Mary-Margaret Sweeney

When I tell people what I do for a living, many people tune out. Domestic violence is not exactly lighthearted cocktail party conversation. And, unless someone has experienced domestic violence themselves or knows someone who has, they often think it isn’t anything they need to talk about anyway. Maybe they’re right. But, the research shows that most of us need to think about domestic violence, and how to keep our work places safe.

In April 2017, a San Bernardino, CA elementary school became the latest victim of a mass school shooting. The shooter, Cedric Anderson, opened fire in the school where his wife taught special education, killing his wife, himself–and two of her students. Karen Elaine Smith, the adult victim, had been suffering an abusive marriage with Anderson leading up to the shooting.

When domestic violence victims leave the home–whether for good or just for the work day–their abusers typically know where to find them: work. How many of us have waved at the partners of coworkers, allowing them in the office door, no questions asked? We see them at the annual holiday party, we see photos of them on our coworker’s desks, and we don’t always know the true nature of the relationship at home. Often, we don’t know until it is too late.

Domestic Violence Network’s @Work program trains work places how to recognize and respond to domestic violence. We consult with HR and managers on procedures to follow if an employee discloses abuse, and we help train staff on keeping the work place safe for everyone. DVN recognizes that the old notion that domestic violence is a private issue to be dealt with at home is not only unhelpful to the victim but puts entire communities at risk when the violence spills outside.

Health and Wellness is holistic. We can’t stop at Fitbit step competitions or healthy snacks in the break room. Mental health and physical safety impact our productivity and the safety of our co-workers. My session will detail the impact to work places of domestic violence, how to recognize red flags on abuse, and how to respond and support an employee experiencing domestic violence. I hope to see you there for a conversation that is often left out of the work place, so that you may bring it back to yours.

Mary-Margaret Sweeney
Domestic Violence Network