Did you know that there is a link between mass shootings and family violence? A 2017 analysis by the Everytown for Gun Safety group showed that between 2009 and 2016, 54 percent of the mass shootings that occurred in the US had some connection with family violence. Some people will look at that statistic and dismiss it as irrelevant. After all, if you don’t live with family violence, that number has no impact on your life, right?
If you have a job, think again. Regardless of where you work, or what you believe family violence survivors look like, you should know they can be anywhere and everywhere, and they look just like you and me. They have jobs. And bills to pay. They even have spouses or intimate partners, and children, pets and homes. You may not be able to pick them out of a crowd, but I assure you, they are there.
For people who live with violence at home, the workplace may be a refuge, a place where they feel safe and valued. They may be embarrassed to tell others what they are going through, concerned about perception, or even worried about losing their jobs. If someone is at risk at home, they could be at risk at work too. But if you’re not HR, or you’re not the boss, your co-workers’ issues are none of your business, right? While that statement is technically correct, I suggest that just because you don’t see a danger doesn’t mean it’s any less real. And you don’t need to invade any of your co-workers’ privacy to help keep them- and your entire workplace- safe. Employees’ everyday practices can help minimize risk. If you’re an employer, you can support those practices with sound policy, training and a common-sense approach.
How do you actually prevent violence at home from following people to work? Most business people point right to their workplace security measures as evidence their workplace is safe. You have a locked, access controlled lobby in your workplace? That’s great… but do all your employees visibly wear some form of company ID, and are they trained stop anyone without one from entering? Or do they allow unidentified people to walk in, some even politely holding the door? Maybe you have a receptionist, or a security guard at your front desk. Even better, right? But when he or she calls upstairs to announce a visitor, do you get, “Hi Mrs. Smith, your husband is here to see you,” or is he or she trained to say “There is a Mr. Smith here for Mrs. Smith, is she available?” Are managers consistently trained to handle employee issues like restraining orders and personal safety concerns when they arise? Is there policy in place to support reporting those issues, permitting schedule and/or work location changes without penalizing the employee in need?
When it comes to family violence and risk in the workplace, education and awareness can help bring positive changes for both employers and employees. What is your workplace like? Do your policy and practices support a safer workplace, or do you see opportunities to improve?