The False Security of Denial
By Kim Wells, Executive Director, Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence
We all know that partner violence is a complex issue. It's a sensitive one too, since it's about people's intimate relationships and pain. For years, this kept the corporate community from delving deeper into the problem—feeling that it was a family matter best dealt with at home.
We now know that this kind of thinking is dead wrong. If nothing else, partner violence is a security issue for employers. We know that 74% of victims are harassed by their batterers while on the job. We know that approximately 20% of workplace deaths for women are due to partner violence. And we know that when violence spills into the workplace, it jeopardizes every employee there—putting our most valuable assets at risk.
In this issue of Everybody's Business, we explore the Security aspect of partner violence in the workplace. We talk to a variety of people at our member organizations to hear what they think and what they are doing. And we examine ways to keep America's workplaces safe and violence-free.
I find it interesting that so many companies espouse a firm commitment to preventing workplace violence yet are reluctant to address one of its major contributors: partner violence. It is also fascinating that the #1 risk factor for both issues is the same—and it's probably not what you think.
So what puts a workplace at greatest risk? It's not the lack of a policy that addresses violence in the workplace or failing to train employee properly, or even neglecting to create a safe work environment.
The greatest risk is simply this: management and employee denial—the sense that “it can't happen here.” As long as managers and co-workers think that no one in the workplace could be a victim of domestic violence, or that no one would ever come into the workplace and kill co-workers, that company is at great risk.
I once had a company tell me they didn't want to train their managers and supervisors to look for signs of partner violence. Why? They were afraid they might find it! Much like a person who refuses to go to the doctor because he or she is afraid of having cancer, this company was afraid of having partner violence issues in the workplace. They were in denial.
When a workplace moves past denial—into a genuine understanding that it CAN happen here (because it can happen anywhere), then and only then are policies, training, and security measures truly and completely effective.
Whether or not we want to find it in our workplaces, partner violence is there. Enlightened and proactive employers see this, and do what it takes to keep everyone safe.