Co-workers say they see domestic violence in Pittsburgh area

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Not only are a third of Pittsburgh-area workers aware of colleagues who are dealing with domestic violence at home, a lot of them are covering for those colleagues at work.

A survey sponsored by Standing Firm, an Oakland-based nonprofit that trains companies, managers and employees to recognize the signs of intimate partner violence, found that just over a quarter of respondents knew someone who was being abused at home, and just over 5 percent knew someone who was abusing a domestic partner.

National surveys show about the same percentage of people report knowing of someone in their workplace who is affected by domestic violence, said

Patricia Cluss, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh and director of the program, Standing Firm: The Business Case to End Partner Violence.

Ms. Cluss said the survey was commissioned to assess the local situation regarding domestic violence.

PG graphic: Domestic violence statistics
(Click image for larger version)

"Although the numbers are startling, we were not surprised by them," she said.

For people who knew or suspected a co-worker was a victim of domestic violence, nearly half felt they should cover for that person at work -- and of those people, nearly 60 percent said they had to cover for an abused colleague fairly or somewhat frequently by offering excuses for poor attendance or work performance. Almost the same percentage, 57 percent, covered for a colleague who was an abuser.

Domestic violence affected people's ability to be on time for work and their ability to complete their work. Respondents who had co-workers who were victims of domestic violence said they notice their co-workers missed days (53.8 percent), came in late, left early or took frequent breaks (47 percent), or did not complete assignments (41 percent).

Those with co-workers who were abusers saw similar problems, with the abusers missing days (38.9 percent); coming in late, leaving early or taking frequent breaks (55.6 percent); or being unable to complete work (30.6 percent).

Those who knew abusers also were concerned for their own safety, with 40 percent saying they were extremely or very concerned and 25.7 percent somewhat concerned. For those who knew victims, 20.5 percent were extremely or very concerned for their own safety and 23.9 percent were somewhat concerned.

Those concerns are well placed. Nearly one in five workplace fatalities are homicides and of those, 39 percent are committed by a relative or domestic partner.

Daniel Adley, CEO of KTA-Tator Inc. in Findlay, said he was never so naive as to think that his company would not be affected by domestic violence, so after he heard a presentation by Ms. Cluss, he asked Standing Firm to work with his engineering company.

First, KTA-Tator changed its policies so that people who were victims of domestic violence would know they were supported and so that abusers would be put on notice the company would not tolerate the use of its equipment, such as telephones or computers, to harass victims.

Standing Firm first did a training session for supervisors, then a presentation for the entire company. After the program, two employees approached supervisors and were directed to outside help.

"I would encourage every company to do this. The investment we put out for the return is no comparison," Mr. Adley said.

The company even received an award last week from the Women's Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh for its work to support its workers who are victims of domestic violence, but Mr. Adley said he was embarrassed to accept it, since it seemed like it was what every company should do for its workers.

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Ann Belser: abelser@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1699.


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