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Close To Home

Domestic violence isn't just a personal issue--it can affect your business, too.

Each year, 4 million American women are assaulted by an intimate partner. That may sound strictly like a personal issue, but domestic violence is also a business problem. The impact of that violence spills over into the workplace in the form of increased absenteeism, high insurance costs for medical claims, lower productivity, and the risk to other employees if the batterer decides to attack his partner at work. In fact, the Justice Department reports that husbands and boyfriends commit 13,000 acts of violence against women in the workplace every year, and more than 70 percent of employed victims say their abusers have harassed them at work. Perpetrators cause more than 60 percent of their victims to be either late to or absent from work.

What should you do if you either suspect or have evidence that one of your employees is a victim of domestic violence? It may be tempting to turn a blind eye or, as many companies have done, terminate the employee because of substandard performance. But that doesn't do anything to help the victim avoid serious injury or death; it also doesn't do anything to preserve your corporate investment in that employee's training and work.

A better strategy is to find a way to help. The American Bar Association (ABA) Commission on Domestic Violence and Tort and Insurance Practice Section has launched an outreach campaign called "Domestic Violence: It's Everyone's Business." The campaign's centerpiece is a brochure that outlines ways victims can prepare to leave an abusive relationship and measures they can take to minimize the danger of that action, including tips for making themselves safer at work.

Providing all employees with this brochure, even if you're unaware of any specific situations, lets them know you'll support them if they have a problem.

The ABA provides free copies of the brochure and offers a free Domestic Violence Safety Kit that includes a disk or camera-ready copy of the brochure and additional information. To obtain the brochure or the kit, contact Angela Boykin at (312) 988-6229 or e-mail her at BoykinA@staff.abanet.org

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This article was originally published in the October 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Close To Home.

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