Violence against women is everywhere. In the workplace, we see it in certain jokes, “water cooler talk”, information and media we consume, and also directly. Many women face harassment or assault from a coworker or supervisor. For others, the abuse they experience at home carries -over into the workplace. This can happen in a variety of ways, including harassing phone calls, uninvited visits, or threats. It can also be less obvious to others, such as difficulties the victim faces in attempting to cope or even cover up the abuse. Considering the fact that one in three women have been affected by abuse, it is very likely every one of us knows someone who has been abused. It’s possible a co-worker, employee or boss has or is experiencing some form of abuse and it’s imperative that everyone knows what to look out for and how to help.
As we look back at October - Women’s History Month - and highlight November - Canada’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month - we want to move the topic of domestic abuse into the forefront of conversations. There is something we can all do to help end the epidemic of violence against women and children, from understanding that abuse comes in many forms, to reaching out for support if we see, hear or know of any abuse occurring.
The Make It Our Business campaign highlights the important message that the workplace can play a vital role in helping to end violence against women. We cannot underestimate the significance of looking out for one another, creating safe workspaces and protecting victims and coworkers at the workplace. When we make a pledge to stand up to attitudes that objectify women or create hatred for any groups of people, we are one step closer to helping eliminate misogyny, racism, homophobia, and violence.
Beginning November 25, we will also be taking part in the annual 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence. For this year’s campaign theme - #OurActionsMatter - we will be highlighting 16 warning signs that someone is experiencing abuse. Knowing these warning signs can help ensure we take action if we see, think or know that someone is experiencing domestic abuse.
Here are some ways - both small and big - that the workplace can take to protect women from abuse.
• Educate yourself on the signs of woman abuse
• Don’t victim-blame - rape and abuse are never the fault of the victim
• Speak out against violence and misogyny in any conversations at work
• Always get consent before pursuing or engaging in sexual or physical contact with someone, including a coworker
• If you witness harassment in the workplace, report it
• Post awareness materials, such as posters and infographics - in common areas such as restrooms and break rooms. Check out these free materials to print out.
• Understand that victims and survivors of abuse have the right to make their own choices. Respect their choice, even if it means they stay in an abusive relationship. Continue to support them as best as you can, including providing support from HR or other areas of the organization.
• If you believe a coworker is experiencing abuse, learn how to talk to them.
• Make sure your workplace has a safety plan in place to help victims of abuse and their coworkers
• Advocate for domestic violence training in the workplace. There are plenty of training options here for every workplace, both small and large.
• Refrain from encouraging toxic masculinity. Instead, celebrate all aspects of masculinity, including empathy and sensitivity.
• Engage men in helping to end violence against women. Men must be a part of the conversations.
• Speak respectfully about women and treat all girls and women with respect.