Partnered with a Survivor: David Mandel and Ruth Reymundo Mandel

Season 2 Episode 23: Minisode on Worker Safety & Well Being: When Workers Are Survivors Themselves

November 26, 2021 Ruth Stearns Mandel & David Mandel Season 2 Episode 23
Partnered with a Survivor: David Mandel and Ruth Reymundo Mandel
Season 2 Episode 23: Minisode on Worker Safety & Well Being: When Workers Are Survivors Themselves
Show Notes Transcript

In this fourth installment of the multi-part minisode series on worker safety and well-being, Ruth and David explore when workers are being targeted by their own perpetrator, and the implications for the workplace.   In a just over  20 minutes , David & Ruth discuss: 

  • David's history with worker personal disclosures about their own victimization 
  • How workers going through the Safe & Together Model training are seeing their own experience reflected in the material
  • How agencies are using the Safe & Together Model to identify employees whose performance is suffering due to abuse and provide them with greater support 

In the middle part of the minisode, David and Ruth discuss perpetrator behaviors that target the workplace including: 

  • Behaviors that cause survivors to miss time at work like taking the car or stopping her from leaving or making her worried the children will be unsafe if she leave
  •  Unwanted, often repeated calls to the workplace, showing up at work
  •  Stalking and surveillance behaviors which may make it fearful for someone to be out in the community
  • Accusations of affairs if she meeting alone with male clients
  • When the professional works for agencies like child protection or the courts,  threats of calling the police or child protection may carry with it extra shame and fear of losing employment  . 

As result, survivors  may  may present as  with performance issues including missed days, lateness, being distracted or unable to focus at work; irritability with coworkers, and feelings of being overwhelmed. 

In the final portion of the minisode, David & Ruth outline some strategies for agencies including: 

  •  Ensuring that any employee safety policy explicitly recognizes the connection between coercive control and employee performance, and how perpetrators target workers at worker as a powerful form of control. 
  •  Agencies needing to clearly articulates how it will support and respond to an employee who is experiencing domestic violence including how performance concerns will be handled sensitively and in context.
  • Particularly important in agencies where a threat of a report creates fears for one's jobs and shame, any workplace policy needs to be clear about how survivors confidentiality amongst her peers will be safeguarded, e.g. specialized process for handling information
  • When the perpetrator is a fellow employee, the consequences for abusive behavior must be clear. 
  • The agency policy must work to be responsive to the needs of survivors, e.g. reassignment to a different area or rotation of schedule to respond to threats of stalking that may impeding performance or safety;
  • Communication of this policy must shared proactively on a regular basis so that survivors have the information they need to protect themselves from threats against their job 
  • Train supervisors, managers, and HR around handling these items consistently with policy, including training to always consider domestic violence victimization as one of the possible reasons for poor performance
  • Institute a flex policy that supports workers in their ability to attend court for protection order hearings, criminal cases ,and family matters when domestic violence is involved. 

About the  worker safety and well-being minisode series   
The goal of the series is to address the critical iss

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[00:00:16] And we're back and we're back. Here we are again. Here we are again. Nice to see you. Nice to see you, too. This is partner with Survivor, and I'm David Mandel, executive director of the Save for Tether Institute.  [00:00:28][12.1]

Speaker 1: [00:00:28] And I'm Ruth Stearns Mandel, and I'm the e-learning, communications and strategic relationship manager.  [00:00:33][4.9]

Speaker 2: [00:00:35] And this is our mini Soad series on worker safety and well-being.  [00:00:40][4.8]

Speaker 1: [00:00:40] Let's see how many so this one is going to be because I what? I'm looking at the notes here.  [00:00:44][3.9]

Speaker 2: [00:00:45] Yeah, the notes here along, or we're talking about such an important topic, which is when workers have their own history of victimization, and that includes when they're currently being targeted by a partner, an ex-partner. Mm hmm. And its implications for for workplace safety and well-being and employment and employment. It's huge. It's a huge subject. And you know, every organization has a family member, family members, staff who have experienced domestic violence or our experience or our experience in domestic violence control. That's right, there may be survivors of childhood abuse. Some of them are dealing with loved ones who are being abused right now. Mean, so it's active in their lives, even if they're not the primary victim.  [00:01:32][47.1]

Speaker 1: [00:01:32] And many of these people are working within the domestic violence field where the child protection field or social service.  [00:01:37][5.2]

Speaker 2: [00:01:38] That's right. And so we felt like it was really important to talk about this. And this is an issue that's been on my professional radar for years. And when I ran a statewide consultation is around domestic violence that put domestic violence specialists inside job protection. They would come back to me and say I was in my office today, I was in the restroom and somebody came up to me and disclosed their personal experience of being abused or their current experience about being abused. And it was in the bathroom because that was the private space. They didn't want to be seen going up to this person at their desk. And so that was really, you know, one of my earliest experiences with the intersection of of of being a domestic violence expert in a child protection space and workplace issues. And then since then, you know, workers from diverse entities have made direct disclosures to me about their own victimization, including how fears of their former partners abuse were still shaping their current reality.  [00:02:44][66.0]

Speaker 1: [00:02:45] And a lot of survivors have disclosed to me that they've worked in the domestic violence field and that they were revictimized by their employers, their supervisors and managers while they were being forcibly controlled, stalked, threatened and abused because they were viewed as a liability to the organization, not the person who is abusing them.  [00:03:10][25.1]

Speaker 2: [00:03:10] That's right. I actually heard this recently where other workers made complaints because they felt like their colleagues situation was putting them in danger. Right? It was actually a complaint about the  [00:03:24][14.0]

Speaker 1: [00:03:24] colleague, and that perpetrator wants to get that person. That's right. That's right. And you allowing that to happen? That's right. Is handing them power and control.  [00:03:33][8.2]

Speaker 2: [00:03:33] So we're we're, you know, when we think about employee well-being and safety there, you know, as it relates to their personal situation, there's lots of layers. I remember a young man, new worker in child protection who was tasked with going out for the first time in his job meeting with a man who's identified as being violent. You know, Father was violent and he said to me very vulnerable and very honestly, he said. My dad was violent when I was growing up, and I'm worried I'm going to freeze or go over the table.  [00:04:05][31.6]

Speaker 1: [00:04:06] Right?  [00:04:06][0.0]

Speaker 2: [00:04:07] Yes. And I appreciate his honesty so much. And that's the kind of thing that I really value. And I said, Look, that makes sense. You're new at this job. You deserve your supervisor, your team leader. Go out with you on this for this first visit and support you and. But it was really striking. He he knew his stuff. He knew his issues going in and and then we were hearing. I mean, it just so many things. This is why you said this is going to take so long. You know, about workers being triggered about their own abuse situations by actually going to the Safer Together model training. Yes. You know, which is so different than a lot of other trainings, which which may be a higher level kind of generalities. The specificity, the behavioral nature of the model training is just reflecting their experiences.  [00:04:58][51.1]

Speaker 1: [00:04:59] Yeah, we've had feedback from from workers who have gone through the safe and together training that had that said that in the course of the core training, they realized they were living in coercive control. And it really emotionally impacted. Them that they had been living that way without the understanding of that, because all of our practice is tilted towards violence. And so, you know, they had been living that way, thinking, well, I'm not being domestically abused because he hasn't hit me yet. And so that's that's that will rock your world a little bit.  [00:05:40][41.3]

Speaker 2: [00:05:41] Yeah. And I think that here we're talking about a little bit about how how the the the safer together while training can actually help with this. And we're also hearing on a positive note, agencies that took on safer together training as a way to deal with clients, helping them become more domestic bonds formed in their human resources policies and actually not being punitive. We're actually hearing this for more than one agency where we're a survivor whose performance was suffering, who was either going to be let go or fired or or or disciplined. Well, reframing it for well, if  [00:06:18][37.5]

Speaker 1: [00:06:18] you think about it, and I shall not name the entity like, I'll allow you to frame it as anonymized as possible. But having worked with the very large military organization who view domestic violence perpetration as an operational readiness issue for their workers, the you know, their soldiers. But workers? Yeah, we have seen that the interventions of safe and together actually keep domestic violence victims employed. That's right, at a greater rate. That's right, they are retained at a greater rate because the the the accountability is placed on the person choosing that behavior. And that's the person who should be fired, right? That's the person who should be, you know, dismissed, right? The person who's  [00:07:05][47.2]

Speaker 2: [00:07:06] experience. That's right. And we're seeing we're seeing this ability to connect performance issues back to the perpetrators behavior being critical to agents to be agencies, being domestic violence informed in their response to this. So. So the problem of domestic abuse come into work. So this was all kind of context. And you know, some of the connections we've we've had over the years is. Perpetrators will engage in behaviors that cause survivors to miss time at work, like taking the car or stopping it from leaving or making her worry that children will be unsafe if she leaves. I mean, just that I started writing, This is really interesting and a little little little brain fart because I started writing this, saying, Oh, this will show up as performance issues for survivors. I said, Wait a second, we need to reframe it as perpetrators do.  [00:07:51][45.4]

Speaker 1: [00:07:51] And you also have to. You also have to realize that survivors will respond out of concern and trauma for their children, and they will engage in behaviors which will seem like performance issues like they will need to call home to make sure that the children are OK. That's right. They will need to use your company phones to check up on their children. That's right. That's right. They will. There will be distractions because of the fear and concern and the fact that that person doesn't have safety. And I think about, for example, the woman here in the United States who child protection took her children and she was fired from her job because she had to leave her children in a hotel room because she was evicted because of her partner's violence. She didn't have child care. And instead of giving her child care, they took her children. That is the most ridiculous thing and and her employer fired her. And this is these are the employment realities that survivors are living in, right?  [00:08:53][61.2]

Speaker 2: [00:08:53] So when agencies that are dealing with domestic violence are addressing child safety issues, they're dealing with the same issues in their workforce when they have survivors  [00:09:03][10.0]

Speaker 1: [00:09:04] and doing the same thing. That's right. So victims of abuse.  [00:09:07][3.4]

Speaker 2: [00:09:08] So let's make let's continue to make the behaviors of perpetrators visible as it relates to the workplace. So, you know, unwanted, often repeated calls to the workplace showing up at work, you know, stalking and surveillance behaviors that may make somebody fearful to be out in the community. I mean, I think about workers whose job is to do home visits and drive around the community. Hmm. And thinking about if you're being stalked, you're fearful about being found by somebody. Your visibility in the community is is can be very scary. So. So that's about the surveillance and stalking by the perpetrator. Accusations of affairs, if she's meeting along with male clients, you know. Oh, yeah, just sort of anything like that, you know? And so it again, it it's in the back of that person's mind, you know, how am I going to deal with this? Is this can happen again today. And then when the professional. So this is really important to me when professionals work for agencies like job protection or the courts or law enforcement, right? You know, and their victims, the threats by the perpetrator to call the police to call child protection, carry extra shame and fear of losing your job or employment consequences.  [00:10:22][73.3]

Speaker 1: [00:10:23] So there's there's there's so many instances of female police officers who are partnered with a male police officer where there is a discharge of a weapon during the the the assault of that person. And the perpetrator knows that if that person discharges their weapon that they are going to get, they're going to get held accountable for it much more than they will be held accountable for their violence.  [00:10:53][30.7]

Speaker 2: [00:10:54] And that even if the perpetrator was even if the perpetrator was the one who discharged, one who discharged the weapon, right?  [00:10:59][5.0]

Speaker 1: [00:10:59] So they use that in order to get them fired from their job.  [00:11:03][3.8]

Speaker 2: [00:11:03] Right. So, so so, you know, particular attention to, you know, those professionals out there who are victims who are working in these very specific agencies, even if you work for a refuge. That could be a fear of yours because to be exposed as being a victim when you're working to help other victims can have tremendous amount of shame associated with it. So and that becomes a powerful weapon for the perpetrator to use. And so what we're talking about is, you know, indicators of this might be missed days at work, lateness being distracted, unable to focus at work, irritability with coworkers, feelings of being overwhelmed,  [00:11:41][38.0]

Speaker 1: [00:11:42] child care,  [00:11:43][0.5]

Speaker 2: [00:11:44] lack of child  [00:11:44][0.4]

Speaker 1: [00:11:44] care and children to work with you. That's right, which is called unprofessional. So all sorts of  [00:11:50][5.7]

Speaker 2: [00:11:50] things also implications. And again, so we're saying this because it is part of what we see in a few minutes about. How agencies can respond, but we also have two survivors who may have strong reactions, often labeled as unprofessional to domestic violence survivors of perpetrators they're working with on their caseload right now and again. So we're all these things are the impact of perpetrator's behaviors as it intersects with workplace environments, and this is not all of them. This is just this is just what we can fit into this to this episode. This this, this this many. So it's so what can agencies do? It's so important that workplace. Human resource policies explicitly make a connection between coercive control and employee performance. Yeah. It's not enough to just say, we want our workers to be safe, we want our workers. We respond well to domestic violence because there's such a strong linkage between employee performance and then being victims. And we want to kind of support folks who are being abused or going through this that we have to have this immediate sense of performance issues. Maybe cause even if I have no inkling, there may be some connection here. Right. And that needs to be laid out in the policy. And and also it needs to be laid out in the policy is how perpetrators target workers at the workplace as a powerful form of control. It has to be named in the policy because if we understand domestic wants to be coercive control and it's about entrapment and deprivation of liberties and economic control and and targeting somebody's employment is such a common tactic. It's not enough to just say, Oh, this is what domestic violence survivors experience. It's. We as a workplace, as domestic violence support need to be aware, right, that we might be targeted, not  [00:13:48][117.5]

Speaker 1: [00:13:48] just that agencies, organizations, H.R. needs to have a policy around how they hold their own employees accountable if they are perpetrating. That's right. We do not need to wait for somebody to sexually assault us or abuse other people physically for us to fire a worker. If a person has a pattern of behaviors which is toxic to the mission and vision of that organization, that organization under most circumstances has every right to redress. And this notion that we need to wait for somebody to have a violent criminal incidents when they've been reported by multiple people as being sexually assaultive or coercively controlling or harassing or threatening is absolutely unacceptable. This should not continue, and policies should be made around the behaviors of workers in those environments in order to protect other people from perpetration. So it has to be a two pronged.  [00:14:52][64.0]

Speaker 2: [00:14:54] No, I completely agree with that. I think a lot of environments you not only is, you know, like it might somebody at work be using the resource and the assets of of of the workplace to abuse somebody who is not a worker. Many times people have relationships with colleagues. And you know, I've seen this in prison environments, law enforcement, like you said, child protection, other places where there's a lot of camaraderie and there's often a sense of you'll understand me if you are another police officer, your another corrections officer. And so there's a sense of family there. And so we see a lot of those relationships and therefore we see a lot of abuse in those environments. Yes. And so you're absolutely right. This is well, that's not the primary focus of of of some of the ways agencies can respond. It absolutely has to be there.  [00:15:43][48.8]

Speaker 1: [00:15:44] Well, we have to focus on the perpetrator. That's right. We can't do the direct course on the survivor.  [00:15:47][3.5]

Speaker 2: [00:15:48] No, no. I agree with  [00:15:49][1.1]

Speaker 1: [00:15:49] you on having a plan around how to hold the perpetrator accountable if they're inside of your organ. That's right. That's right. And I understand that that's challenging for governmental agencies to have a hard time firing people. That's right. And I understand that it's difficult and unionized situations, right? But those policies have to take into consideration accountability,  [00:16:10][20.9]

Speaker 2: [00:16:11] and the agency needs to articulate all these things what you just said, because it's not just reactive. It needs to be proactive and needs to be part of the screening and needs to be part of the the the interviewing process needs to be a better person.  [00:16:24][12.8]

Speaker 1: [00:16:24] Have a pattern of behaviors of sexual abuse harassment. Do they have multiple allegations against them in multiple settings? Maybe they're not the best fit for your organization. It doesn't matter if they have a criminal conviction or an arrest or not.  [00:16:38][13.7]

Speaker 2: [00:16:38] And so all this that and then also how the response of the agency is going to be to somebody being a survivor needs to be articulated, including how performance concerns will be addressed and handled sensitively and in the context of abuse if that's what's going on right? And this is again, I feel so strongly about this particular. I relate to our Oadby work, but also as we work with child protection. We have a responsibility agency of responsibly to proactively communicate their policies, how they're not going to judge staff who are being victimized, how they're actually going to handle, like if you're in child protection, law enforcement, handle those situation abuse with sensitivity confidentiality because it disarms the threat from the perpetrator. For me, it's this idea. It's not enough to respond well if we want to say to a survivor. Don't be afraid if your partner calls us and makes false allegations or reports you or sets you. We're going to be smart enough. We're going to be serving a privilege  [00:17:46][67.3]

Speaker 1: [00:17:46] as a business, right and an organization to report that person to the police, if that's what the victim wants, right? Use your privilege.  [00:17:54][7.1]

Speaker 2: [00:17:54] That's your power. And so be a partner and let them know you're going to be a partner in their safety and the safety of their kids. If if the perpetrator tries to target your employment, yes, that's something you say. The interview. It's a something you say when you hire. It's something you put in on a poster in the bathroom. It's something you communicate over and over again through meetings because it's it's about the safety well-being of workers. We just saw something about ISO rules and and and greater requirements in organizations around workers psychological and physical safety. So maybe we'll talk more about that. Another another, another episode. But things like the policy itself must be responsive. Like, can somebody be reassigned to a different geographic location because they're being stalked where they are? Or is there a rotation of schedules, flex schedules so I can change up my hours so I'm less likely to be tracked or stalked by by the perpetrator is the staff that the managers, the supervisors, the team leaders, the H.R. personnel are trained to handle these items consistently with policy and to really kind of again, when poor performance shows up, is it something they consider universally as a possibility and explore versus waiting for somebody to share it with them? And then lastly, for this episode is, you know, I've seen really good policy where people say, Well, you can get approved, leave time to go for a protection order hearing, you know, or a criminal court case. But to make sure that extends to family court. Yes. Family Court, you know, evaluations, maybe counseling with your kids because, you know, again, really think about the ripple effects of the perpetrator's behavior. Kids may be forced into counseling because they need it, because the perpetrators violence. How does that agency support that survivor and their needs, the needs of their kids when abuse is really heightened? So many issues, legal issues, mental health issues, all these things, so again, I think we're really trying to envision a domestic violence informed agency that really cares for. It's staff who are experiencing abuse at the hands of a partner or ex-partner, right, or.  [00:20:26][152.0]

Speaker 1: [00:20:28] Experiencing abuse from a coworker as well. That's right, that's a very important place where we have to talk about mapping that perpetrators patterns of behaviors in light of your organization's mission and vision and goals and asking how you can hold that person accountable safely. That's a really important thing for organizations to start doing.  [00:20:50][21.9]

Speaker 2: [00:20:50] That's right. All right. So here we are. We did it 20 minutes, a little bit longer than other than the other ones, but but pretty good. So you've been listening to partner with a survivor? I'm David Mandel, executive director of the Save and Together Institute, and I'm  [00:21:04][13.8]

Speaker 1: [00:21:04] Ruth Stearns, Mandel and the Ellering Communications and Strategic Relationships Manager.  [00:21:09][4.5]

Speaker 2: [00:21:10] And if you want to learn more about the Safety Other Institute, you can go to our website, safety, other sitcom or our virtual Academy Academy, Dot Safety and sitcom, and please follow us on all the platforms. We've got a new social media guru that's going to be whipping up our social media digital plan. And so you'll be able to find us all sorts of places, including tick tock, tick tock, tick tock.  [00:21:33][23.2]

Speaker 1: [00:21:34] Wonderful. All right. All right.  [00:21:35][1.1]

Speaker 2: [00:21:36] And we're out and we're out.  [00:21:36][0.0]