One in every four women and one in 10 men will experience domestic violence in their lifetime, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Men and women who have suffered from domestic violence or any form of abuse are probably familiar with the fear their coworkers or superiors will find out what happens in their personal life. They also may worry that the abuser will reveal the true nature of their relationship, or their behaviors may flow over into the workplace affecting their productivity, their promise of promotion, or wage increases. The first time I remember this happening to me, I worked in a grocery store. My significant other showed up there, often interrupting my shift. I pleaded and placated him; visitors weren't allowed; I didn't want to lose my job. For some reason, he acted like I attended a party socializing with a group of guys rather than putting in an honest day's work to earn a paycheck. One day he brought flowers. The flowers were a symbol. First of all, he'd done something horrible the night before, and of course, he apologized and swore it would never happen again. Secondly, those flowers meant I had somebody, and I didn't need any other male employee's attention. He paraded through the store with the giant bouquet and made a show of giving them to me. The jealousy grew, the harassment increased, and finally, he'd been escorted off the property and not very gently. That only made the consequences I'd face from him more severe. Coworkers also started to ignore me. My boss reduced my hours. At the time, I felt like I couldn't blame the company. They didn't want to deal with it.
Another example: I became a business owner. Now, this is where it became trickier. By this point, my significant other thought it was an excellent idea for me to work from home. No reason to be jealous or controlling, right? Wrong. If a person has the mindset that they want to control and abuse you, there is no perfect situation where it will never happen again. My fear, my anxiety became tenfold. He knew how to use it against me. He knew I didn't want clients to find out how he treated me, what went on in my house behind closed doors. Walking a tight rope to accommodate all his wishes and run a business successfully, so I didn't lose clients was too much. The most important reason I got out of the abusive relationship will always be for my children's sake. But, I could never have been anything more than his wife and remain firmly under his thumb, and still, I'd have suffered the threat of physical, emotional, and psychological abuse.
Do you feel like workplaces should have programs in place for victims of domestic abuse? Does yours have one? Perhaps, domestic violence policies could be put in place with the employer's acknowledgment that domestic violence happens; it may impact the workplace and that employers will do what they can to accommodate those experiencing it. Supervisors or HR could learn about domestic violence, how it affects the workplace, and where to refer people for the help they need if they admit they are victims: legal, health and medical, community outreach, and social services. Most companies these days have sexual harassment training, so why shouldn't a company include domestic violence awareness in their orientations? Maybe have a counselor on staff to specifically deal with domestic abuse victims as well as possible offenders.
People don't want to suffer abuse from an intimate partner, and they don't want it to interfere with their career. The workplace could be the platform to get them the help they need to break free.