Approaches Used by Employee Assistance Programs to Address Perpetration of Intimate Partner Violence

Article excerpt

Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) are workplace resources available to employees with problems impacting work performance. EAPs are well-positioned to address intimate partner violence (IPV), a major public health problem with workplace impacts. A purposeful sample of 28 EAPs across the United States was surveyed to identify policies and programs to address IPV, including perpetration. Most EAPs did not report having standardized approaches for addressing IPV perpetration. EAPs also described significant barriers to identifying IPV perpetrators, with the majority relying on self-disclosure on the part of the perpetrator when contacting the EAP. These results suggest that many EAPs-even when interacting with employees who present with issues known to correlate with IPV-are missing a potential opportunity to assess and intervene with IPV perpetrators.

Keywords: IPV perpetration; domestic violence; batterer intervention; workplace violence

Intimate partner violence (IPV)-physical, sexual, or psychological abuse or threats of abuse that occur between current or former partners or spouses (Saltzman, Fanslow, McMahon, & Shelley, 2002)-is a widespread public health problem that extends beyond family boundaries to the workplace and the community. Nationally, approximately 23.6% of women and 11.5% of men are victimized by an intimate partner in their lifetime (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2008). IPV is associated with significant adverse health outcomes for victims, including depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, alcohol and drug abuse, heightened risk of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV, chronic physical health problems, injury, and death (Campbell, 2002; CDC, 2008; Coker et al., 2002).

Information on the magnitude of IPV perpetration is limited. Not surprisingly, perpetrators are not as likely as victims to report abuse; they typically deny or minimize their abusive behavior (Scott & Straus, 2007). One recent study of rural cohabitating couples found that 13.6% of men perpetrated physical abuse and 34.9% committed emotional abuse against their current female partners during the 12 months prior to when they were surveyed (Peek-Asa et al., 2005). A previous population-based study of married or cohabiting couples found the same rate of male-to-female physical (including forced sex) partner violence (13.6%; Schaefer, Caetano, & Clark, 2002). Although men did report abusive behavior, the female partner was more likely to report experiencing violence in both studies. Fifty-five percent of the male-to-female violent acts reported in Peek-Asa et al. (2005) were identified by the female partner, not the male.

The costs of IPV are estimated to exceed $5.8 billion annually, the majority ($4.1 billion) of which is for medical and mental health services for the victims. Employers bear a sizeable burden of these IPV-related costs. The annual costs of lost productivity due to IPV victimization is estimated at $727.8 million, with more than 7.9 million paid workdays lost per year (CDC, 2003). IPV victims are also more likely than nonvictims to report higher absenteeism, tardiness, decreased productivity, distraction while at work, higher job turnover, and job losses (Reeves & O'Leary-Kelly, 2007; Swanberg, Logan, & Macke, 2005).

Just as victimization impacts the workplace, there are also negative consequences stemming from perpetration. Studies have demonstrated that perpetrators' work performance and productivity is affected because of missing work, showing up late or leaving early, having difficulty concentrating at work, and making errors on the job as a result of factors related to their abusive behavior; also, perpetrators may use workplace resources to carry out abusive acts (Maine Department of Labor, 2004; Rothman & Corso, 2008; Rothman & Perry, 2004). Of additional concern to employers is the potential for them to be held liable for negligent hiring of and retention of IPV perpetrators (Johnson & Gardner, 1999). …