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Violence by intimate partners has major effects in workplace, with three of eight employees victims, large-scale survey finds

August 1, 2006

For more information, contact: Benjamin Haimowitz,

Almost three out of eight workers report that at some point they have been victims of violence or threats of harm from spouses or other intimate partners, according to a survey of close to 2,400 employees. More than ten percent of the surveyed employees report that the violence occurred within the past year, when it is most likely to affect performance on the job.

To be presented Tuesday, Aug. 15 at the Academy of Management's annual meeting in Atlanta, the study is the largest to focus specifically on the workplace effects of intimate-partner violence (IPV).

It finds victims, particularly those who suffered IPV a year earlier or less, to be significantly more likely than other employees not only to suffer personally and professionally but to lag in terms of productivity. For example, the recent victims reported missing almost 40% more hours at work than nonvictim employees. They also reported feeling tired or exhausted close to 20% of their time on the job, nearly double the amount reported by nonvictims.

In addition, close to 20% of the recent victims reported that the violent intimate partner had intruded on them at work, mostly by stalking.

"Clearly, intimate partner violence is an issue that has workplace implications and that affects the bottom line of the organization," conclude the report's authors, Carol Reeves, Collette M. Arens Bates, and Anne O'Leary-Kelly of the University of Arkansas. Yet, "many organizations adopt a 'head in the sand' approach," they write.

Instead, managers should "recognize the significant impact that IPV has on employees and on the organization and to do something about it," the authors continue. They cite Liz Claiborne, Macy's, and L.L. Bean as firms that "have established solid road maps for effective corporate programs that do not require, and should not require, employers to become domestic violence experts or to become enmeshed in the intimate details of their employees' lives."

The findings derive from a Web-based survey of employees at three organizations -- an insurance company, transportation company, and educational institution. Participants were asked to consider how often they had experienced five actions at the hands of intimate partners -- threats of harm, stalking, physical aggression, being hurt, and being forced into unwanted sexual acts. They were additionally asked a variety of questions that gauged their personal and professional well-being and their job performance.

Male and female employees were equally likely to have been victims of intimate-person violence within the past year, 10.3% of each group. Female victims were more likely to have experienced threatening, stalking, being hurt, and being sexually assaulted, while males were more likely to have suffered physical aggression. But women victims of physical aggression experienced it more frequently, with 53% of these women, compared to 27% of the men, reporting that it had occurred more than rarely.

Overall, close to 37% of employees -- about 40% of women and 29% of men -- reported being abused by intimate partners at some point in their lives. Why the gender gap for lifetime  occurrences and not for recent ones? The study's authors surmise that it is probably attributable to the fact that rates of injury and medical usage have been shown to be higher for women than for men, so that women are more likely to recall incidents years later.

The paper, entitled "The Prevalence of Intimate Partner Violence among Employees and its Impact on the Workplace," will be among thousands of studies presented at the Academy of Management meeting in Atlanta from Aug. 13 to 16.

Media Coverage:
Reuters. Domestic violence takes toll in workplace: study. (Friday, August 18, 2006).

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