Monday, July 25, 2011

Employing Survivors of Domestic Violence - Ending the Cycle

In this blog I usually focus on how domestic violence impacts the workplace and how employers can respond to keep employees and the workplace safe.

But what if work itself is a protective factor for survivors of domestic violence and their children? 

Recent research indicates it may well be.

Work is among the protective factors that foster resilience and increase the likelihood that the cycle of violence will end for women who, as children, were exposed to their mothers’ battering.

Dr. Kim Anderson, associate professor in the MU School of Social Work, found that women are less likely to suffer from PTSD if they are more resilient, or better able to overcome adversity.

Anderson found that resiliency was enhanced if mothers were employed full-time — that is, gainful employment has a positive influence on their children’s recovery from witnessing domestic violence.

“Mothers who work full-time, even in adverse situations, create economic stability and model a strong work ethic, independence and competence,” Anderson said.

“This shows the importance of the bond between mothers and children and the importance of positive adult role models in the lives of children who have experienced abuse.”

Researchers discovered the chance of PTSD in adulthood is increased if a child had witnessed the abuse of their mother; among children whose mothers experienced mental problems; and in children who witnessed police involvement in violent incidents. In particular, children of mothers who had mental health problems were more likely to develop PTSD later in life, as were children who witnessed the arrest of family members during violent incidents.

“The mental health status of mothers affects how they recover from abuse and their parenting style,” Anderson said. “Children whose mothers do not experience mental health problems are less likely to have mental health problems of their own.”

Anderson says recent financial cuts in domestic violence services and advocacy programs have made it difficult to provide abused women with the resources they need to recover from violent incidents. She recommends advanced job training and opportunities for higher education to help abused women attain sustainable employment.

“Most of the time, the immediate goal is to find women work rather than help them acquire skills that fit their interests,” Anderson said. “Those jobs are often low-paying and don’t provide the economic sustainability that going back to school and getting a higher education would.” (Source: University of Missouri)

So employing survivors of domestic violence does more than provide them a way up and out -- it may very well end the cycle of violence in the lives of their children.

Thank you to the employers who are members of the Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence (CAEPV) and the many other employers committed to making domestic violence "their business" and by doing so keep their workplaces safe, keep their employees safe and productive....and perhaps help end the cycle for the next generation.

You certain can "do well by doing good."

(For resources to address domestic violence as a workplace issue, visit our website at


KWG said...

I believe this is one of the reasons why my mother's resiliency strengthened after leaving my abusive father -- a full-time job that gave her independence and the ability to provide for my sister and me. Amen.

Kim Wells said...

Thank you Kevin - your life and the lives of your children is testimony to this! Kim

Isabelle said...

I wholeheartedly agree. I could not have left my husband when I did without a full-time job. I was lucky to be able to manage my living expenses while waiting for the divorce. Having your own money and your own purpose are critical to staying emotionally stable during and after the divorce process. I get child support now, but I am not dependent on it. That would be just one more thing my ex could hold over my head. So I am very glad I am able to be independent.

Kim Wells said...

Isabelle - thank you so much for your heartfelt comments. And I am so glad you are safe. And independent.