Corporations Make Domestic Violence "Their Business"

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Corporations Make Domestic Violence 

"Their Business"

In ABA Safety Planning Campaign

CHICAGO, April 30, 1998 -- On Super Bowl Sunday 1991, Melissa Morbeck was not watching the game; she wasn't serving up bowls of chili for laughing guests; nor was she enjoying the new advertising campaigns. Instead, Morbeck was trying to survive a savage beating at the hands of her husband of four years. She was also coming to the realization that if she didn't leave him soon, her days were numbered.

When Morbeck made the decision to leave, she steeled her resolve by going to the only person who had ever asked her, point blank, if her husband hit her -- her boss. Her supervisor at the advertising agency where they worked had been smart enough to pick up the clues in her behavior on the job -- the absenteeism, the distraction, the general upset in her demeanor.

Morbeck's colleagues helped her leave her husband, and ultimately saved her life. The crises that millions of women across the country like Morbeck face are the impetus for the new public outreach campaign launched by the American Bar Association Commission on Domestic Violence and Tort and Insurance Practice Section (TIPS), "Domestic Violence: It's Everyone's Business." The centerpiece of the campaign is a safety planning brochure, "Steps to Safety: Be Safe. Be Sensible. Be Prepared," which outlines ways victims of domestic violence can prepare to leave an abusive relationship and measures they can take to minimize the danger of that action.

"The answer is not to fire the employee, although sadly that has often been the corporate response, " said Portland, Ore., lawyer Dianne Dailey, chair of TIPS. "In order to help the victim while preserving the corporate investment in that employee's training and work, the most valuable contribution the employer can make is to be supportive and help them stay safe."

Domestic violence has become an issue of growing concern to businesses as the Department of Justice reports that husbands and boyfriends commit 13,000 acts of violence against women in the workplace every year. More than 70 percent of employed victims report that their abusers have harassed them at work -- either by phone or in person.

"Safety planning benefits the employer as well as the victim," notes ABA Commission co-chair and Tampa attorney, Michael Bedke. "When a victim develops a plan to make herself less vulnerable at work, the whole workplace becomes safer as a result. Not only will these changes make the employee more productive, the employer will also reduce the abuser's access to the workplace, sending a clear message that the employer supports the victim and will not tolerate the actions of the abuser." The national campaign, to be launched in Atlanta on May 5, will disseminate information to victims by creating partnerships with corporations and other organizations to get the information in the hands of their employees, customers and the general public.

Atlanta was chosen as the kick-off location as an honor to the first corporation to sign-on to the campaign, Churchs Chicken, which is headquartered there. Churchs will distribute the brochure to employees and make it available to the public at its 600 restaurants nationwide.

"When businesses take a stand on an issue like this, everyone in the community notices," observes Philadelphia family lawyer Lynne Gold-Bikin, co-chair of the ABA Commission. "In addition to helping victims, businesses can help teach their neighbors that domestic violence should not be tolerated or ignored."

There is space on the front of the brochure for the company's logo and also spaceavailable for employers to provide local hotline numbers. The safety planning brochure can be downloaded from the ABA website (www.abanet.org/tips), and customized for the organization and location before photocopying.

In addition to Churchs, other organizations that have signed on to the campaign include: Theragenics, an Atlanta medical company; the American Bar Association; the Portland, Ore., law firm of Bullivant, Houser, Bailey, Pendergrass & Hoffman, PC; and the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation.

 

 

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