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This guide is primarily for you. It contains up-to-date information about the problem of adult domestic violence. Most important, it is intended to help you in your day-to-day efforts to stay safe.
As you read this guide, please remember:You are not alone. You are not to blame. You do not deserve to be abused.
Domestic violence is a serious crime which often results in serious injury and even death. In the United States in 1996, women experienced 840,000 rape, robbery, aggravated assault, and simple assault victimizations at the hands of an intimate partner, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. The percentage of female murder victims killed by intimate partners has remained at about 30% since 1976.
This guide will tell you how you can be most helpful to people who are in abusive relationships, whether they are your co-workers or employees you supervise, friends or family, neighbors or acquaintances. If the victim is a Federal employee, this guide outlines management tools, personnel flexibilities, and entitlements that can help her cope with the situation and stay productive on the job. Unions, Employee Assistance Programs, or workplace violence teams should also find information in this guide useful in their efforts to provide empowering and supportive assistance to people in abusive relationships.
Recognizing what behaviors are part of domestic violence is not always easy, even for victims themselves. This is in part because domestic violence is much more than physical abuse. In fact, many women who are controlled by their partners and who live in danger and fear have never been physically assaulted. In the early stages, the pattern of abuse is hard to recognize. People in abusive relationships, however, consistently report that the abuse gets worse over time. The following checklist of behaviors may help you decide if you or someone you know is being abused.
Use emotional and psychological control?
Use economic control?
Commit acts of physical violence?
These are some of the most common tactics used by abusers to control their partners, but certainly not the only ones. If your partner does things that restrict your personal freedom or that make you afraid, you may be in an abusive relationship.
You are not alone. Millions of women are abused by their partners every year. The good news is that more resources are available now than ever before to help women be safe. This guide can tell you where to find these resources and how to get help from the Federal workplace.
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Adult domestic violence is one of the most serious public health and criminal justice issues facing women today. Because the vast majority of victims of adult domestic violence are women abused by their male partners, this guide will refer to victims as female and abusers as male. However, most of the information will apply to all victims, including men who are physically abused by their female partners, as well as gays and lesbians.
(Photocopy and Keep Handy)
*For immediate crisis intervention, information and referrals, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at1-800-799-7233.
If you are in an abusive relationship, you probably know more about planning for your safety and assessing your risks than you realize. Being in a relationship with an abusive partner - and surviving - requires considerable skill and resourcefulness. Any time you do or say something as a way to protect yourself and your children, you are assessing risk and enacting a safety plan.
Safety planning is a process of identifying options, evaluating those options, and developing a detailed plan to reduce your risk when confronted with the threat of harm or actual harm. The value of any safety plan depends on identifying options that are meaningful and workable for you. This section of the guide helps you to identify sources of help. In this section, you will find descriptions of the kind of help available from national and community programs for domestic violence as well as sources of help from the Federal workplace, including information about the personnel flexibilities available to employees.
Since abusive encounters often allow little time for careful thought, many people find it helpful to think through possible situations before they happen and to develop a comprehensive plan for how to respond. The Personalized Safety Checklist provided on page 16 is a tool you may want to use to expand and record your own safety plan.
If you are planning to leave your partner or have already left, be aware that abusers often escalate their violence during periods of separation, increasing your risk for harm, including serious and life-threatening injury. Whether you are currently with your partner or not, a safety plan can reduce your risk of being harmed.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) is available 24 hours a day to provide immediate crisis intervention, information, and referrals. The hotline will refer callers directly to the appropriate kind of help in their own communities, including emergency services and shelters. Also, counselors can offer information, referrals, and counseling to survivors of domestic violence, family members, neighbors, and the general public. The TDD number for the hearing impaired is 1-800-787-3224. The hotline is prepared to help Spanish speaking callers and other non-English speakers.
Local domestic violence programs, which provide free and confidential assistance to persons in abusive relationships and their children, can be a vital resource. Either your Employee Assistance Program at work or the National Hotline can help you find local domestic violence programs. Emergency safety services, such as shelters and 24-hour crisis hotlines, may also be available. You don't have to stay in a shelter to get help from a domestic violence program. Most programs provide a full range of non-shelter related services to people in abusive relationships. Domestic violence programs are generally well-informed about the services available to help you, so ask them for information and referrals. Referrals are frequently available for:
Domestic violence advocates may be available through a local domestic violence program or through the court. A domestic violence advocate may be able to tell you about your legal rights and the services available in your community, help you weigh the pros and cons of using the court system, and "walk you through" the entire process of making a police report, obtaining an order of protection, filing a violation, or petitioning for custody. In addition to giving you good information, advocates can often accompany you to court, to the police station, or to social services and provide you with practical and emotional support. They can refer you to community agencies for help with the wide range of issues you may face.
Getting help from someone who has experience working with victims of domestic violence and who knows how to work with the different systems, including the police, the courts, local hospitals and social services, can make things a lot easier for you. However, advocacy services vary from one community to another. Some advocates are able to provide more assistance than others. If you need help in locating a domestic violence advocate, ask your Employee Assistance Program counselor for assistance. If you cannot find an advocate, have a trusted friend or family member accompany you to dealings with the court system.
It's important to develop as much support as you can. Think about contacting the following people to find out what kind of help you can get:
When Alice's husband, who had been hitting her for several years, began threatening her daughter, she knew she had to take action. After some internal debate about where to turn, Alice decided to talk to her union representative, Rose, who had helped her with a workplace problem some years ago. Rose listened to Alice with warm concern and immediately called the National Domestic Violence Hotline to get the latest information on community programs for victims of violence. She also told Alice that the agency's Director of Security had helped other employees in her situation by advising them about their safety planning, and at Alice's request, set up an appointment for her. Rose gave Alice a copy of a union brochure on domestic violence, writing down the phone numbers for the hotline and her own office for Alice's reference.
* Note: Anyone you turn to in the workplace for help should honor your requests for confidentiality. However, be aware that you cannot always get absolute assurances since there are limits to confidentiality where a threat of danger exists.
Sarah did not want her co-workers to know that she was struggling to leave an abusive relationship. However, she needed help. She made a confidential appointment with her agency's Employee Assistance Program (EAP). The EAP counselor referred her to a community program for victims of domestic violence, and offered to see Sarah on a drop-in basis if she needed additional support. Later, Sarah chose to use her annual leave for court appearances and related business because she didn't want to talk about the situation with her supervisor. When her children began showing signs of stress, she used her sick leave to take them to the pediatrician and children's guidance clinic, saying only that she was taking the children to medical appointments.
If you are in an abusive relationship, there are powerful tools at your Federal workplace to protect your safety and help you to rebuild your life. You may need time off to go to court, find a new place to live, or recover from injuries. You may need a different workspace or a different schedule to keep the abuser from tracking you down on the job. These tools are not labeled specifically as "domestic violence" measures, but are simply the flexibilities and entitlements available to every Federal employee under appropriate circumstances.
There are many leave options available for Federal employees. Check with your supervisor or your human resources office for your agency policy and procedures for requesting leave.
As a full-time Federal employee, you earn 13 to 26 days per year of annual leave. This leave is yours to use for whatever purpose you wish; do not hesitate to schedule your leave with your supervisor if you feel you need it.
You have the right to use your accrued sick leave when you are incapacitated and cannot perform your duties due to illness, injury, or to get medical care.
As a Federal employee, you may use specified amounts of your sick leave to give care to a family member with an illness or injury. The regulations cite some of the specific conditions under which sick leave can be used for family care -- for physical or mental illness, injury, pregnancy, childbirth, medical, dental or optical exam or treatment, or to make arrangements for or to attend the funeral of a family member.
Specifically, full-time employees can use up to 40 hours of sick leave each year for family medical care without regard to their sick leave balance. For employees who maintain an 80-hour balance in their sick leave accounts at all times, an additional 64 hours can be used each year for family care.
Leave transfer allows Federal employees to voluntarily donate annual leave to other Federal employees who have exhausted their own leave and have a medical emergency, or who need to care for a family member who has a medical emergency. Any Federal employee can apply to become a leave transfer recipient, but may accrue no more than 40 hours of annual and sick leave while using shared leave. For a personal medical emergency, you must use your annual and sick leave before applying for leave transfer. For a family medical emergency, you must use your annual leave and the sick leave flexibilities for family medical care before applying for leave transfer. If your agency operates a leave bank program, there may be other options available. Check with your human resources office.
The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) gives employees nationwide the option to use up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period (beginning when the employee first uses the leave) for specified family and medical needs.
As a person who is in an abusive relationship, you may suffer from effects of physical and emotional abuse that require medical attention. Your children or parents may also be abused, or may suffer from the stress of living in a violent home. You may request family medical leave to care for your children or parents who are suffering from a serious health condition.
Another leave option is Leave Without Pay (LWOP). Since LWOP is considered an approved absence, you must request it. The granting of LWOP is at the discretion of the agency in most cases.
In some cases, you are best protected if you are able to report to a different work location, if just for a short time. Telecommuting can be a key part of your safety plan. More and more, agencies are offering telecommuting options to employees, so together with your supervisor and human resources staff, this may be easy to arrange, at least for a short period, to protect both your safety and the safety of the workplace. Under a telecommuting arrangement, you may have the option to work at home or at a "satellite" or telecenter (an alternate office setting for employees who otherwise would travel a longer distance between home and work) for all or part of the work week.
Ask your human resources office about the possibility of using a telecenter in your area. Telecenters are being established across the country at a growing rate and are currently available to Federal employees in Atlanta, Georgia; King of Prussia, Pennsylvania; Chicago, Illinois; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Seattle, Washington, as well as numerous cities in California and the Washington DC metropolitan area.
In situations where telecommuting cannot be accommodated, consider asking for a temporary assignment that can place you in a different location for the time necessary to achieve safety.
Sometimes the best solution is the simplest one, which can be the case with alternative work schedules. If you are juggling different demands, life transitions, or have safety concerns, a flexible work schedule, which adjusts when your work day begins and ends, may be a very suitable arrangement. A compressed work schedule, which allows you to work longer days and complete an 80-hour pay period in less than ten days, may be better for your situation. If you need more time away from work, other options worth exploring are part-time employment or job sharing. Job sharing is a form of part-time employment where two part-time employees share the duties of a single full-time position.
Once you've identified the resources that can help you, enhance your safety even more by talking to them, before there is a crisis, to find out what they are willing and able to do for you. The more specific you are with them about what you need, the more likely it is that you'll get the help you're looking for. That way, you will know in advance if you have a place to stay, a source of financial assistance, or a trusted person to keep copies of your important papers.
As a Federal employee, you can take comfort in knowing that there are protections in place to keep you from being retaliated against or terminated for asking someone at work for help. And as this guide explains, there are many forms of help available in the Federal workplace, so don't hesitate to ask for the help you need.
It can sometimes be hard to ask for help. But you deserve help, and you may need it. And most people really do want to help. No person in an abusive relationship has control over her partner's violence, but people can and do find ways to reduce their risk of harm.
Writing out a safety plan helps you to evaluate the risks and benefits of different options and identify ways to reduce risks. The checklist that follows can help you in your planning by pointing out issues you may need to address. There's no right or wrong way to develop a safety plan. Use what applies. Add to it. Change it to reflect your particular situation. Make it your own, then review it regularly and make changes as needed. You don't have to figure it all out on your own. Ask your Employee Assistance Program counselor at work or a domestic violence advocate for help.
Remember that abusive partners tend to escalate violence when their partners try to separate. With this in mind, make special efforts to keep your written safety plan away from your partner. If you're unable to find a safe place to keep a written safety plan -- where your partner will not find it -- ask a friend to keep a copy for you. If you're working with your local domestic violence program, you can ask them to keep a copy of your plan for you. Whether it's safe to write down your plan or not, it's still important to make one. Ideally, you will have your safety options committed to memory.
Remember, there are many obstacles to achieving safety or to ending a relationship with a violent partner, and the choices women confront are not risk-free.
Decisions that are beneficial in the long-run, such as leaving the abuser or obtaining a protective order, can actually increase immediate danger for the woman and her children. Safety planning is the process of evaluating the risks and benefits of different options and identifying ways to reduce risks.
The effects of domestic violence can show up at work in the form of reduced work productivity, absenteeism, increased medical expenses, and increased risk of violence at the workplace. According to a nationwide survey* of American women, many of those experiencing domestic violence said that it had a direct impact on their jobs. Many of these women reported that abuse caused them to:
*Findings from The Body Shop/YWCA Written Survey. Source: The Body Shop: Blow the Whistle on Violence Against Women: a National Study Examining Women's Experience of Violence in America. SAVVY Management Public Relations, 1998, New York City.
This section of the guide will help the manager to understand that:
Besides knowing about the tools and assistance available in the Federal workplace, there are a number of ways that you can provide support and help to empower the employee. In this section of the guide, you can learn how to recognize the possible signs of domestic violence, how to broach the topic if violence is suspected, and where to refer the employee for the right kind of help.
The Federal workplace offers powerful tools for protecting the safety of an employee who is being abused and for supporting her as she goes about rebuilding her life. You can play an important role by making sure that employees know about, and have easy access to these tools.
Security, unions, the Employee Assistance Program, human resources, and workplace violence teams can provide assistance to a victim of domestic violence who wants to increase her safety. While the employee must ultimately decide whom in the workplace she wants to turn to and what kinds of protections she needs, you can explain to her the kinds of assistance that each resource offers.
First, be aware of possible signs of domestic violence:
According to the Family Violence Prevention Fund, a highly respected national nonprofit organization, knowing what to say to an employee and how to say it in a way that is respectful of her privacy is considered one of the most challenging aspects of domestic violence as a workplace issue. Don't be afraid to approach the employee in a non-threatening way by focusing on the employee's behavior at work. It is always appropriate for a supervisor to show concern for an employee who seems seriously distressed, and to support the employee in getting professional help. You should not try, however, to diagnose the employee's problem; don't presume that the employee is being abused. And make it clear that it is her choice whether or not to confide in you.
The Family Violence Prevention Fund suggests the following steps for approaching the topic with an employee you suspect is being abused:
If the employee discloses that she is experiencing a problem with domestic violence, resist any temptation to direct the employee's safety; she is the best judge about what will keep her safe and there are risks on the path to safety. Make a referral to the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and explain that this is a confidential resource for assistance. The EAP is able to intervene in ways you cannot or should not. Their early intervention can have a significant impact on getting the right kind of assistance in place. Let the employee know that you will keep what she has disclosed confidential, but in the case of a clear threat to the workplace, you, and anyone else who knows, are obliged to seek help.
If the employee has confided in you, but is still resistant to letting anyone else at work know, including the EAP, you must respect her need for confidentiality, and refer her to the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-7233).
Most important, do not ignore the situation. If workplace intervention is appropriate, either at the employee's request or to respond to a threat to the workplace, early intervention can provide advantages. In many cases, early intervention can prevent an incident of violence that could devastate the entire workplace. Work may be the only resource an employee has left, particularly if the abuser has succeeded in cutting off other sources of support. If you are an immediate supervisor, your role can be especially important because you are in a position to initiate supportive actions on the part of the organization, if this is what she wants.
The spirit and tone of your words and actions can make a big difference to the employee. Even if you feel confident about how you would handle a situation, consider consulting with the Employee Assistance Program for guidance about your role and about how you can communicate your support.
Of all the personnel flexibilities, the Federal leave system, where full time employees earn 13 to 26 days per year of annual leave and 13 days per year of sick leave, is the most readily available option for employees who may need time to free themselves from a situation of domestic violence.
The Federal workplace offers powerful tools for protecting the safety of an employee who is being abused and for supporting her as she goes about rebuilding her life. Employees threatened by domestic violence may need time off to go to court, find a new place to live, or recover from injuries. They may need a different workspace or different schedule to keep the abusers from tracking them down on the job. They may need their phone calls screened, a workstation that is not conspicuous to visitors, or additional security at their worksites. Some employees may appreciate a temporary adjustment to their work responsibilities.
Unlike some programs in the private sector, these tools are not labeled as "domestic violence" measures, but are simply the flexibilities and entitlements available to every Federal employee under appropriate circumstances. You can make sure that all employees know the flexibilities and benefits available to them and assist any threatened employee to obtain the kind of help she thinks she needs.
Each of these arrangements, with good planning, usually involves little disruption to the office and can be adjusted according to the circumstances. Supervisors should first contact the human resources office when considering the use of personnel flexibilities to assure that all labor relations obligations are met.
Stella made the decision to leave her violent husband and, knowing his previous behavior patterns, feared that he would respond by becoming even more dangerous. She revealed the situation to her supervisor, Earl. Earl assured Stella that the organization wanted to do everything possible to help her through this difficult period. With Stella's permission, he asked the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and the Security Office for help. They arranged a safety plan that included having Stella work temporarily at a telecommuting facility in another county. At Stella's request, they adjusted her work schedule so that she began work two hours earlier than she had before; this left her the late afternoon for the many appointments she needed to resolve her situation. For Stella's protection, the plan was kept highly confidential; other employees were told only that she was on temporary detail.
A manager provides an invaluable form of assistance by granting annual leave while an employee initiates a transition to safety.
When a Federal employee is faced with incapacitation to perform her job duties for medical reasons, or if she or a family member is facing medical treatment or incapacitation, there are several Federal leave programs in place.
Federal employees have the right to use their accrued sick leave when they are incapacitated for the performance of their duties due to illness, injury, or to get medical care.
Federal employees may use up to 40 hours of sick leave to give care to a family member with an illness or injury. The regulations cite some of the specific conditions under which sick leave can be used for family care -- for physical or mental illness, injury, pregnancy, childbirth, medical, dental or optical exam or treatment, or to make arrangements for or to attend the funeral of a family member.
With leave transfer, Federal employees voluntarily donate annual leave to other Federal employees who have personal or family medical emergencies and who have exhausted their own leave. Any Federal employee can apply to become a leave transfer recipient, but may accrue no more than 40 hours of annual and sick leave while in a shared leave status. For a personal medical emergency, employees must use their annual and sick leave before applying for leave transfer. For a family medical emergency, employees must use their annual leave and the sick leave flexibilities for family care before applying for leave transfer. If your agency operates a leave bank program, there may be other options available. Check with your human resources office.
If an employee's sick or annual leave balance is depleted, you may have the discretion to grant advanced sick or annual leave. Check with your human resources office about the limitations and entitlements to leave.
Leave options discussed up to this point allow the employee to receive paid leave, but there are several other options for employees which involve unpaid leave.
The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) gives employees nationwide the option to use up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period (beginning when the employee first uses the FMLA entitlement) for specified family and medical needs.
A person in an abusive relationship may suffer many forms of physical and emotional abuse that can result in serious conditions requiring medical attention. Also, domestic violence occurs between intimate partners, but the couple's children or parents in the household may suffer, as well. An employee may request family medical leave to care for a child or parent who is suffering from serious injury or illness.
Check with your human resources office for specific information regarding FMLA coverage and entitlements.
Another leave option is Leave Without Pay (LWOP). Since LWOP is considered an approved absence, employees must request it. The granting of LWOP is at the discretion of the agency in most cases.
In certain cases, telecommuting can be a key part of a safety plan. Telecommuting allows an employee to work at home or at a "satellite" or telecenter (an alternate office setting for employees who otherwise would travel a longer distance between home and work) for all or part of the work week.
Telecommuting, if appropriate for the circumstances, may be easy to arrange with your human resources office, at least for a short period, to protect the employee's safety and to protect the safety of the workplace.
Check with the human resources office about the availability of telecenters in your area. Telecenters are being established across the country at a growing rate and are currently available to Federal employees in Atlanta, Georgia; King of Prussia, Pennsylvania; Chicago, Illinois; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Seattle, Washington, as well as numerous cities in California and the Washington DC metropolitan area.
In situations where telecommuting cannot be arranged, consider a temporary assignment to place the employee in a different location for the necessary time to achieve safety.
Sometimes the best solution is the simplest one, which can be the case with alternative work schedules. For the employee juggling different demands, life transitions, or who has safety concerns, a flexible work schedule, which adjusts when the work day begins and ends, may be a very suitable arrangement. A compressed work schedule allows employees to work longer days and complete an 80-hour pay period in less then ten days. Other options worth exploring, if the employee needs more time away from work, are part-time employment or job sharing. Job sharing is a form of part-time employment where two part-time employees share the duties of a single full-time position.
Lorraine's estranged husband, Rex, began phoning her repeatedly at work, making threats and obscene comments. He also began lurking around the facility at the times when Lorraine normally arrived and departed. Lorraine's supervisor, Vera, noticed that something was not right with Lorraine at the office, that she seemed particularly tense and worried. In a private meeting, she gently told Lorraine, "You seem like you are carrying a heavy burden around. Is there anything I can do to help?" Tearfully, Lorraine explained what was happening. With Lorraine's consent, Vera reported the situation to the agency's workplace violence team, which sprang into action immediately. The team explained to Vera and Lorraine that threatening phone calls were illegal; the phone company and local police could help. Lorraine gave building guards were given pictures of Rex and guards agreed to escort Lorraine between the building and parking lot. She changed her schedule temporarily to a variable one, and her desk was moved from a public area to the most secure part of the building. The EAP counselor called A Safer Place, a community facility, and arranged for Lorraine to see a domestic violence advocate later that day.
If there is a threat to the workplace, consult with agency security personnel right away. All Federal employees, particularly management, should know in advance whom to call in the case of an emergency. Ask your agency security or workplace violence team whom to call and post this number by your telephone. Keep in mind, however, that even in cases where a workplace threat exists, the manager, to the fullest extent possible, needs to maintain the confidentiality of the employee and inform only those with a "need to know."
In the absence of a clear threat to workplace safety, the employee must have the final word about the kinds of interventions she would like to have and who to inform of her situation since she is in a better position to know her risks. The employee who is facing domestic violence needs to direct her own decisions in matters concerning her safety since any time a person in an abusive relationship takes steps toward safety, there are risks involved. It is common for an abuser to escalate violence as the woman makes attempts to separate. A manager would be overstepping his or her role by dictating a safety plan to the employee or trying to conduct a threat assessment. Managers can, however, inform the employee about the full range of assistance available from different agency representatives.
If employees want to increase their safety at work, a key intervention you can suggest is to contact agency security. However, do not alert security yourself unless the employee requests this kind of help or there is a clear threat to the workplace. Security professionals may have good suggestions about the appropriate security measures to take, which may include providing the guard posts with the abuser's name and photograph. In some cases, if the employee is being stalked, security may request the make, color, and tag number of the abuser's car so the guards can watch for it outside of the building. If an order of protection is in place, the security staff will need copies of the court order.
Today, many agencies have formed workplace violence teams. If your agency has one, even if it is at the headquarters level, they could be consulted if the employee desires an elevated safety response at work. If there is an imminent or immediate threat to the workplace, the team should be contacted since they may be able to take actions that could prevent a potentially violent situation. Any situation that presents explicit threats to safety should not be allowed to escalate before it is addressed.
The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) professional can play several different roles in helping an employee who is experiencing a problem with domestic violence. Chiefly, the EAP serves as a comprehensive referral source for many kinds of help. Victims of domestic violence may need a range of services -- advocacy, child care, health care, social services, legal aid, emergency shelters, counseling services, hotlines, and support groups. With the written consent of the employee, the EAP practitioner can act as a liaison with outside agencies providing services to the employee, advocating on her behalf when requested, to assure she receives appropriate services. Since the EAP counselors may have specialized training in domestic violence, they may offer insight in developing a safety plan at work and can be a source of guidance for the manager who wants to be supportive.
The union can be a principal player in addressing domestic violence issues at work. Unions have traditionally been earnest advocates for the health, safety, and well-being of workers. The union's interest is only underscored by the fact that women facing domestic violence are at higher risk of on-the-job violence. At a minimum, union representatives should know about the workplace protections available and can advocate for providing workplace accommodations for employees in crisis. In some cases, the union can be a source of expertise and knowledge. Today, more and more, union representatives have had training about domestic violence. The union may know about specialized resources for help both in or outside of the workplace. Unions are often actively involved in workplace education and awareness efforts and may post information about where to go for help on the union bulletin boards at work.
In cases where there is a clear threat to workplace safety or the employee is asking for help, effective responses of support can be initiated in the agency. Management, employee assistance professionals, security staff, union representatives, human resources administrators, and members of the workplace violence team can play different roles independently, or they can coordinate efforts with one another to develop and execute a workplace safety plan.
If agency staff are involved in helping the victim to develop her own workplace safety plan, open-ended questions should be asked about what changes, if any, could be made in the workplace to make her feel safer. The Family Violence Prevention Fund emphasizes: "Survivors of domestic violence know their abusers better than anyone else. When it comes to their own safety, offer to assist them in developing a workplace safety plan, but allow them to decide what goes in the final plan." Asking the following questions can help to form an effective workplace safety plan:
As a conscientious manager, you know to leave the counseling to professional counselors and security to security professionals. But there are things you can do to be supportive in managing an employee who is probably facing a lot of uncertainty and change in her life and probably feels quite fearful.
This section of the guide is written for friends or co-workers
concerned about someone they suspect is being abused. As a
concerned friend or co-worker, your willingness to help can be
important to a victim in her safety planning efforts. Being willing
and well-intentioned is good; being prepared to offer the kind of
help people need in these situations is even better.
Don't refrain from helping just because the employee's manager
seems to be working constructively with the situation. Friends or
co-workers can help in ways the manager cannot. For professional
reasons, the manager must be careful about intruding on an
employee's privacy, while you, as a friend, may be able to approach
difficult but necessary topics in an appropriate way. And there may
be issues the employee would find easier to discuss with you than
with a supervisor.
Domestic violence flourishes because of
silence, because the problem stays hidden and, in some subtle but
powerful way, acceptable. We must make this a public concern and
demonstrate that we will not tolerate it any longer." Esta Soler
Executive Director of the Family Violence Prevention
The effects of domestic violence on victims are far-reaching and
can emerge in many different ways. Being aware of these effects
will not only help you better understand a woman's experience, but
will help you better identify women who may be battered.
It's important not to assume that someone is being abused, but
if you have good reason to believe that someone is being abused,
you could help by simply expressing concern and letting her know
that you are available to help. One of the common myths about
people in abusive relationships is that they don't want to talk
about their victimization. While many people do attempt to hide the
fact that they are in an abusive relationship, they often do so
because they fear embarrassment, their partner finding out, being
blamed, not being believed, or being pressured to do something
they're not ready or able to do. Directly asking a woman in
private, without judgment, without pressure, and even without
expectation that she will trust you enough to disclose, relieves
her of the burden of coming forward on her own, and can tell her a
lot about your concern, caring, and willingness to help.
Keep it simple. If there are specific observations that are the
source of your concern, you might say something like, "I noticed
'x, y and z.' I'm concerned about you and wonder if there is
something I can do to help." Or, "It seems like you're stressed out
and unhappy. If you want to talk about it now or some other time,
I'll be happy to listen."
People are sometimes hesitant to approach a woman about their
concern for her safety because they feel that it is "none of their
business," or that their offer of help will be unwelcome. But the
notion that "what happens behind closed doors" is off limits has
contributed greatly to women's isolation from help and support.
Your risk of being rebuffed is relatively minor in comparison to
the risk of contributing to her isolation.
A woman in an abusive relationship may open up to a friend who,
in private, expresses concern about her.
Co-workers Jackie and Paula became pregnant at about the
same time, both with their first babies. Their friendship deepened
as they spent their breaks together, comparing notes, sharing their
hopes, and amassing a huge collection of baby equipment catalogues.
When Paula returned from maternity leave, she found Jackie changed.
Jackie got the work done, but she didn't want to talk, didn't bring
in baby pictures, and showed only perfunctory interest in
Deeply hurt and fearful that she had offended her friend,
Paula turned to her rabbi for advice. He said, "It sounds to me
like something is wrong in Jackie's life, and she probably needs
your friendship more than ever. Maybe something's the matter with
her baby; maybe they're in financial trouble. You won't know until
you ask. And you need to remember that sometimes pregnancy and
childbirth can trigger family violence."
He went on to help Paula develop a plan for talking with
Jackie. Paula pulled her courage together, arranged a meeting with
Jackie in an unused conference room, and got as far as, "You're my
friend and I'm terribly worried about you...." before she burst
Jackie started crying too, and between sobs told Paula how
her husband had begun abusing her after she returned from the
hospital. After regaining their composure, they went together to
the Employee Assistance Program, where Jackie could begin to get
help in sorting out her options.
There are many things you can do to prepare yourself to offer
supportive and empowering assistance to a person in an abusive
People in abusive relationships aren't battered because there's
something wrong with them. Rather, they are people who've become
trapped in relationships by their partners' use of violence and
coercion. The better able you are to recognize and build on the
resilience, courage, resourcefulness and decision-making abilities
of a person in this situation, the better able you will be to help
Once management acknowledges domestic violence as a workplace issue and sends the simple message that they are concerned about it and want to help, employees facing these issues may feel more comfortable about seeking support and safety at work. One survivor revealed that had she seen just a poster in the lunch room, knowing that someone cared enough to hang a poster like that, she would have felt better about reaching out and asking for help.
On a regular basis, the workplace can make efforts to educate or make employees aware of domestic violence. These efforts may be initiated independently by senior management, the Employee Assistance Program, or the union -- or may be done cooperatively with several departments within an agency. Senior management augments any efforts of this kind with statements about their willingness to support employees who are victims of domestic violence.
The Family Violence Prevention Fund offers several ideas for domestic violence awareness activities at work:
Successful activities will:
The next sections are summaries - one for employees and one for managers - to help them recognize what domestic violence is and to identify sources for getting help at the workplace or in the community. They may be photocopied and distributed at the worksite. In fact, distributing these summaries to all employees can be a simple, yet effective, first step in reaching out to help employees who may be victims of domestic violence at your agency.
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are not alone. Domestic violence is very common and affects people from all walks of life. If you are in an abusive relationship, there are many resources in your workplace and in your community to help you.
Remember you are not alone.You are not to blame.You do not deserve to be abused.
Domestic violence is a workplace concern. It can result in reduced productivity, increased medical expenses, absenteeism, and increased risk of violence at the workplace. The workplace can be an ideal place for employees facing domestic violence to get help: it's the place many spend at least eight hours a day, away from their abusers. You can make a difference, too.
Second, send a clear and consistent message to all employees that the workplace will respond to all employees who are victims of domestic violence in nonjudgmental and supportive ways. Inform all employees of the assistance available to them through their workplace.
If you believe that one of your employees may be abused:
Post and distribute information about domestic violence and inform all employees that the following assistance may be available to them through the workplace:
For more information about workplace and community resources, check out the Futures Without Violence's website and the Legal Momentum's website.
The following list is not exhaustive of the organizations available, nor does the list constitute an endorsement by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.
The guidebook would not be complete without recognizing the organizations who contributed to its production.
We'd like to first thank the New York Federal Executive Board. They furnished us with a good model of information to start with by giving us the guidebook on domestic violence they produced in 1996 for Federal employees throughout New York State.
From the project's inception, we were in consultation with the staff at the Department of Justice's Violence Against Women Office, who generously shared their experience and professional resources.
The Department of Health and Human Services provided professional consultation, along with copies of their own comprehensive employee guide on domestic violence.
Two organizations offered their unwavering support throughout the production process. The Family Violence Prevention Fund and the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund each contributed many hours of professional time to the task of editing and refining earlier versions. Their knowledge and expertise were invaluable in broadening the scope of crucial information now included in the guide.
The dedication of all these highly committed experts was a constant source of inspiration for OPM staff who worked on the guidebook.
Family Violence Prevention Fund, The Workplace Responds to Domestic Violence: Resource Guide for Employers, Unions, and Advocates, 1998.
Bureau of Justice Statistics, Violence by Intimates, Analysis of Data on Crimes by Current or Former Spouses, Boyfriends or Girlfriends, April 1998
The NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund, The Impact of Violence in the Lives of Working Women: Creating Solutions, Creating Change, 1996.
Department of Health and Human Services, The Action Guide: Understanding and Responding to Domestic Violence in the Workplace, a product of the agency's Domestic Violence Policy Review Group, October 1998.
Domestic Violence: Finding Safety and Support, a publication of the New York Federal Executive Board, July 1996.
Note: Under Federal Law, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is prohibited from ranking, endorsing, or promoting agencies or organizations listed on its Website.