Workplace Domestic Violence

By Paziotopoulos, Pamela A. | Law & Order, August 2003 | Go to article overview

Workplace Domestic Violence

Paziotopoulos, Pamela A., Law & Order

Traditionally, prosecutors and law enforcement reacted to crimes after they were committed, such as when someone was shot, severely injured or murdered. Training methods were not focused on prevention. There were no policies or procedures in place that were geared toward avoiding further violence. The mentality was just to wait.

Years ago, on domestic violence cases, officers would respond to a call then leave the parties to sort it out among themselves. The officers would simply wait until the offender calmed down and then they would leave without making an arrest. Officers know now that there is no time to wait: they must intervene before the violence escalates.

Times have changed, and prosecutors and law enforcement have changed their ways dramatically when it comes to handling domestic violence cases. Officers now respond, arrest and write thorough police reports. Prosecutors now take measures to keep the victim safe and hold the offenders accountable. Unfortunately, corporate America has not caught on as fast.

Domestic violence does not stay home when its victims go to work. It can follow them, resulting in violence in the workplace. With one out of every three American women reporting physical abuse by an intimate partner, it seems certain that any mid-to-large-sized company has employees struggling with domestic violence. This includes prosecuting offices and police departments. Just as victims of domestic violence can be officers or prosecutors, all workplaces arc vulnerable and should have policies that address these situations.

Domestic violence spills into the workplace when workers are harassed by threatening phone calls, absent because of injuries or less productive because of stress. When these signs are ignored, companies often face much more serious consequences: three women a week are the victims of workplace homicide.


Corporate America loses five billion dollars annually in lost productivity and absenteeism while realizing increased healthcare and security costs due to domestic violence erupting in the workplace. On-site security directors cite domestic violence as their number one concern. Courts and lawmakers have begun to hold employers increasingly accountable for workplace violence.

Of those victims who are employed, 96% report having some problem in the workplace as a direct result of their abuse or abuser. Incidents of domestic violence on company property are reported by 71% of human resources and security personnel surveyed. However, 92% of those who are physically abused by their partners do not discuss the incidents with their physicians, and 57% do not discuss the incidents with anyone. These victims are friends, neighbors, co-workers, employees or family members.

Domestic violence is estimated to cost the nation billions of dollars in lost productivity, increased healthcare costs, absenteeism and workplace violence. Consider the following statistics about employed battered women: 74% of the abuse will be at work, either in person or over the telephone; 56% of the victims will be late for work at least five times a month; 28% of the victims leave early at least five days a month; and 54% of the victims miss at least three full days of work a month.

These statistics demonstrate just some of the hidden costs- employee tardiness, absenteeism and decreased ability to concentrate causing lost productivityto an employer due to domestic violence. Other costs include lower employee moral, higher turnover and higher risk for liability.

Effects on Children

Growing up in a home with domestic violence can have lifelong consequences. Approximately 3.3 million children witness their parents' interpersonal violence each year. Reports by battered mothers show that 87% of their children witnessed the abuse. Children exposed to domestic abuse often have behavior problems, difficulty concentrating in school and often engage in rebellious behavior. …

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