If a child cannot learn the way I teach, then I must teach the way he learns.
--Anna Gillingham, educator and psychologist

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Standing Firm

Out of every five full-time employees, at least one is a victim of domestic abuse. So next Thursday, when business leaders from all around Pittsburgh and the surrounding area gather at the Omni William Penn Hotel, they will be meeting for a highly relevant and worthy cause. They will discuss the prevalence of domestic violence and its effect on the workplace and recognize those who have worked to publicize and mitigate this issue’s impact on the individual.

Both Kristy Trautmann, Executive Director of the FISA Foundation, as a champion, and Pittsburgh Technology Council, as an employer, will be honored for their commitment to the safety of their employees. Joshua Safran, author, attorney, and advocate, will speak on his experience with domestic abuse as a child witnessing his father victimize his mother and as an adult litigating the cases of abuse victims. And over 250 member businesses, from Giant Eagle to Peoples Gas, will reaffirm their pledge to play their part in ending domestic violence.

The force behind this awakening to how trouble at home can be brought into the workplace: the Standing Firm organization.

Standing Firm seeks to inform businesses that domestic abuse, or partner abuse as they like to label it, poses a risk for companies themselves and not just the individuals who work there. When employees are in abusive relationships at home, their productivity often suffers at work due to the distraction of anxiety. Occasionally, confrontation and aggression are even brought into the physical workplace as, statistically, one in four violent acts at work are related to domestic issues. Thus, businesses have a stake in ending partner violence, as Standing Firm points out, simply to help their bottom line.

Once a company recognizes this, Standing Firm asks it to respond and refer. The organization walks each business through a safety plan specific to its size, location, and environment so that it can respond efficiently should the need arise and so that it can take preventative measures to avoid these crises altogether.

Standing Firm encourages employers not to ignore possible signs of domestic abuse in their employees. Susan Nitzberg, the Associate Director of Outreach, points to possible indications such as a once stellar employee producing subpar work, secretive and frequent phone conversations or texts, an employee who wears turtlenecks despite the warm weather, or simply a seemingly unwarranted and constant concerned demeanor.

Standing Firm then gives these businesses resources and contacts so that they can refer potential at risk employees to professionals. Nitzberg says that over the years one mistake that she has seen people make again and again is to tell a victim of abuse to leave their partner and come stay in that friend’s home. She reveals that this tends to escalate the situation as the abusive spouse almost certainly becomes enraged and, consequently, more lives, including the friend’s and the family’s, are put in harm’s way. Instead, she advises that friends and employers connect victims to community support organizations who deal with these situations every day and are able to provide safe exit strategies.

Although it is hard to gather personal stories when dealing with abuse, Standing Firm has already helped many victims throughout the western Pennsylvania region. One women’s shelter received five calls from state employees to self-report their abusive partner due to their workplace’s membership in Standing Firm.

If your company would like to become a Standing Firm member for free, support the organization, attend the luncheon, or simply find out how to reduce domestic violence and its impact on the workplace, please visit http://www.standingfirmswpa.org/ or call 412-421-3682.

Information obtained from Susan Nitzberg and the Standing Firm website.

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