Utah Businesses Can Strengthen And Support Domestic Violence Victims/Survivors

This article was published in the Winter 2019 issue

by Jessie Richards, PhD (mailto: jessie@fadv.org), Executive Director at Fight Against Domestic Violence (FADV)
Utah, 1 in 3
I’m going to get real for a minute, and I need you all to stick with me because our silence around this issue is literally killing people. In Utah, 1 in 3 women will experience some form of domestic violence this year. Also, in Utah, approximately 40 percent of adult homicides are related to domestic violence1. And the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that in lost productivity alone, domestic violence costs businesses more than $729 million a year, often climbing higher than $4 billion when medical and mental health care costs are included2.

Despite the impact of domestic violence on the population, workplace cultures, and business profitability, very few workplaces have programs in place to support people in unsafe relationships3. But Utah can be the state to change all that. Utah is in a unique position to be a national leader on this issue. Our philanthropic culture, our startup mania, and our focus on families are all factors contributing to a statewide movement by Utah businesses to alleviate burdens and barriers for victims/survivors and to support employees in these situations.

The Toll of Domestic Violence in our Communities
It might be easy to dismiss this information as a private matter. Or to see this crisis as a problem that is “not my problem.” I get it. The thought of 1 in 3 women experiencing violence in their own home and by the person they love is an ugly truth to confront. What if I told you that last year 80 Utah children witnessed the murder or attempted murder of their mother? Oh, and have I mentioned that Utah is above the national average in incidents of domestic violence? 86 percent of Utah women believe domestic violence is a problem in their community, and 63 percent believe the violence is increasing4.

Yes, these stats are shocking, but what often gets forgotten in statistics about family violence is the reality of its prevalence. Domestic violence occurs at the same rates across all sectors of society — family violence is occurring on your street, in your neighborhood, in your workforce, and among your colleagues. Domestic violence is a public health crisis that contributes to homelessness, poverty, healthcare costs, and worker absenteeism5.

Let’s define some terms. “Domestic violence” and “intimate partner violence” are often used interchangeably. Both terms refer to the systematic abuse of one partner by another in a pattern of behavior designed to control. And domestic violence is not only or even always physical – the term includes emotional control, verbal abuse, financial control or abuse, and sexual coercion. This behavior might look different within various relationships, but the patterns of power and control are often eerily similar. (See the infographic for signs and types of domestic violence.) Domestic violence also impacts men and non-binary people and also occurs within our LGBTQ+ communities as well.
Domestic Violence and the Workplace
Think about all the struggles employees in Utah businesses often go through — housing and childcare costs, mental health crises, regular ol’ job stress, etc. Now, layer on top of those stressors a volatile, controlling, emotionally abusive partner. How might this impact one’s ability to perform at work? The answer is “negatively” – this will negatively impact one’s ability to perform at work6.

A study by the Family Violence Prevention Fund found that 60 percent of victims reported being late for work or leaving work early due to domestic violence issues. And approximately 85 percent of victims report being absent from work due to that abuse. Absence from work is often related to injuries, shame, depression, or fearing for one’s own safety or their children’s safety. Often, victims/survivors have doctors’ appointments to attend, protective orders to file, or child custody hearings. They might also have meetings with law enforcement or case managers. And in some cases, an abuser might directly be prohibiting the victim/survivor from going to work. Furthermore, approximately 75% of domestic violence victims face harassment from intimate partners while they are at work7.

Essentially, intimate partner violence impacts more than the perpetrator and the victim. The violence often spills into the workplace, impacting the entire workforce. Nationally, 78 percent of women killed in the workplace are murdered by intimate partners. And the violence isn’t lessened after a victim/survivor leaves the relationship. In fact, the most dangerous time for any victim/survivor is the days and weeks after leaving. It is during this risky timeframe that survivors are 20 times more likely to be victims of workplace violence (as is everyone else in the building)8.

In addition to these human impacts, economic costs of intimate partner violence are also staggering: The cost of intimate partner violence exceeds $8.3 billion per year. A company’s medical-related costs are also increased — higher employee benefit costs, increased insurance premiums, and increased sick leave expenses are often the consequences of domestic. And $1,775 more is spent on each victim of domestic violence annually9.

What Can Utah Businesses Do?
I hope you’re still with me because, Utah, we have some serious work to do. But here’s the good news: Utah’s business leaders are already major catalysts for positive change in our state, and they can lead on this issue also. Managers do not have to be experts on this topic – our state domestic violence coalition (www.udvc.org) along with the Family Justice Center (www.ywcautah.org) have an abundance of resources to support businesses of all sizes.

And just to get you started, below are 10 programmatic ideas that Utah businesses can implement to positively impact women and children in our state. Many of these suggestions can be implemented today:

  1. Institute domestic violence training for HR and C-level team to increase empathetic and knowledgeable responses to employees’ situations
  2. Hold regular awareness events or service opportunities to increase workforce engagement
  3. Provide tech experts to help with cyberstalking and digital safety, increasing victims/survivors ability to stay safe and protect privacy
  4. Institute employee payroll pre-tax donations to service providers, supporting the agencies that do on-the-ground work
  5. Develop a broad-based communication and awareness campaign to get the corporate message out to employees and B2B networks
  6. Form partnerships with community resources (nearby domestic violence service provider or shelter – a list is available at www.udvc.org)
  7. Be aware of (and enforce) restraining or protective orders that impact workplace safety
  8. Provide on-site childcare or subsidize childcare costs to alleviate that burden from victims/survivors working to become financially independent of an abusive partner
  9. Institute corporate policies that support instead of penalize victims/survivors: provide special assigned parking spots that are closer to the building; assist victims/survivors in screening calls from an abusive partner at work; deliver paychecks to a different location or different account to victims/survivors can work toward financial independence; institute paid time-off for victims to seek safety and protection, attend court appearances, arrange for new housing, or receive medical or mental health care
  10. Connect with FADV to learn how your business can get involved in this cause to make a statewide impact

Suggestion number 10 is obviously an ask for Fight Against Domestic Violence (FADV), the non-profit I helped found and direct. FADV is working at the statewide level to increase access to safe and stable housing for all survivors and their families.

Access to safe, affordable emergency and transitional housing is often a barrier keeping victims/survivors in unsafe relationships and dependent upon an abuser. Affordable housing is one of the biggest barriers survivors and service providers face: for every 100 applicants in Utah, only 60 units are available; 66 percent of homeless women in Utah have experienced domestic violence10.

FADV works on increasing awareness and resources around this topic through our “Bridging the Gap” program, and we work specifically with businesses in Utah who want to make a change. If you or your company is interested in partnering with FADV, please contact Brooke Muir ([brooke@fadv.org](mailto: brooke@fadv.org)). You can also follow us on Facebook and Instagram and visit us at www.fadv.org.

1Utah Women and Leadership Project, “Domestic Violence Among Utah Women.” 2017.
2Health Advocate White Paper, “Domestic Violence and the Impact on the Workplace.” 2013.
3 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “The Survey of Workplace Violence Prevention.” 2006.
4 Utah Women and Leadership Project, “Domestic Violence Among Utah Women.” 2017.
5 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” Costs of Intimate Partner Violence Against Women in the US.” 2003.
6 Workplaces Respond to Domestic and Sexual Violence, a National Resource Center. 2012.
7 Family Violence Prevention Fund, “The Workplace Guide for Employers.” 1998.
8 National Institute for Safety and Occupational Health, “New Study Examines the Role of Intimate Partner Violence in Workplace Homicides Among US Women.” 2012.
9 Health Advocate White Paper, “Domestic Violence and the Impact on the Workplace.” 2013.
10 Utah Women and Leadership Project, “Domestic Violence Among Utah Women.” 2017.

Read the rest of the articles in the Winter 2019 issue of Silicon Slopes Magazine


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