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Domestic Abuse: Protecting Yourself in the Workplace

We had the opportunity to sit down with Gene Rugala last month to talk about school shootings, workplace violence, intimate partner violence, stalking and much more. Gene is a former FBI “Profiler” and, yes, he is just as interesting as you’d imagine a retired FBI agent to be!

Here’s part two of our conversation with Gene.

Let’s talk a little about domestic violence and workplace violence and what that intersection looks like.

Gene: When you look at this whole issue of violence and violent crimes, reality is that violent crime in the U.S. is down in all categories on average and homicides in the workplace are down 50 percent over lasts 10 to 12 years. Most workplace homicides are related to robbery, not domestic violence or co-worker on co-worker violence or even violence by former employees. There are over 2 million violent victimizations a year in the workplace, homicides are just the tip of the iceberg. As with icebergs, there are other types of violence under the surface which do not necessarily lead to homicide. This includes stalking, domestic violence spilling over into the workplace, physical altercations, bullying, threats and threatening behavior, intimidation, sexual assault, sabotage and damage to company property.

While homicides are the focus and certainly are the catastrophic event, all of this other behavior if left unchecked could lead to homicide so it is important that organizations put together policies and procedures to deal with the possibility of violence. To interrupt that violent pathway at an early stage so extreme violence is not the result. One area of focus is domestic violence and how it impacts the workplace. Employers are starting to acknowledge that domestic violence is a workplace risk issue.

What do employers need to be aware of and what can employers do to help protect employees?

Gene: Employers need to have a no-threats/no violence policy. This would define what constitutes workplace violence and what behaviors are not tolerated: threats, inappropriate behavior, harassment, etc. Some employers integrate domestic violence into this policy or have a stand-alone policy.

This policy would define what your company is willing to do to support survivors and state what the survivor has to do, too. He or she would have to be stakeholders in their own safety and security.

An employee at a company for example obtains an order of protection against an abuser, she should notify the organization that this has occurred so they can develop a safety plan to assist the employee while at work but know that they could call law enforcement If the abuser shows up at the workplace.

Check your state’s laws. Some states mandate that survivors are guaranteed time off for court hearings and cannot be fired, disciplined, etc.

What do victims of domestic violence and stalking need to share with employers?

Many who are victimized by this behavior do not come forward because of embarrassment, fear of being fired, which has happened and belief that this is a private matter. Unfortunately, because of the volatile nature of these situations and the risk to others in the workplace, communication is key not only on the part of the survivor, but the organization as to how they will support the survivor.

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) classifies workplace violence into the following categories:

  • Criminal Intent (robbery)

  • Customer/Client (angry person at social security office)

  • Coworker on Coworker

  • Domestic Violence & Stalking

Gene, thank you for sharing your knowledge with us.

About Gene Rugala

Eugene A. Rugala, Principal of Eugene A. Rugala and Associates LLC, a behavioral science, consultation, training and research firm located in Beaufort, South Carolina, is formerly of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) Critical Incident Response Group (CIRG). Mr. Rugala was assigned to the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC), FBI Academy, Quantico, Virginia. Supervisory Special Agent Rugala was assigned to the NCAVC from February of 1995 until his retirement in September of 2005. Prior to retiring from the FBI, Mr. Rugala was Unit Chief of Behavioral Analysis Unit - 1, Threat Assessment and Counter Terrorism. Mr. Rugala, one of the FBI's “Profilers”, in the unit made famous by the book and movie “The Silence of the Lambs”, and the television show “Criminal Minds” specializes in the detailed behavioral analysis of violent crime to include homicide, sexual assault, intimate partner violence, and stalking. These analyses are provided to requesting law enforcement agencies in the form of offender profiles, crime scene analysis, investigative and interview strategies, media and crisis communication strategies and threat assessments. Mr. Rugala also consults with many corporations and universities in developing and implementing procedures and protocols for the prevention of violence in the workplace and in schools to include threat assessment and management services. Mr. Rugala has participated in ongoing research regarding stalking behavior, serial rape, intimate partner, workplace and school violence. Mr. Rugala has contributed to a number of publications dealing with workplace violence, school violence and stalking behaviors. Mr. Rugala is currently involved in on-going research with the University of Iowa and University of North Carolina Injury Prevention Centers in a NIOSH funded grant to evaluate workplace violence prevention programs in companies throughout the U.S. Mr. Rugala is a member of ASIS International and has been a featured speaker on workplace violence prevention and threat management at their national conference in the past and has assisted in the writing of the ASIS/SHRM American National Standard entitled Workplace Violence Prevention and Intervention. Mr. Rugala is also a national advisory board member of the Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence, a group of Fortune 500 companies who have come together to raise awareness and suggest strategies for companies to deal with intimate partner violence and it’s impact on the workplace. Mr. Rugala has contributed to the content and participated in the video production of Shots Fired: Guidance for Surviving an Active Shooter Situation: Flashpoint: Recognizing an Preventing Violence in the workplace and Silent Storm: Intimate Partner Violence and Stalking and its impact on the workplace. A version of these programs have been developed for university settings as well.

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