to implement policies and programs regarding domestic violence is serious business.  This cannot be done halfway.

I recently saw an "expert" interviewed about domestic violence and the workplace who suggested that one way workplaces could keep victims safe would be to have them work AT HOME

This is probably one of the least safe things a person could ever recommend. While it is true that an abuser can  find a victim at a physical workplace, the abuser can most certainly always find a victim at home, and at home, the victim is alone and vulnerable and does not necessarily have all the workplace supports and mechanisms and physical barriers available that one does at a physical workplace (which is one of the reasons telecommuting must be planfully considered when addressing domestic violence and safety for employees.  But that is a topic for another blogpost).

I am not sure if this "expert" was not thinking, if he/she was misquoted, or if the person is really not an expert at all.  After all, a little knowledge -- when dealing with domestic violence as a workplace issue -- is a dangerous thing.

I shudder to think of this piece of misinformation being requoted as "good advice" or read by an employer who, without any other outside input, uses this piece of information, thinking it would be "safer for an employee to work at home" than at the workplace.

When addressing domestic violence as a workplace issue, it is not enough to have good intentions, it is not enough to care about domestic violence.  One has to be able to understand a workplace and how to best keep it safe.

There is a system of Three R’s that we recommend to workplaces wishing to address domestic violence as a workplace issue (and this information is available on our website at http://www.caepv.org  in our Six Steps to Creating a Workplace Program document.)

Recognize – Recognize that domestic violence has an impact on your workplace and learn how to see potential signs in your employees or co-workers

Respond – Responding at work should always be in the context of behavior and performance. The goal is not to violate an employee’s privacy, but rather be able to say (for example) “You are a valued team member. There have been changes in your performance and you are missing your target goals and seem more distracted than usual. Is there anything going on that I can help you with?” The employee may not share anything, in which case you can remind him or her of the resources available and remind the employee that your door is always open. And if the employee does share, you can move to the next “R” – Refer.

Responding to someone outside the workplace is a bit different. For help with that, check out one of my blog posts about approaching someone you care about if you are concerned they may not be in a safe relationship.

Refer – Refer the employee to the resources within the workplace (such as EAP, HR, etc) that can assist them and also refer the employee to the community resources that can provide help.

There is actually a fourth “R” if a workplace gets really good - Reach Out. Partner with the community and other employers.

This is a very brief overview of steps an employer can take to address domestic violence as a workplace issue - and our website is full of resources and information to assist.  More information is available on our website at http://www.caepv.org/ as well as in the article mentioned above. 

It is our hope that employers and victims are given the information that increases safety. We don't want a little knowledge to be a dangerous thing for anyone.

Monday, May 17, 2010

CDC Releases Surveillance for Violent Deaths - What Can We Learn?

A new CDC report — Surveillance for Violent Deaths — National Violent Death Reporting System, 16 States, 2007 — summarizes data on 15,882 fatal incidents involving 16,319 deaths in 16 NVDRS states for 2007.

The majority (56.6%) of deaths were suicides, followed by homicides and deaths involving legal intervention (28.0%), deaths of undetermined intent (14.7%), and unintentional firearm deaths (0.7%). NVDRS provides a comprehensive picture of violent death by combining once fragmented pieces of information from:

• death certificates
• coroner/medical examiner report
• toxicology results
• law enforcement reports, and
• other reports related to each death.

While all of the information in the report is important, of special note are the following pieces of information for those addressing domestic violence as a workplace issue:

Intimate-Partner Homicide

• The 16 NVDRS states included in this report collected data concerning 562 incidents comprising 612 deaths of intimate-partner--related homicides that occurred during 2007.

• Of 612 homicide victims, 394 (64.4%) were female.

• Of 580 suspects, 451 (77.8%) were male.

• The highest percentages of victims and suspects (26.1% and 23.5%, respectively) were persons aged 35-44 years.

• The highest percentage (37.8%) of victims were married at the time of death.

Homicide Followed by Suicide

• The 16 NVDRS states included in this report collected data concerning 172 violent incidents that occurred during 2007 in which a homicide was followed by the suicide of the suspect.

• Of 240 homicide decedents, 174 (72.5%) were female.

• 160 (93.0%) suspects (suicide decedents) were male.

• The highest percentages of both homicide and suicide decedents were aged 35-54 years (31.7% and 49.4%, respectively).

• The majority of homicide decedents and suspects (34.7% and 32.4%, respectively) were married at the time of death (not necessarily to each other).

• 75.4% of the homicides occurred in a house or apartment and 2.1% each in a street/highway or commercial/retail area.

• Firearms were the most common (approximately 80%) method used by suspects both in committing the homicide and in subsequently killing themselves.

• Although 8.3% of persons who killed themselves following a homicide had a current depressed mood, only 3.6% were receiving mental-health treatment at the time of the fatal incident.

• Intimate-partner-relationship problems preceded homicide followed by suicide in 81.0% of suspected suicides.

• Of suspects who killed themselves, 91.1% had had a personal crisis within the preceding 2 weeks.

• Previous criminal legal problems were noted in 19.1% of suspected suicides and noncriminal problems in 3.0%; physical health or financial problems were contributing circumstances in 6.6% and 4.2% of suspected suicides, respectively; 6.0% of suicide decedents had disclosed their intent to kill themselves; and 1.8% had a history of suicide attempts.

So what does this tell us? Here is some of what we see:

When we look at homicides and domestic violence, victims are most likely female, perpetrators are most likely male, victims and suspects are in the age range of 35-44 years of age, and are more likely to be married.

In homicide-suicide, victims are overwhelmingly female, perpetrators/suicide decedents are overwhelmingly male, firearms are most likely to be used and intimate partner violence is overwhelmingly involved, the parties are most likely married, and the perpetrator/suicide decedent has experienced a personal crisis in the past two weeks. 

For a workplace this means some important things about assessing the risk for our employees involved in intimate partner violence. While these factors are not necessarily predictive, they are instructive.  They show us we should overwhelmingly understand that risk factors should be taken seriously and workplace safety assessments are important.  And not necessarily because there are a high percentage of these cases that take place at work (commercial or retail area was 2.1%)...but because when our employees' situations fal in line with these indicators, are employees are potentially in more danger.  And this is the case whether our employee is the potential victim, the potential perpetrator or the potential perpetrator/suicide decedent. 

For resources to assist you with your workplace program to keep employees safe, visit http://www.caepv.org/.  

NOTE:  While many argue that women are as violent as men in domestic violence relationships, this CDC information on violent deaths clearly indicates that when it comes to domestic violence and homicide and homicide-suicide, women are the majority of the victims (64% in cases of homicide and 72.5% in cases of homicide-suicide).

Thursday, May 06, 2010

All the Trainings in the World....Didn't Save Yeardley Love

I have been doing a lot of training stuff lately...creating trainings...consulting on trainings for other organizations...taping web-based trainings for one of our CAEPV member companies...

And in the midst of this in just the past few days, Yeardley Love has died in what appears to be an incident related to leaving an abusive relationship at the University of Virginia and a woman was killed at a Duke University Health Services clinic by a man with whom she had just ended a relationship.

And it got me thinking....while it is SO important to create workplace policies and programs to address domestic violence and to keep victims safe at work and to keep workplaces safe...it is also SO important to make sure that co-workers and friends understand the signs of unhealthy and abusive relationships and what to do if they are concerned that someone they care about may be unsafe.

Because -- let's face it -- many people never come to our trainings, our workshops, our presentations.  Many people will never talk to their managers or their supervisors about the abuse going on their lives.

But they may talk to their friends or family members. Or friends or family members may be the people who first notice the unhealthy signs...and need to know what to do or what to say.

Don't get me wrong - trainings are vital and important. But we have to make sure we find ways to "go to the mountain" instead of expecting the "mountain" is going to come to us to find this information.

I am so grateful I spent a large part of my day yesterday on a streaming video training for one of our CAEPV member companies that was specifically geared toward friends and co-workers...giving them suggestions on what to look for, what to say, and how to care.

And also helping them understand that the most dangerous time for a victim of domestic violence is when the person is leaving or has left the relationship -- like Yeardley Love.

These trainings can be streamed and viewed privately in a person's office-- when a person thinks he or she needs to view them.

Will that help?  I hope so.

Will I keep telling anyone who will listen?  You bet.

And by the way, here's my suggestion for how to talk with someone if you are concerned -- granted this is my style and everyone has a different style, but it goes something like this:

"You know I really care a lot about you. I've noticed you haven't been yourself lately, and that (and you would fill in here the other things you've noticed -- like that the person seems afraid of their boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife, has unexplained injuries, seems isolated, etc.). I would rather be wrong or have you mad at me for asking than ever have anything bad happen to you so I just have to check in with you and ask -- are you safe in your relationship?"

Because really, if you think about it, that is the point, isn't it? You WOULD rather be embarrassed or feel uncomfortable asking, or be wrong rather than have something bad happen to a friend of yours and not say something.

And -- so what if your friend tells you that he or she is fine?

Then say "Hey, that is great. But if you ever decide you aren't ok, I want you to know my door is always open." And you may also want to add, "And if you were ever concerned that I was not safe, I would hope you would ask me the same question, right?"

Because the point is, if we really are taking good care of one another, we should be able to ask each other these questions.

And then if you can, you may want to check in again with your family member or friend again in a few weeks just to see how things are going.

People don't always tell you right away when they are in a relationship that is not safe or good for them. It takes time and it is not easy.

For help or assistance anytime, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or check out http://www.thehotline.org/.  Or for teens, check out the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline -- on the web at http://www.loveisrespect.org/ or at 1-866-331-9474.

It never hurts to ask -- and it may help change or save the life of someone you care about.

(And survivors....any comments or additional suggestions you have are most welcome! You know best what is helpful!)

So I will always keep on training at the workplace for managers and supervisors because that is really important.  If you want help with that, you can check out our website at http://www.caepv.org/
But I will always remember that it isn't trainings that help change or save a life.  It's people.

UPDATE:  Since I originally wrote this blogpost, another young woman was killed this week at the workplace as the result of domestic violence.  http://www.suntimes.com/news/24-7/2247318,old-navy-shots-fired-chicago-050710.article