Monday, August 15, 2011

Why Won't My Employee ......Press Charges?

"Why won't my employee...just leave?"

"Why won't my charges?"

These are a couple questions I hear sometimes when I talk to employers about domestic violence and its impact on the workplace. 

And while I cannot answer those questions for a person who is in the middle of domestic violence (because I am not that person) - I do try to help employers understand that when it comes to leaving, it can be dangerous, because that is when most homicides related to domestic violence occur - when a person is in the midst of leaving or has left the relationship. 

That is why at CAEPV and with our member companies, we focus on SAFETY of the employee who is a victim of domestic violence and SAFETY of the workplace and other employees. 

And what about pressing charges?  While I cannot speak for any particular individual, I think some new research from the Ohio State University might provide some interesting insight. 

“The existing belief is that victims recant because the perpetrator threatens her with more violence. But our results suggest something very different,” said Amy Bonomi, lead author of the study and associate professor of human development and family science at Ohio State University.

“Perpetrators are not threatening the victim, but are using more sophisticated emotional appeals designed to minimize their actions and gain the sympathy of the victim. That should change how we work with victims.”

The study appears online in the journal Social Science & Medicine and will appear in a future print edition. To read more about the study, click here.

What do you think of this study?  Are you surprised about the tactics used? 

It is my hope that perhaps for many who've asked the question "Why doesn't that person press charges?" they have a better understanding of why.  And for those of us trying to help, we better understand how we best can.

For information for addressing domestic violence and its impact on the workplace, please visit our website at


Anonymous said...

Hi Kim. Love the work you're doing here. I'm not a trained expert on treating domestic violence, but I can relate a few reasons women don't *leave* abusers from my own experience.

1. Women are afraid. Full stop.
2. Domestic violence is most lethal in its psychological terror. Women are ashamed, feel worthless, helpless. A dramatic change here is fraught with not only real physical danger, but risk a woman in this state is not prepared to take mentally.
3. Oftentimes, the batterer has deliberately designed an environment for the women and children with no access to financial resources to leave and establish independent living.
4. Oddly enough, (and this one always surprises everyone) the victim loves the batterer.

On the issue of *not pressing charges,* what has become somewhat obvious to me, (and it's reflected in the results of this study) is the twisted co-dependent relationship between the batterer and his victim. The woman is tricked into believing the batterer needs "help" and thus believes it is her moral obligation to "fix" him. Very strange.

How can HR/workplace mgmt help? Provide private, on-site discussions and lectures from community members who can combat some of these fears and demonstrate examples of women who have left, and now are enjoying happy, productive lives. Most helpful would be "Co-dependent No More" type training and workshops. An easily accessible literature (electronic or paper) resource available at work is also a good idea.

Kim Wells said...

Thank you for your thoughtful insights and for sharing your personal experiences. Indeed, the workplace can do so much to help a person in the midst of abuse to gain support and safety. That is what our CAEPV members do everyday with resources like the ones you suggest (online and offline) as well as connections to other resources in the community.