Western University will be part of a Canadian-led international research effort to explore the impacts domestic violence has in the workplaces of both victims and perpetrators.
The Centre for Research and Education on Violence Against Women and Children (part of Western’s Faculty of Education) and Western’s Faculty of Information and Media Studies are both involved.
Western and the University of Toronto received funding from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) in March to create the international network, which will also include domestic violence experts, social and labour organizations and employers.
Members of the network will meet for the first time September 24 at the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.
The goal is to “mobilize knowledge” about the problem of domestic violence in the workplace, said Barb McQuarrie, community director at the Centre for Research and Education on Violence Against Women and Children.
“(But) I think the more visionary goal for the network is to really to build a movement of people who are going to engage in this problem and who are going to make positive changes.”
The issue has received widespread media coverage in recent weeks particularly because of scandals involving National Football League players Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson.
Rice was arrested on assault charges in February and indicted in March. Rice’s contract with the Baltimore Ravens was terminated September 8 when a video emerged showing Rice knocking unconscious his then-fiancé in the elevator of a New Jersey casino.
Also in September, Peterson was indicted for reckless or negligent injury to a child after it was learned he left bruises and welts on his four-year-old son by punishing him with a switch. The story and Peterson’s own childhood in the southern United States has sparked a widespread corporal punishment debate.
“Out of the tragic stories we’re hearing about … the good that comes out of that is it gives us all an opportunity to talk about this,” McQuarrie said. “This is something that affects the lives of everyday people across our country.”
McQuarrie said five recent national surveys about how domestic violence impacts the workplace of victims and perpetrators have already been completed in the UK, New Zealand, Australia, Canada and Turkey.
“We’re going to be looking at basic variables like prevalence, victim characteristics, impact on the workplace, time missed, age ranges and doing a comparison across the five countries,” she said.
Harassing text messages, emails and phone calls are common workplace distractions for someone dealing with domestic violence, McQuarrie said. And the issue also extends to perpetrators — a recent study found that 53 per cent of offenders felt their job performance was negatively impacted by domestic violence and 75 per cent had a hard time concentrating on their work.
Early estimates put the cost of domestic violence to Canadian society at $6.9 billion per year due to lost days and lowered productivity.
“I think we’re seeing more of it not because it’s happening more often, but because we’re becoming better at recognizing it,” McQuarrie said. “I think traditionally we’ve thought of domestic violence as a private problem. What we’re learning both through research and experience is that those behaviours don’t stay at home, they come into the workplace in various ways.”
Other partners in the network include the Canadian Labour Congress, the International Labour Organization, German advocacy group Terres des Femmes, American advocacy group Futures Without Violence, Cornell University’s Industrial and Labor Relations School, the Preventing Violence Across the Lifespan Research Network, the University of New South Wales’ Centre for Gender Related Violence Studies and research experts from Sabanci University in Instanbul.