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Domestic violence study reveals troubling findings

One-third of workers report experiencing domestic violence at some point


(Canadian OH&S News) — Domestic violence (DV) is following people to work, with a recent survey indicating that more than three-quarters of respondents reported that the violence negatively affected their work performance.

Conducted by Western University’s Centre for Research & Education on Violence Against Women & Children in London, Ont. and the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) in Toronto, the study, Can work be safe when home isn’t?, involved interviews with 8,429 workers across Canada. The online study, released on Nov. 27, found that 33.6 per cent of respondents reported experiencing DV from an intimate partner at some point and 35.4 per cent reported having at least one co-worker who they believed was being abusive, or had previously been abusive, towards his or her partner.

The survey consisted of over 60 questions and defined DV as “any form of physical, sexual, emotional or psychological abuse, including financial control, stalking and harassment. It occurs between opposite- or same-sex intimate partners, who may or may not be married, common law or living together. It can also continue to happen after a relationship has ended.”

Of those who reported DV experience, 82 per cent said that the violence negatively affected their work performance and 38 per cent indicated that it affected their ability to get to work (including being late, missing work or both). In total, 8.5 per cent of DV victims indicated that they had lost their jobs because of it. In addition, 53.5 per cent indicated that at least one type of abusive act — whether that was harassing emails, calls and texts, stalking or physical violence — had occurred at or near the workplace.

According to a CLC press release, one survivor said she had hidden or made up excuses for her bruises for years, as she was not sure if her co-workers would support her if she told them the truth. “I lived in a constant state of fear, worried that telling anyone would just make him even more violent,” said Melissa Corbeil. “In the end, I was lucky, because my co-workers and my boss did support me, but that isn’t always the case.”

Interestingly, the study also found that being a perpetrator of DV significantly affected an employee and his or her workplace, with 75 per cent of offenders reporting having a hard time concentrating and 19 per cent reporting causing or nearly causing a workplace accident due to their violent relationship. “Their behaviour lead to a loss of paid and unpaid work time, a decrease in productivity and safety hazards for their co-workers,” the report noted. The researchers have also planned a parallel study of offenders to help understand how interventions in the workplace could reduce the risk of violence and its effect on productivity and safety.

CLC president Hassan Yussuff said that the organization has asked to meet with federal Minister of Labour Kellie Leitch, to discuss the survey results and convene a roundtable that would include labour representatives, employers and government to discuss workplace solutions.

To read the study, visit http://www.canadianlabour.ca/issues/domestic-violence-work.