Tough Conversations: Domestic Violence in Your Workplace

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I understand that you may really hate the idea of discussing things like racism, religious tolerance, bad attitudes and many other difficult or hot-button topics that cause friction between co-workers. But, we do it anyway, right?  Even more difficult are the topics surrounding Workplace Violence. We are dodging at least one very crucial topic that could mean the difference between life and death in our own workplaces. Domestic Violence.

Do we have to talk about it?

Why do we need to talk about such an ugly and personal topic? Is it really any of our business what goes on in the homes of our employees? Are we not supposed to keep work separate from such private family issues? I can answer these questions for you very quickly.


1. 25% of women have been abused by an intimate partner.

2. Possibly 17% of men have been abused by an intimate partner. They just don’t talk about it as often.

3. The percentage of abusers must be fairly high. I mean, it’s not just one relationship Bonnie and Clyde out inflicting all this pain on their own.

4. Victims/Survivors work for you.

5. Abusers also work for you. Come on. They work somewhere. As a matter of fact, sometimes the abuser is the last person you would have suspected.

6. More than 70% of victims are engaged at work by their abuser. Now you are all at risk.


When we talk to our employees about the realities of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking our workers will be better educated on the signs of abuse. Our workplace violence policies and procedures will address how we plan to protect ourselves and our co-workers. Employee Assistance Programs can be explored and implemented along side community resources. Bottom line: We will all be safer.


The Messenger

Who is the lucky person that gets to give this annual training? Well, topics like this should not to be addressed by those who do not know. You will want to bring in an expert. Be careful, about bringing in an attorney or even a psychologist or police officer. You need a Survivor.


You should contact a local organization or a professional speaker who is a Survivor. The speaker needs to be able to touch the crowd at their core. The speaker needs to be able to say uncomfortable things and give true experiences that make your workers squirm in their seats. Why?


When this topic is presented properly you will have a good chance that victims will come forward and ask for help. This creates awareness among leadership and allows you to better protect all of your workers. Many states now have laws protecting victims/survivors of violent crimes. You will want to extend that protection as per the law. Abusers may also show themselves and allow you to assist them in exiting the organization peacefully.


The Law


Bullying, sexual harassment, and hostile environment are raging issues across the country. Domestic Violence is right in line with all of these issues. We need to be training our staffers on all of these topics upon hire and at least annually. Online learning courses (e-learning) are good. But, nothing beats an upfront discussion that cannot be clicked through when the topic gets uncomfortable.


OSHA says all employers need a Workplace Violence program that is updated annually. This program must also include provisions for annual hazard assessments and training among many other things. An incident resulting in injury or death would be devastating in itself. But, add OSHA fines and penalties for willful neglect to the mix and the entire business could fold.


I hope this article causes you to consider carefully providing not only training (basic) but education on this very important reality. Like it or not, victims and abusers are crossing your path. Take care of the people. Do the training. have the tough conversations.


My name is Lisa Smith. I am a Survivor. I would be very happy to come and speak to your group.   Email me. support@helpdeskforhr.com


Until Next Time, Be Audit-Secure!


Lisa Smith, SPHR, SHRM – SCP
Certified EEO Investigator (EEOC)
Lead Support and Content Chief – HelpDeskforHR.com
“You cannot be audit-proof, but you can Be Audit-Secure.”

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