Partner Violence – Time To Bring It Out Of The Closet
By: Susan Nitzberg
“You know, she came into work every day wearing a turtleneck – even in the summer. One day, she put her head down on the desk and cried for a while. I kept hearing her say on the phone – no don’t come here! I just didn’t know what to do.”
Partner violence (PV) is often a burden borne in silence. But, the ramifications are far reaching. In addition to the effects it has on the victim and her (or his) family, the workplace is impacted. Despite strong evidence that partner violence costs employers money, poses significant workplace risk, and affects the well being of employees, partner violence has not been on the radar screen of the business community. Until recently.
STANDING FIRM – The Business Case to End Partner Violence is a relatively new initiative to bring partner violence to the attention of employers in the southwestern PA region. The mission of STANDING FIRM is to engage a critical mass of employers in southwestern Pennsylvania in addressing partner violence as a workplace and workforce issue. Since its inception over 2 years ago, STANDING FIRM has welcomed over 70 employer members to its ranks. It spells out best practice action steps that companies can take to reduce risk and ameliorate PV-related business costs and offers a wide variety of resources to employers who decide to do so. With these resources, member employers can: Recognize partner violence as an issue for employers; Respond effectively in the workplace; Refer employees to appropriate community resources.
The seeds of STANDING FIRM were planted in late summer 2007 in the wake of the outcry against promotions of some Pittsburgh Police officers who had histories of domestic violence. Kristy Trautman, then Program Officer and now Executive Director, of FISA Foundation, convened a small group of funders to brainstorm how to use this very public resistance as an opportunity to change community–level dialogue about ending partner violence. From the beginning, Kristy has been instrumental in not only envisioning the initiative, but also encouraging other funders to participate and has lent her creative thinking ability to urge us to think strategically about the initiative and its future. With substantial input from other women leaders in our community, including Heather Arnet – Women and Girls Foundation, Sylvia Fields – Eden Hall Foundation, Carolyn Maue – The Maue Center, Cindy Shapira and Judy Greenwald Cohen – Jewish Women’s Foundation, they made good use of the Old Girls Network to engage women and men in the business community to recognize partner violence as an issue that they should think about with their business heads as well as their hearts.
Coincidentally, Dr. Patricia Cluss, of the University of Pittsburgh had been part of a group of partner violence researchers and clinicians who worked within UPMC in the early 2000s to assess the prevalence of partner violence in employees and to initiate a robust effort to inform employees about partner violence and train managers and supervisors to take effective action steps when partner violence was identified. Dr. Cluss became the director of STANDING FIRM and is the powerhouse propelling SF forward. With a strong background in research and program implementation, SF, which started quietly, is now growing explosively. The very strong partnership between Kristy Trautman and Patricia Cluss ensures that Pittsburgh businesses are sure to pay attention. STANDING FIRM is also deeply grateful to the Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence, and it’s Executive Director, Kim Wells, for the expert advice and guidance they have provided from the early beginnings of SF through today.
*This employee would know how to respond to this workplace threat after receiving partner violence training provided by her employer.
Susan Nitzberg, MPH, serves as Program Consultant for STANDING FIRM. She has extensive leadership experience with community and non-profit organizations and currently serves at the President of the National Council of Jewish Women Pittsburgh Section.