Published 10/10/2016 in The Maryland Daily Record
October is a month where we call attention to an issue that is impacting so many people in so many different communities. DVAM – Domestic Violence Awareness Month and reflected in the purple banner that calls people to action – is a call to honor those who have been affected by domestic violence, a promise to remember the victims and those who are surviving.
Why would a columnist who typically writes about topics relating to the workplace with an emphasis on issues that impact women have an interest in writing about DVAM? Why might any of us care about an issue that often affects other people in other areas beyond our tight-knit office settings, schools and neighborhoods?
I care about this in a deeply personal way from knowing too well that this is not other people’s problem and it is not something that happens in the distance as is so often portrayed in made-for-TV movies. I care because I know that we never really do know what’s going on behind closed doors. I care because of the countless women I have encountered through volunteer work with survivors of domestic violence. I care because when we are really honest about our paths to where we are today, so many of us have come too close to this scary issue.
In the Workplace
I also think that there is an important place for this conversation to happen within our office communities. We never really do know what’s going on with a person who chronically arrives late to work, has to leave early, cries often, goes silent, gets loud, drinks too much at the office party, crosses the line and suffers the consequences. Perhaps we can understand that at any given time we are all facing some challenge in life that isn’t apparent at the surface. Perhaps we can begin to accept that intimate partner violence is happening at a rate of 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men throughout our country, statistics that reflect how pervasive this experience is for many of our colleagues. Perhaps we can realize that we just really never know what someone is going through.
Intimate partner violence often isn’t carried out with a closed fist or sharp object. Today, we know that more subtle methods of control and emotional domination are often typical of this type of violence in relationships. We also know that so many people stay in these complex relationships and that ultimately the most dangerous time is when victims actually do leave. Consider that someone you work with could be contemplating this type of move while trying to maintain their normal demeanor in the workplace. We really just never know what’s going on.
A Call to Action
DVAM is, finally, a clear call to action. There are several strong voices bringing attention to the education and prevention of domestic violence. One locally founded organization is the One Love Foundation, begun by Sharon Love and Lexi Love Hodges in response to the loss of Yeardley Love after she was murdered in 2010 by her boyfriend just weeks before graduating college. While this is a well-known story in our community, sadly Yeardley’s story is not isolated. The work of One Love is to mobilize a national grass-roots movement. One Love is taking this topic and normalizing the vocabulary, spreading education through social media and challenging our high school and college students to stigmatize the behaviors that often lead to intimate partner violence. Parents and educators are a part of the solution. It is imaginable that these behaviors will no longer be tolerated in future generations though we know there is still more work to do. Change is coming.
One Love is not alone in this crusade. Many other organizations are doing great work to provide support and services to victims and families. My focus for this column is really to plant the seed that we never really know what’s going on with someone, especially in the workplace. During some of my most challenging times in life, I soldiered on at work as though not a thing was going on. On those most difficult days, I often put extra effort into my physical appearance, a shield that no one could see through. I have to image that I am not alone in this.
To learn more about the work at One Love and ways to get involved in DVAM, please visit www.joinonelove.org
—Dorie Fain, founder and CEO of &Wealth