Experiencing domestic violence can have a significant effect on someone’s professional life, according to a survey of more than 6,600 European workers published earlier this month.
The survey, which is the first of its kind, focused on people working at companies in the “One in Three Women” network — L’Oréal, BNP Paribas, Carrefour, France’s state-owned railway company SNCF and the Kering Foundation — that are committed to detecting potential victims of domestic violence and finding support for them. The term “one in three” comes from a 2003 World Health Organization report and is a reference to how many women will be assaulted, raped or harassed at some point in their lives.
The survey doesn’t provide a representative report on the state of domestic violence, but it presents insight into its effects in the workplace. The results were published about 10 days before the end of France’s nationwide domestic violence conference, known as the “Grenelle des violences conjugales,” which began in early September.
Some 16% of women and 4% of men who responded to the survey said they are currently experiencing domestic violence or have in the past. These figures are somewhat low when compared with those reported in other studies, though, perhaps because some survivors of domestic violence chose not to answer the survey. According to the United Nations’ 2019 International Labour Organization report, an estimated two out of every 10 full-time employees are directly affected by violence in their romantic relationships. One-third of the affected group reports having suffered violence at the hands of their partner at some point during their working lives.
Similarly, a European study estimates that 22% of women have been subject to physical and sexual violence inflicted by their current or previous spouse and 43% have experienced psychological abuse. The European Added Value Assessment calculated that the annual cost of violence against women in the European Union in 2011 amounted to about 228 billion euros.
Abuse at or near the workplace or on social networks — including threats of contacting colleagues — are the primary ways in which domestic violence extends its reach to the professional world, according to the new survey.
Experiencing abuse during working hours leads some people to be less productive than they would be otherwise or to miss work altogether. In total, 55% of those in the new survey who have experienced domestic violence said it had affected their work in at least one of the following ways: tardiness, absenteeism or presenteeism (extending one’s working hours without any additional productivity). The main reasons cited include psychological control, threats and injuries, and/or confiscation of keys or other items that are essential for their job. A limited number were subject to physical restraint and sexual violence.
Half of the respondents who experienced this type of violence said their productivity had gone down and that they have felt distracted, tired and distraught at one time or another.
About one-third of victims said they were able to talk about their problems with a colleague, superior or human resources professional.
Domestic violence has even affected some people who do not experience it firsthand. More than 1 in 10 respondents know a colleague who has experienced domestic violence, and about 1 in 5 said their work has been affected by a colleague’s situation. They report feeling stressed and concerned for the victim, and say they’ve watched a colleague became increasingly tense or even overheard violent phone calls from an abusive partner.
The “One in Three Women” online survey was sent to 40,000 employees, with the method of dissemination determined by each company, and completed between May 13 and July 22, 2019. The report also included an online survey for human resources and diversity managers, as well as interviews with heads of those departments. Researchers found that the sample of respondents who answered were not globally representative and appeared to be “predominantly female, younger, more educated, and more likely to hold a managerial job than the population of employees to whom the survey was addressed.”
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the National Domestic Violence Hotline.