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Lynne Curry: Help abuse victim who works for you learn her options

Lynne Curry

You know her as "Jane."

You've seen the bruises on her face and arms. You haven't said anything because you didn't want to intrude. One day, you run into her in the break room, tears rolling down her cheeks as she pours herself a cup of coffee.

You tell her you want to help. She's scared. If you're her manager, she fears you may fire her for bringing drama into the workplace. If she's your co-worker, she worries you'll tell your manager. You let her know you won't fire her or violate her privacy.

She tells you she has a boyfriend, or husband, who beats her. You suggest she get a restraining order. She tells you it's not worth the paper it's written on, that it only means the police will know whom to track down after she's dead.

Luckily, you can let her know she has more help available than she knows in Anchorage.

If she calls the police

The Anchorage police have a highly trained two-person domestic violence unit, Rhonda Street and Doug Chin.

"If a victim calls," said Officer Street, "we'll set up a time to talk with her about what's going on and what options she has. We try not to intimidate the victim or make them uneasy, so we show up in unmarked cars, wearing plain clothes and not uniforms. We let her know where and how to file the restraining order. We might refer her to safe lodging at Abused Women's Aid in Crisis (AWAIC)."

"If we have reason to believe she was assaulted, we take a report, do an investigation, and if we have probable cause, we'll make an arrest or get a warrant for the suspect."

After an arrest, the suspect finds himself or herself in front of a judge or magistrate for a bail hearing. "The law in domestic violence cases," said Street, "is that the suspect goes before a magistrate to have bail set. If we can't find the suspect we get a no bail warrant for them. At the hearing, the magistrate or judge almost always orders the suspect to have no contact with the victim in any way."

Restraining orders

According to Street, "A restraining order is more than a piece of paper. Once it's entered into the computer, all officers in the city as well as all police agencies in the state see it. If the victim is called or approached, she can call the police, and a patrol officer will come out."

"If a victim is being harassed at her workplace or home," said APD Officer Jill Martin, "we can investigate it by looking at caller ID or phone records or by listening to the voice mail left -- as long as the restraining order specifies no phone contact. If we find probable cause that the suspect has violated a restraining order, we take the suspect in for a bailing hearing and the judge or magistrate may remand them to jail."

"The restraining order can save a life," Martin added.

Employment consequences

Sadly, in Alaska and most states, no laws specifically protect domestic violence victims from being further victimized by losing their jobs. According to attorney Michelle Caiola, litigation director at Legal Momentum, "Abusers often try to get their victims fired to increase their financial dependency."

Further, nearly three-quarters of domestic violence victims are harassed by their ex- or current boyfriends or husbands while at work. According to www.futureswithoutviolence.org, 40 percent of senior corporate executives were personally aware of employees and others impacted by domestic violence.

Employers can help employees victimized by domestic violence by giving them time off work to go to counseling or court, by walking them to and from their cars, by allowing them to change their shifts and by installing security protocols at building entrances. Employers can also report attacks, helping a victim employee by making the police aware of what's going on. Incredibly, only 40 percent of the 4 million workplace crimes against women between 1993 and 1999 were reported to the police.

Finally, if you're aware that your employee or co-worker fears violence or a stalker and then doesn't show up to work, you can call APD and ask them to conduct a welfare check on the employee -- to make sure she's safe.

Does Jane work for or with you? You can help her.

Dr. Lynne Curry is a management/employee trainer and owner of the consulting firm The Growth Co., Inc. Send your questions to her at lynne@thegrowthcompany.com. You can follow her on Twitter @lynnecurry10 or through www.workplacecoachblog.com.


Lynne Curry
THE WORKPLACE