Some stunning results from a first-of-its-kind survey by researchers at Western University.
The study is titled “Can Work be Safe, When Home Isn’t?” It focused on domestic violence in Canada and its impact on the workplace, and found that over one third of workers across the country have experienced domestic violence in their lifetime.
For the majority of those affected, the violence followed them to work.
Western University’s Faculty of Education and Western’s Faculty of Information and Media Studies led the study, considered the first of its kind to be conducted in Canada. It was launched around this time last year in partnership with the Canadian Labour Congress.
The Centre for Research & Education on Violence Against Women and Children (CREVAWC) started collecting data at the beginning of the year for more than 8,400 employed Canadians 16 and older from every province and territory.
According to the results, employees dealt with abusive phone calls and text messages, stalking, harassment and abusive email messages, all during their working hours. In some instances, abusers showed up at the employees’ workplace and harassed not only the individuals, but also their colleagues and co-workers.
“This study will erase the artificial boundary society has put in place between home and work lives,” says Barb MacQuarrie, the study’s lead and CREVAWC Community Director. “Issues from home show up in the workplace, whether we want them to or not, and we can no longer afford to ignore what might be happening in employees’ private lives.”
The results also pointed to patterns in which people experiencing domestic violence disclosed that fact to others. Out of those people who chose to discuss it with someone at work, more than 80% chose to disclose their struggles to a co-worker.
“This points to the fundamental need we have in Canada to be educating not only managers and human resources professionals, but every single individual in the workplace to recognize and respond to domestic violence,” says MacQuarrie. “We need to have solid policies and programs in place because everyone from individuals, to communities, to the entire country will benefit from safer, healthier workplaces.”
Executive Director of the London Abused Women’s Centre, Megan Walker, tells AM980 the information gathered by the study is key to making sure
“I think what’s really important in this case is to understand that this is not the woman’s fault and with studies like this to see how prevalent the issue is, hopefully we can come together and create safer workplaces for women and allow them to remain employed,” Walker says.
“We’ve had situations in the past where the harassment of an abuser towards the woman has impacted her workplace,” she says. “And we have fortunately been able to work with those employers to ensure that everybody in the workplace is safe and to minimize the harassment that woman is suffering.”
When it comes to the measures she’d like to see put in place to help victims in the workplace, Walker highlights the ‘I Step Forward’ program which was spearheaded by the City of London and the London Coordinating Committee to End Woman Abuse.
Walker says the initiative ensures that all employees in a workplace understand what abuse is and how they can respond effectively.
“The program is about stepping forward to create safety for women in the community, in the workplace and in the home. I’d like to see that laid out across this country,” Walker says.
“I think we already have the tools in place (to support victims), it’s about making sure those tools are used.”