Seminar Showcases Ways to Help Domestic Violence Victims in Workplace Settings

  • The workshop hosted by the Onslow Women’s Center and the Jacksonville-Onslow Chamber of Commerce presented domestic violence statistics and how it affects businesses; the types of domestic violence as well as the power and control wheel and cycle of abuse.


Katie Covington, intern with Onslow Women’s Center, speaks during ‘Understanding Domestic Violence in a Business Setting,’ a workshop held by the Onslow Women’s Center and Jacksonville-Onslow Chamber of Commerce at the Commerce Center. Photo by Maria Sestito / The Daily News


She had a life that other women envied. She was pretty and fashionable with a great husband and she always seemed put together.

But for seven years, Patricia Freitag kept a big secret from friends, family and coworkers: her “great” husband, who was successful and loved in the community, was abusive.

It wasn’t until Freitag ended up in the hospital that her secret was spilled. She survived her abuse and got out. She recently shared her story during a workshop aimed to help employers identify signs of domestic abuse, understand how to talk to victims and find out what things they may be able to do to help.

The workshop, “Understanding Domestic Violence in a Business Setting,” was held by Onslow Women’s Center and the Jacksonville-Onslow Chamber of Commerce at the Commerce Center Wednesday morning. Onslow Women’s Center Community Case Manager Val Burrola-Hekman and intern Katie Covington from the University of New England led the discussion.

During the workshop, they went over domestic violence statistics, how domestic violence affects businesses, the types of domestic violence as well as the power and control wheel and cycle of abuse. Burrola-Hekman explained some of the reasons victims stay in abusive relationships and went over some myths about domestic violence. They presented workplace strategies that could be employed before, during and after a domestic violence incident or series of incidents including de-escalation techniques, setting up a safety plan and how to take action in the community.

According to statistics, 75 percent of domestic violence victims face harassment from intimate partners while at work. Covington explained that this may be through stalking, making multiple phone calls or even just showing up.

Employers can help deal with these scenarios by allowing the victim to continue to work and having someone else deal with the abuser. Burrola-Hekman suggested that employers or managers blame policies in order to set limits and keep the abuser away from the workplace. Instead of arguing with the abuser, it is more effective to treat him or her with respect, try to remain calm and separate from the situation. Walking around and not being “cornered” is especially helpful, she said.

Domestic violence can affect business due to high medical costs, decreased productivity and absenteeism.

Business should make reasonable, and usually temporary, accommodations for victims of abuse, Covington said, and not worry that it may look like they’re playing “favorites” with employees. Look at the accommodations as an investment in a good employee, she said.

Burrola-Hekman suggested that employers talk to the victim in a non-judgmental way and allow him or her to choose what would be most helpful. Find out what escalates the abuser from the victim — after all, they would know best, she said. Employers should ask about safety concerns and help address them.

Read the rest of this article here.

Visit our page for Domestic Violence Services.


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