Original Article by: The Londoner | 27 November 2014
Authored By: Chris Montanini
As high profile cases continue to provoke conversations about domestic violence, a new study led by Western University’s Faculty of Education is, for the first time in this country, highlighting how the issue impacts workplaces in Canada.
Released Nov. 27, the study reveals that more than one third of workers across the country have experienced domestic violence and for more than half of those affected, the violence followed them to work through abusive phone calls, text messages, emails, stalking and harassment.
“These are really very concrete examples of how domestic violence doesn’t just stay at home,” said Peter Jaffe, academic director at the Centre for Research and Education on Violence Against Women and Children and a professor in Western’s Faculty of Education. “This issue knows no bounds. It goes across all workplaces and it’s important we recognize these issues.”
The survey was conducted online with help from the Canadian Labour Congress and Western’s Faculty of Information and Media Studies between Dec. 2013 and June 2014. More than 8,400 employed Canadians over the age of 15 from every province and territory responded to more than 60 questions.
Results were unveiled through news conferences at Western, where Jaffe spoke, and on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, where findings were also presented by study lead Barb McQuarrie.
“This study will erase the artificial boundary society has put in place between home and work lives,” said McQuarrie, also the community director at the Centre for Research and Education on Violence Against Women and Children, in a news release. “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 employee’s private lives.”
In London, Jaffe explained Canadian data about domestic violence in the workplace has been scarce, although one study published in 2012 estimates that Canadian employers lose $77.9 million annually due to the direct and indirect impacts of domestic violence on the workplace.
The results in the new survey — specifically the one third of respondents who reported experiencing domestic violence — are consistent with national population-based surveys from Statistics Canada, Jaffe said.
“Even though I’ve been at this a long time, I think I was surprised with the percentage of people who indicated clearly that this followed them to the workplace,” he said. “Over half the sample talked about the impact on themselves and the workplace.”
Parkhill native Kim Gibson has first hand experience with how domestic violence can impact a person’s workplace, specifically in a rural setting. About 14 years ago she endured an abusive relationship that ended with her being stabbed by her ex-husband.
Gibson has since been speaking out about domestic violence and was available at Western where she told part of her story and commented on the results of the study, including some of the individual anecdotes that were submitted by respondents.
“It was amazing to see so many people were open to having discussion and making comments on domestic violence and were willing to share some horrific stories,” Gibson said. “It’s been a taboo for a lot of years and until we have more agencies working to support ending it and being proactive about it … then we have to move into prevention as opposed to reaction.”
Researchers hope the study results lead to further discussions in government, unions and among employers about methods to address the impact of domestic violence on workplaces. Julie White, director of the women’s department at Unifor, said the Canadian Labour Congress has asked Labour Minister Kellie Leitch to convene a roundtable to discuss solutions to domestic violence issues.
“Now that we have the data I think people are going to have to pay attention to this,” she said, adding that government, unions and employers should be discussing workplace supports for women facing domestic violence, risk assessments in workplaces and education for supervisors, union reps and employees.
Full study results are available on the Centre for Research and Education on Violence Against Women and Children website: www.learningtoendabuse.ca
Who Took Part
•8,429 people completed the survey
•95.5 per cent of them in English and 4.5 per cent in French
•Overall, 87.7 per cent of the sample reported being born in Canada and 4.7 per cent indicated they were Aboriginal.
•Most respondents were female (78.4 per cent)
•Half the sample lived in Ontario (49.8 per cent), 21.6 per cent lived in BC and the rest was distributed across the country.
•Most people (94.1 per cent) were between 25 and 64, with 2.7 per cent between 15 and 24 years and 2.8 per cent over 65.
Experiences of Domestic Violence
•33.6 per cent of respondents reported ever experiencing domestic violence from an intimate partner. Aboriginal respondents, respondents with disabilities and those indicating a sexual orientation other than heterosexual were particularly likely to have reported experiencing domestic violence.
•35.4 per cent of respondents reported having at least one co-worker who they believe is experiencing or has previously experienced domestic violence.
•11.8 per cent reported having at least one co-worker who they believe is being abusive or has previously been abusive toward his/her partner.
The Impact of Domestic Violence on Workers and Workplaces
•Of those who reported domestic violence experience, 38 per cent indicated it impacted their ability to get to work.
•8.5 per cent of domestic violence victims indicated they lost their job becaue of it.
•Over half (53.5 per cent) of those reporting domestic violence experiences indicated that at least one type of abusive act occurred at or near the workplace. Of these the most common were abusive phone calls or text messages (40.6 per cent) and stalking or harassment near the workplace (20.5 per cent).
•81.9 per cent of those who reported experiencing domestic violence said it negatively affected their job performance. 37.1 per cent reported that their co-workers were affected too.
•43.2 per cent of those experiencing domestic violence discussed it with someone at work.