October is Domestic Violence Awareness month, an issue that touches millions of Americans.
While domestic abuse is often considered an emotional and safety issue, it’s also an economic one. For example, fear of becoming homeless (especially if kids are involved) can keep people from leaving an abusive partner. Abuse can also jeopardize a job if a person is too injured to work or if the abuser shows up at the workplace. Here’s a look at several story angles to consider.
Businesses that provide pro bono services
The Move to End Domestic Violence was started by a moving company after fielding calls to help people leave unsafe living situations. The company started a pledge to help these customers on a pro bono basis and challenged other businesses to find ways to help. So far, over 200 businesses in the U.S. and elsewhere have taken the pledge, including plumbers, counselors, law firms and hair stylists. In fact, salon professionals in Illinois are now required to receive training in domestic abuse prevention.
Are there any businesses in your community that participate? What was their motivation and what has been the impact on employee engagement or their relationship with the community? How are hair salons or other businesses in your area combatting domestic violence?
Organizations that offer survivor training
Since people leaving abusive situations may have to rebuild their financial lives, the domestic violence organization FreeFrom provides entrepreneurship training to survivors in Los Angeles, Oakland and San Francisco, California. This includes pro bono business legal advice, mentorship and marketing advice. The goal is to help survivors gain confidence and financial independence as they move forward.
Are there programs like this in your area? Or are there success stories of people who survived domestic abuse and went on to launch successful businesses? Depending on the person’s situation, there may be a need to protect the survivor’s privacy. But some (especially those who are further removed from that chapter of their lives) may be comfortable sharing the details of their story.
Laws that keep employees safe
Because domestic violence can seep into work life, several states have laws regarding domestic violence and the workplace. California employers with 25 or more people on the payroll must allow up to 12 weeks of leave for victims of domestic violence to seek medical attention, go to counseling or relocate. And they must maintain the employee’s confidentiality. Meanwhile, in Rhode Island, employers are prohibited from refusing to hire someone solely because the individual seeks or obtains a protective order.
An employment attorney in your state can explain local laws and rights as they pertain to employers and survivors. Human resources departments may be reluctant to speak about specific situations, but you may uncover court cases for specific examples.
• While media coverage often portrays women as the victims (a word that many advocates don’t like, because it removes the person’s agency), that’s not always the case. In fact, the CDC reports that one in nine men experience intimate partner violence. This issue also impacts same-sex couples, so don’t assume that men are always the ones perpetrating abuses against women.
• Looking for expert insights or national statistics? Places like the Center for Survivor Agency and Justice, a national organization that focuses on the connection between economic hardship and domestic violence, and the Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault at the University of Texas may be able to help.