Workshop helps employers learn how to fight domestic violence |

Workshop helps employers learn how to fight domestic violence

Linda Hiller

Did you know that every 15 seconds, someone in the United States is battered in a domestic violence situation?

By the time you finish this, assuming it takes 10 minutes to read, approximately 40 people – 95 percent of them women – will have suffered.

Monday, in a four-hour workshop presented by the Family Support Council of Douglas County, area employers learned that domestic violence is everyone’s problem.

“Our home life comes into our workplace,” was the predominant message presented by workshop facilitator Annelle Lerner. “Domestic abuse crosses every line – socioeconomic, race, sex – there isn’t an area of society that is immune to it,” she said.

As director of human resources for Caesar’s World Business Services in Las Vegas, Lerner, 39, handles personnel problems, and domestic violence cases are surely among those “problems” she encounters.

Lerner’s interest in helping victims of domestic violence goes back farther than working in human resources. Growing up as an only child, she fostered a sister-like relationship with a first cousin who later became involved in an abusive relationship.

“It was so hard for me to understand how she could be in a relationship like that, much less stay in it,” Lerner said.

After seeing that relationship in someone so close to her, Lerner became involved in volunteering for various organizations, like the YMCA Women Shelter in Long Beach, Calif. and Safe Nest in Las Vegas. Her cousin eventually left the abusive situation.

Lerner has presented the informative workshop for employers who might not have a policy on how to deal with the effects of domestic violence in their workplace.

Many employers from Minden-Gardnerville, South Lake Tahoe and Carson City were at Monday’s workshop to learn how to recognize the signs of domestic violence – both victims and abusers – in their employees, how to gracefully offer assistance, and why they should care whether or not domestic violence has entered their place of employment.

“In the past, people have been told to keep their personal problems at home,” Lerner said. With domestic violence sometimes leading to violent attacks at the workplace, employers can no longer ignore the growing problem, she said, citing several cases of abusers actually killing their victims – and bystanders – in the places of business.

According to a report by the Family Violence Prevention Fund, domestic violence costs Americans $67 billion per year – 15 percent of total crime. Domestic violence also costs employers $3-5 billion annually in absenteeism, higher health care costs, turnover and low productivity.

By definition, domestic violence is often thought of as something that occurs in the privacy of someone’s home, but Lerner said this same type of violence – emotional, economic and sexual abuse, intimidation and threats – can be found in the workplace, too. She cautioned that people in power in a business should refrain from using controlling behaviors.

“As a manager, you’re only as good as your weakest link, or worst employee,” she said, adding that employers who govern by intimidation are not likely to produce happy, productive employees.

As a method to reach employees who might need help, Lerner recommended placing generic leaflets in paycheck envelopes, having a bulletin board on site with outreach numbers readily available and being aware of insurance “hits” by employees.

“Broken bones cost money,” she said, which ultimately dips in to the pockets of any business.

A representative from Carson-Tahoe Hospital, there to attend the workshop, confirmed that treatment for a broken arm could cost approximately $2,500; a broken nose, $3,800 and a broken leg, $4,500.

Being in touch with employees and watching for signs of being either an abuser or a victim, can often lead to the discovery of a domestic abuse situation, she said.

Some warning signs of a potential abuser are: fascination with incidents of violence, extreme interest in guns and weapons, the inability to take criticism, verbal abuse of co-workers, paranoid behavior, playing mind games, and a disregard for others’ safety and/or feelings.

Some warning signs of a potential victim are: withdrawing from others, change in work habits, deteriorating work performance, change in attendance, nervousness, anxiety, fear in general and specifically fear of incoming phone calls. Lerner also cited obvious physical signs like bruises or black eyes, but said that some abusers are smart and don’t damage their victims where it might show and some victims are so ashamed that they cover up their injuries.

“Six out of ten marriages experience some sort of abuse,” she said, so the odds of running into an abuser or a victim in the workplace seem inevitable.

We have 1,500 shelters for battered spouses in the United States, and more than twice as many shelters for animals, Lerner said.

“What’s wrong with that picture?” she asked.

October is Domestic Violence Prevention Month. In addition to Monday’s workshop, the Family Support Council is recognizing the month with lavender bows tied to the pillars at the FSC building, 1255 Waterloo Lane and lavender lapel ribbons distributed throughout the county.

Additionally, silhouettes of Nevada victims who have been murdered due to domestic violence will be on display at the Judicial and Law enforcement building in Minden. Regular and ongoing women’s support groups and men’s intervention groups are always available at the council headquarters. For more information, call the Family Support Council at 782-8692. That number is also the 24-hour crisis line.