"NOTHING SUCCEEDS LIKE SUCCESS."
We are all familiar with this saying, and CAEPV is incredibly fortunate to work with companies on the forefront of dealing with domestic violence as a workplace issue. Recently I had a conversation with one of our CAEPV members about an interesting phenomenon they had noted – a decrease in reporting of domestic violence at their company.
While one might consider this “success,” they had another take on the issue. They were concerned that in this economy, victims of domestic violence may not report because they thought if any position was “on the bubble” a victim of domestic violence may be more likely to be laid off. Here are their thoughts:
Since the U.S. economy has taken a significant downturn in early 2008, the self reporting of intimate partner violence by employees in our organization has decreased by an average of 40 %. As an organization that has led the way in workplace violence initiatives such as creating and implementing a standalone policy for paid time off well before state laws were enacted, our team found this concerning. While we certainly could pat ourselves on the back about our efforts in education and awareness, our instincts told us differently.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently published a report, Intimate Partner Violence: 1993-2005, using the National Crime Victim Survey statistics in which they state that intimate partner violence has decreased 64% since 1993, including 50% decline in non fatal incidents. (It will be interesting to see the next report since this is 7 years old and does not include the years of the economic recession.) The NCVS is a random and anonymous telephone survey of 40,000 US households which asks several questions about crime victimization not just intimate partner violence. While the NCVS is a self reporting survey, the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports collects actual arrest information from 13,000 law enforcement agencies. The UCR has also reported that overall violent and property crime has decreased in the last 10 years. It is important to note that the UCR does not separate intimate partner violence as a category for arrest records and there is no uniformity in the definition of violence.
Another self report survey of 16,000 adults was conducted for the first time in 2010 by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention titled: The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey. This specifically addresses sexual and intimate partner violence and stalking. According to the Executive Summary, more than 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetimes. In my opinion, a more revealing study as far as to the impact of intimate partner violence in their lives.
While we are thankful that are communities are safer and the crime is decreasing. It then makes logical sense that, in parallel, intimate partner violence would also be declining in our communities and therefore in our workplaces.
So should we look at this as a victory of the victim advocate organizations? Yes, certainly we can credit wider legal and social agency accessibility, VAWA, and continuing economic mobility of victims. But to merely rest on our laurels would be a serious error.
Victims of IPV may still be stigmatized by family, friends and co-workers and even employers. This may impact their willingness to come forward specifically in the workplace. With layoffs and downsizing still the norm, employees may hide their situations out of fear of losing their job. In addition, companies like ours, have downsized in the service areas that normally are the safety net for reporting such incidents. For example, HR, EAP and Security Services are the first to cut back on personnel in a recession.
We therefore must redouble our efforts as employers to be observant and vigilant when it comes to the warning signs of IPV. Some of the less obvious signs, such as deteriorating performance, absenteeism and lateness are often attributed to a poor work ethic. This leads to terminating employees after traditional progressive discipline efforts have failed. While private employers have the absolute right to terminate for these reasons often in the early stages there can be contributing factors related to intimate partner violence that may sometimes be ignored.
In addition, we must continue to encourage government agencies to count IPV incidents including non-fatal crimes such as harassment and stalking and to implement stronger data collection so we can evaluate current trends.
January is Stalking Awareness Month and it is important to note that cyber stalking is yet another arena of harassment for the victim. With the velocity of advancements in social media combined with technologies such as global positioning systems (GPS) or tracking, many victims may not even know they are being watched electronically. It is important to let employees know tips and techniques outside of the workplace such as keeping a log of activities, never meet an online acquaintance alone even in a public place, contact your ISP provider if an unknown person has contacted you through your personal email, and privatize your social media settings on Facebook and Twitter.
We thank this CAEPV member for their perspective and for their passion to consider that the work is “not done” just because something may appear on its face to be a success. We also appreciate their notation of the importance of addressing stalking as a workplace issue.
For information on how we can assist you with your workplace program, visit our website at www.caepv.org or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more on National Stalking Awareness Month, visit www.stalkingawarenessmonth.org.