Team Building and Domestic Violence Awareness

It’s that time again: October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Like many such commemorative months, it may seem unrelated to your life, and therefore easy to ignore. But in light of the alarming increase in domestic assaults triggered by the pandemic,  Magnovo is confronting it head on. So what follows is a wake up call to Corporate America about how team building can heighten awareness of domestic violence.

Stark reality check

Let’s start with this post: while you read it, as many as 20 Americans will be assaulted by an intimate partner. Over the course of a year that adds up to 10 million victims—women as well as men—according to The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Hiding in plain sight…yet out of mind

It’s natural to assume that what you don’t see, doesn’t exist, at least not in your world. But sadly, domestic violence is in plain sight every day. The problem is that most of us don’t recognize it even when it’s staring us in the face.

The Society For Human Resource Management reports: “One in every four women and one in 10 men will experience domestic violence in their lifetime, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention…and Domestic violence and sexual assault walk in the doors of each and every workplace every day here in the United States,” said Kim Wells, executive director of the Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence, a national nonprofit organization based in Bloomington, Ill.”

Domestic violence and the remote workplace

COVID-19 closed millions of offices around the world and opened thousands of opportunities for physical abuse against home-based workers. Fear of contracting the coronavirus, lost jobs, unpaid bills, evictions, foreclosures, school closures, and home-schooling. These stressors magnified the pressure and frustration from a seemingly interminable lockdown. The result: People Magazine reported that “Domestic violence incidents in the United States increased by 8.1 percent after COVID-19 lockdown orders, according to a new study.”

Time Magazine reported: “Growing evidence shows the pandemic has made intimate partner violence more common—and often more severe. ….Just as the disease continues to claim more lives, quarantine-linked domestic violence is claiming more victims—and not just women in heterosexual relationships. Intimate partner violence occurs in same-sex couples at rates equal to or even higher than the rates in opposite sex partners.”

Domestic violence and your bottom line

Some employers enforce a default policy of “don’t ask/don’t tell” rather than risk legal liability by delving into such a taboo subject about a worker’s private life. And as long as the problem doesn’t bleed over into the office, it’s easier for management not to know.

But even if there are no black eyes, bruises, or other visible signs of abuse, the impact on employee productivity can pack a lethal punch and leave your bottom line hemorrhaging.

From the Family Violence Prevention Fund: “The costs of intimate partner violence exceed $5.8 billion each year, $4.1 billion of which is for direct medical and mental health care services, much of which is paid for by the employer.” 

Domestic violence and your corporate culture

On the one hand, The Family Violence Prevention Fund reports that “ Employers are aware of this economic burden: 44 percent of executives surveyed say that domestic violence increases their health care costs.” But on the other hand, a study conducted by The Society For Human Resource Management revealed that “65 percent of companies don’t have a formal workplace domestic violence prevention policy, according to research conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management.” How ironic and tragic.

Team building to save lives

Corporate executives aren’t trained to intervene in domestic violence cases and no one should expect them to carry such a heavy burden of responsibility. But “awareness” doesn’t have to be a burden. In fact, team building events that promote awareness of domestic violence can be an invaluable fail-safe for victimized employees.

With the help of trained professionals, your company can build a team of managers and subordinates to make domestic violence awareness and prevention a priority. This team can be trained to recognize signs of domestic abuse and establish response protocols that protect the victim’s privacy. And key team members should learn security protocols to follow for on-site threat assessments. 

Your legal department should collaborate with local law enforcement advisors to develop policies that adhere to domestic violence statutes on the federal and local levels. Professional consultants can guide your team in creating a turnkey employee assistance program [EAP].  

And your legal counsel should establish safeguards to protect the company from retaliatory lawsuits while adhering to restraining orders. And HR guidelines should be set up to provide leave for victims in emergencies.  

Don’t wait for one of your employees to fall victim to a predator from whom they have no escape. Partner with Magnovo to develop team building events that increase your staff’s awareness of domestic violence. Learn how to help now so that you can offer help later.