As people continue to lose jobs, default on mortgages, and hear about their neighbors shooting their families--or strangers--dead, can you tell domestic violence is on the rise? Just read the papers, and you can see the toll this economy is having on the American psyche. What the papers don't talk about much is that domestic violence doesn't stop at home. If you think it's not affecting the businesses where you work, shop and play, you'd be wrong, says a business consultant who helps companies create policy that can save lives--and save those companies millions of dollars.
Meet Stephanie Angelo. You can call her a hero. After learning more about her work from an interview she did with personal safety trainer Larry Kaminer, I know I do.
The cost of domestic violence in the workplace is hidden in a lack of productivity, which costs more than $700 million to corporate America, says Angelo, who experienced domestic violence in her own home as a child, and is also the author of Bringing the Darkness into the Light, a book of stories, safety information and resources.
When you think about the work that she does--for example, skills training/role playing that helps managers become aware of the symptoms--it makes sense that her work is needed on the job. Who can focus at work when your body is feeling bruises, your mind fears what's going to happen later at home, and you have no one to turn to for help? Or, even if you did, you wouldn't feel safe asking and might be too afraid to speak up: people might judge you; you might lose your job. Management doesn't necessarily know how to deal with domestic violence. You don't take a class on it in business school. So management may not even know how to approach an employee about it. They wouldn't know what to say if they did. And they worry about the legal ramifications.
That's where Angelo comes in to save the day. She helps companies create policy that answers all of these questions and more--and helps them make sure it's sustainable, that is, that it's long-lasting. She offers on-going consulting services to make sure that it is.
And that's why I wanted to know more about what Angelo does because one part of my BIKE philosophy involves speaking out, using your Expressive voice, being able to ask for help when you need it. It's not only the domestic violence victims that need to do this, it's also the company president, the VPs, the managers, and also the employees needed to get the job done. No one is signaled out in her training services, so even if victims or abusers are present, no one has to know. They just need to know there is something both can do about it.
Angelo does face her own challenges in convincing companies her work is needed. So after I listened to her interview with Kaminer, I invited her to answer a few more questions for me so that I could share them with you. Here's what Angelo had to say about domestic violence in the workplace today:
Do you work with mostly large corporations, or is this something smaller companies buy into as well?
My clients have ranged from 150 – 600 employees. But I think that’s more a matter of coincidence. I could work with any size company and one thing I talk about is that it exists in companies of all sizes, like the one I mentioned in the interview that only had 8 people.
What kinds of issues are you dealing with most recently, since the economy has tanked? Has that brought out more of these domestic violence situations? Are companies stepping up? Or not?
The economy has hurt every one of us. So many of my contacts are saying they want to wait until 2010. Even then I have no guarantees the work will come through. It seems like everyone is waiting for everyone else. At the same time, I have several paid speaking engagements this fall and some client trainings and webinars.
In terms of how the economy is affecting DV occurrences – they have increased and worse is that the perpetrator seems (in my opinion) to take more family members out with the relationship partner. It seemed in the past that it wasn’t that often that they killed, or severely hurt just the relationship partner. [They didn't hurt] the kids and/or extended family. Now, it seems more often they kill a group. For example, the case of singer Jennifer Hudson’s family, or the man in California who dressed as Santa and killed 9 people at his wife’s house, or the man here in Phoenix who killed everyone and then himself. This is serious – and companies need to understand the offenders are our employees too.
In his interview with you, Larry Kaminer mentioned three things--apathy, complacency, denial--as key roadblocks in this kind of work. How do you overcome them?
I’m not sure you do. I have developed a thicker skin to rejection. I have a 5-minute pity party with myself and then pick up the phone again. I get rejected a lot. What sustains me is the clients that I do work with and how much they believe in the value of the work. What also sustains me is that every time I do a training or a presentation I’m contacted by people who tell me I helped them, or that I made a difference, that after they heard me or I was in their workplace, they contacted the resources I provided and got help; and that they would not have done that before I was there.
Is there a hero in your workplace like Stephanie Angelo?
If you've ever witnessed a domestic violence situation in your workplace, did you know what to do? Maybe Angelo can help.