Dispatches from a Reporter's Notebook

Danger at work

Posted May 5, 2010

When we think of violence in the workplace, most of us think of a disgruntled former employees or angry clients taking their ire out on an entity they feel has wronged them.  But in reality, statistics show that most acts of workplace violence are domestic in nature.

An organization called Peace at Work based in Raleigh aims to help employers deal with the growing amount of domestic violence in the workplace.  Instead of being an afterthought, the group hopes to counsel companies that it should be their top security priority.  Nationally, there are about 13,000 acts of violence in the workplace every year by domestic partners.  Between 1997 and 2007, 305 women in North Carolina were killed in the workplace in domestic violence incidents.

The murder of Charlene King Tuesday at a Durham medical office where she worked allegedly at the hands of a former boyfriend is a prime example of why employers need to consider this issue as a very real security threat.  Domestic violence puts not just the victim in danger, but everyone who works with that person.  The key is knowing someone is at risk, and handling the situation accordingly.  This is tricky at a time when people are desperately trying to hold onto their jobs in a faltering economy.  It is difficult for victims to tell an employer they may be in danger.  If they do, they risk being fired.  But, if a company opens a dialogue about the issue and encourages people to come forward, there's a chance tragedies like this can be prevented.

Experts on domestic violence in the workplace, like Johnny Lee, the director of  Peace at Work, say making sure the employee has security to and from her car is vital.  Twenty percent of workplace shootings happen in the workplace.  Other ideas include allowing the employee to work from home, work flexible hours, or work in an interior space of the building away from public access.  The bottom line is that if a victim is trying to hide from her abuser, the workplace is one consistent place he knows that he can always find her.

King's death should be a reminder to us that domestic violence doesn't just happen behind closed doors.  It puts us all at risk.

 

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WRAL's Amanda Lamb offers a behind-the-scenes look at what TV news reporters do, the people they meet and how their jobs affect them.