Through Make It Our Business (MIOB), we have been teaching bystanders – who are often co-workers – how to recognize and respond to warning signs of domestic violence in the workplace for almost ten years. While sexual harassment is a different but related issue, the idea to engage and mobilize the majority of workers who do not engage in abusive or harassing behaviour creates a common focus. What do bystanders need to move from passive observation to pro-social activity?
In the U.S we see that nineteen is not enough to make it stick to a president, even when he boasts about it on camera. Nine is not enough to make it stick to an Alabama judge running for senator, even though a number of the women were young teens at the time. Eight is enough to topple a Minnesota senator holding office, with offenses described as groping and unwanted kissing. In a win-lose world, 19 + 9 testimonies does not equal 2 men down in sexual harassment accounting. Given the math, why would any woman come forward? And yet they do. They come because they want justice, human rights, accountability, healing and possibly peace of mind.
In 2014, Ray Rice punched his girlfriend unconscious in an elevator and became the face of domestic violence in the NFL. The level of media attention from the elevator video of the assault was what finally shamed the NFL into taking action to suspend Rice from play. Later in the same year, Jian Ghomeshi was fired from the CBC for assault allegations from women he had dated. 2014 was also the year that Bill Cosby’s criminal behaviour surfaced after years of rumours and allusions. These events marked the beginning of a public reckoning with violence against women in the workplace that picked up new speed in 2017.
Domestic violence often enters the workplace. We’ve seen this time and time again. So what can we do about it? How can we prevent more workplace tragedies and better protect victims of domestic abuse at their work? There are many simple but highly effective measures that any workplace can take to create a safe and supportive environment. If domestic violence is a concern, having the proper safety measures in place can help save a life. This is also why it is so important that if we think we hear something, see something, or know something, that we speak up.
For many of us, that was the mantra we grew up hearing. It didn’t necessarily mean that abuse was happening in our homes, but it did reflect the belief that family privacy was to be valued and protected. Over the years, communities have come to appreciate the need to balance children's fundamental right to be safe with parents' right to raise their children as they see fit. Mandatory child protection reporting laws have played a significant role in detecting and preventing the abuse of children by caregivers.
Domestic violence is an issue that affects us all. You might have even experienced it firsthand yourself. Or maybe you have a friend, a family member, or a co-worker who has been in an abusive relationship. Domestic violence is far-reaching and the emotional, physical and financial implications can be long-lasting. From November 25th to December 10th, we’re joining in the 16 Days of Action to help end domestic violence. Each day, we’ll outline a different action that we can all take in the workplace to help reduce this worldwide issue.
Three years ago Ray Rice was suspended from the NFL after video footage of his domestic assault became public. Slava Voynov was suspended from play in NHL after he was arrested on domestic violence charges and Jian Ghomeshi was fired from CBC after information about his violent behaviour in personal relationships became public knowledge. All of these incidents happened within weeks of each other. Each case brought a startling glare of public scrutiny and criticism for how the organizations initially responded to the allegations.
Ontario has a spotlight on workplace domestic violence. The vast majority of men involved in the study are in heterosexual relationships and have been referred to intervention by the criminal justice system. Like victimization, the high costs of offender behaviour to the workplace include compromised worker safety, lost productivity, increased risk for accidents and exposure to liability. The study found that most employers lack adequate resources to help perpetrators deal with the issue. It’s not just employers. Society as a whole distances itself from violent men and doesn’t provide much in the way of opportunity for change.
We know from the 2014 national survey that one in three Canadian workers experiences domestic violence. More than half experience it while they are at work. When we began offering workplace education about domestic violence through the Make It Our Business (MIOB) training program, one of early questions we were asked was, “How is domestic violence a problem for employers?” High profile cases like that of Ray Rice from the NFL, and Jian Ghomeshi from the CBC, highlighted one important reason as the potential for reputational damage.
The benefits of mindfulness are being experienced and spoken of world-wide which is very exciting. More and more people are beginning to experience when they take time to stop, go inward and train their mind to be still, a depth of healing happens on many different levels. This has been my experience – and it all started 23 years ago when I went on my first meditation retreat on Vancouver Island.