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raceAhead: Domestic Violence Is A Workplace Issue, Racist Pizza, Black Babies Die In Alabama

November 7, 2017, 4:48 PM UTC

Devin P. Kelley had a long and troubled history of violence and abuse before he walked up to the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Tex. and began an assault that killed at least 26 people.

According to the New York Times, Kelley “repeatedly struck, kicked and choked his first wife beginning just months into their marriage, and hit his stepson’s head with what the Air Force described as ‘a force likely to produce death or grievous bodily harm.’” That was 2012. He was imprisoned for his crime. In later years, he abused his second wife and hurt their dog, for which he was charged with cruelty to animals. He sent threatening texts. He bought weapons. People knew him to be … off.

More than 12 million people will be hurt, harassed, stalked or raped by a partner this year. One in every four women and one in 10 men will experience domestic violence in their lifetime, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Up to 50 percent of transgender people will experience intimate partner violence in their lifetime. And this recent report, also from the CDC, found that nearly half of all women who are murdered in the U.S. are killed by domestic partners.

That’s a public health problem.

But a history of domestic abuse and partner violence is so often present in mass shooters that it has become a pattern too disturbing to ignore.

It’s now a national security issue, as well.

“Time and time again, spasms of violence in public places have been followed by investigations into the attackers and suspects. Many of those probes have unearthed reports of violence or threatening behavior against women in their lives,” says Mark Berman in the Washington Post. He ticks through a number of recent perpetrators, all of them male, including James Alex Fields Jr., who drove his car through a group of activists in Charlottesville; James T. Hodgkinson, who opened fire on Republican members of Congress at a softball practice; and Robert Lewis Dear who opened fire at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic.

Let’s widen the lens to make it a workplace issue, too.

The total costs to the US economy of intimate violence – including medical care, mental health services, and time away from work exceed $8 billion a year. The figure for lost productivity alone is some $727.8 million. That’s 8 million paid work days lost each year.

And some 65 percent of companies don’t have a formal workplace domestic violence policy, according to research conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management.

Victims have a wide variety of practical needs. They may need time away from work for legal, financial or psychological counseling – which they may not be able to afford. They may need time for court dates, and for meetings with teachers or other caregivers. They may be injured or traumatized and need time to recover. They may be having trouble focusing at work, particularly on stretch assignments. And because domestic violence can be deeply humiliating, it may be difficult for them to tell people around them what they need. They may not even know themselves.

And the perpetrators often harass them at work. One study from the Maine Department of Labor found that “78 percent of surveyed perpetrators used workplace resources at least once to express remorse or anger toward, check up on, pressure, or threaten their victim; 74 percent had easy access to their intimate partner’s workplace; and 21 percent reported that they had contacted their victim at the workplace in violation of a no-contact order.”

These are not easy issues to address. In Australia, one issue being debated is paid domestic violence leave, which would allow victims to take time off to get themselves to safety. While it may not make it into law this year – or at all – the policy is already being adopted by some employers. According to Australian government statistics, on average, one woman is killed every week as a result of intimate partner violence.

It’s also worth mentioning that perpetrators typically draw a check from somewhere. What does a zero-tolerance policy look like in your organization? What does it say about our culture when our sports heroes are attacked for protesting violence but rewarded despite committing it?

If intimate partner violence is not currently part of your inclusion plans, it needs to be.

I grew up in a violent home, so I know how horrifying it is when the person who is supposed to love and protect you is the one hurting you. But this is now everyone’s issue, made more urgent because it’s so difficult to discuss.

If the current momentum around the #MeToo revelations is really a sign of a different time, then let it also be the time to address the personal violence that derails the lives of victims, families, communities, companies – and left unchecked, perpetrators as well.

Here are some resources to get you started.

The Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence

Steps To End Domestic Violence

When Domestic Violence Comes To Work, from the Society for Human Resource Management

The American Bar Association’s Model Workplace Policy on Employer Response to Domestic Violence

On Point

Why are white people so upset?A year after the election of President Trump, we are even deeper into needed discussions about white anger and resentment. Touré, a writer and commentator, has written a thoughtful piece building on a new NPR/Robert Wood Johnson/Harvard poll showing that 55% of white people believe that there is discrimination against whites in America today. He begins by having real-life and Twitter conversations with white folks, who explain their version of the belief. For many, it was a sense that they were being held accountable for white supremacy in an unfair way. Some could point to ways they were personally victimized and wanted to join the bigger conversation. Some misunderstand the Black Lives Matter movement. Others, like a woman from Virginia, say that some “Feel threatened, cheated, and oppressed by - my words not theirs - blacks who no longer ‘knew their place’ in society.” Let's keep talking.The Daily Beast

Papa John wants neo-Nazis to stop buying his pizza
Papa John’s CEO John Schnatter was already under fire for making remarks suggesting that pizza sales were down due to the ongoing NFL player protests against police violence during the national anthem. Unfortunately, neo-Nazi and white supremacist website The Daily Stormer decided to twist his comments into an opportunity to garner attention for their cause, and declared Papa John’s the “official pizza of the alt-right.” (That’s just a small part of what they said. If you’d like to see more of their disturbing analysis, it’s here.) The subsequent backlash forced the company to issue a statement. “We condemn racism in all forms and any and all hate groups that support it. We do not want these individuals or groups to buy our pizza.”

The ACLU wants Taylor Swift to stop suppressing speech
Oh those pesky white supremacists again. For some reason, many in the alt-right have embraced Swift as an Aryan exemplar of some sort, which is weird because I doubt the pop star even eats pizza. She certainly isn’t a hate group supporter, right? But after PopFront editor Meghan Herning wrote a post titled “Swiftly to the alt-right: Taylor subtly gets the lower case kkk in formation,” wondering aloud if Swift’s lyrics and imagery offer silent support to white supremacists, she received a strongly worded letter from the singer’s attorney calling the essay defamatory and demanding a retraction. “The post is [also] a mix of political speech and critical commentary, and discusses the resurgence of white supremacy and the fact that some white supremacists have embraced Swift,” says the ACLU. The take-it-down letter is “a completely unsupported attempt to suppress constitutionally protected speech.” I also just spent twenty minutes looking for some lyrics to work into this blurb. Look what she made me do, right?

Alabama’s preterm birth rate is highest in the nation
The situation is bad and getting worse. The state just earned an “F” rating from The March of Dimes. Preterm babies are more likely to die or become chronically disabled before their first birthday. And yet, the preterm birth rate is 49% higher for black women in Alabama than for white women, and the infant mortality rate for black babies is three times as high. "If you look at an African-American woman with more than a college education, her rate of preterm birth is still higher than a white woman with less than a high school education," said the chief medical officer for March of Dimes National, citing inequities in health care, housing, jobs, neighborhood safety, food security and income. "The stressors women of color are under in this country create changes physiologically.”

The Woke Leader

Senator Rand Paul has five broken ribs because his neighbor attacked him over lawn clippings
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul is recovering after a bizarre-sounding incident. He was attacked from behind — blindsided, actually – by a longtime neighbor, while riding his lawnmower. At the moment, there appears to be no political or interpersonal motive for the fight, but there does seem to be a longstanding issue with planted flora, leaves and clippings. While the “gated community” jokes have been flying, it did get me thinking. What angst simmers between the owners of manicured lawns and exemplary LinkedIns? When is a pile of leaves something worth facing federal charges for? Behold, a list of 21 books about being trapped in suburbia. “Nothing’s more realistic than nuclear families and suburban conflicts: children walking on eggshells around ice-clinking parents, wives crying at the kitchen sink, manicured lawns where, as the poet Mary Ruefle once wrote, ‘underneath it all, the insects are tearing each other to pieces.’” Wishing Senator Paul a speedy recovery.
Read It Forward

What never to ask a prison wife
This is, in part, a romantic tale of a tragic post-high school romance and break-up, and a reunion decades later. Except, in this case, the Romeo in this star-crossed tale is currently incarcerated. “I have many identities: I am a (single) mother, first and foremost. I am a master’s student. I am a full-time employee during the day. And I am a prison wife,” says Heather Moore in this honest personal account of how she navigates the dicey personal politics of life while her husband is in prison. She rarely tells people at her job, and she is used to the judgmental sniffs of the corrections officers. And yet, in her own way, it works. “I would like a little bit of empathy,” she says. “I've never been happier in my life, but I still have days when I struggle.”
The Marshall Project

What happens to a black girl who is too anxious to ever feel like magic?
If you have two minutes and twenty seconds to spare, then spend some time with this spoken word piece on video. It is the best, most inspiring, most on point explanation of anxiety I’ve ever heard. It’s written and performed by a poet named Jae Nichelle and she will make your heart soar. “So my anxiety and I have what you might call a friends with benefits relationship…” she begins. Bring tissues. Follow her here.  (h/t Stacy Jones.)


I will cut off this right arm of mine before I will ever work or demand the ballot for the Negro and not the woman.
—Susan B. Anthony