"Shine the Light" on Domestic Violence during October; Wear Purple Oct. 19

By Helen Edelman, Manager, Exchange

October 17, 2011

College Offers Help; SUNY Participates in Effort

Purple 1 “Domestic violence is defined as a pattern of coercive tactics, which can include physical, psychological, sexual, economic and emotional abuse perpetrated by one person against an adult intimate partner, with the goal of establishing and maintaining power and control over the victim. In addition to exacting a tremendous toll from the individuals it directly affects, domestic violence often spills over into the workplace, compromising the safety of both victims and co-workers and resulting in lost productivity, increased health care costs, increased absenteeism, and increased employee turnover.” -- SUNY Empire State College policy on domestic violence and the workplace

Domestic violence permeates the lives and compromises the safety of hundreds of New York State employees each day, with tragic, destructive and often fatal results. Domestic violence occurs within a wide spectrum of relationships, including married and formerly married couples, couples with children in common, couples who live together or have lived together, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender couples and couples who are dating or who have dated in the past.

To raise awareness of this social issue, October has been designated Domestic Violence Awareness Month by the New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence. A statewide campaign, “Shine the Light on Domestic Violence,” encourages everyone to wear purple on Wednesday, Oct. 19, to call attention to the month-long observance.

“Even when domestic violence is taking place off site it still impacts employees at work,” says college Affirmative Action Officer/Ethics Officer Mary Morton, who plans to wear purple on Oct. 19.

Purple 2“Real workplace concerns include absenteeism and reduced productivity, as well as risks to co-workers if the abuser comes after his or her victim. We hear about this kind of thing and we tend to think, ‘not here,’ but we do see it here -- though not a lot,” she continues. “In difficult economic times domestic disputes tend to rise.”

State University of New York Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher also has announced that the SUNY Plaza building in downtown Albany will be lit with purple lights for the entire month of October, as part of the campaign.

“SUNY is proud to participate in the ‘Shine the Light’ awareness campaign and join the hundreds of agencies, businesses, and individuals who are taking a stand against domestic violence,” said Zimpher.
OPDV Executive Director Amy Barasch noted that 32 percent of college students report dating violence by a previous partner, and 21 percent report violence by a current partner.

Morton (518-587-2100, ext. 2858) and Tom Vumbaco (518-587-2100, ext. 2900), who heads up campus safety and security, are the primary contact points for information and help for employees and victims who may need resources about where to turn for help or in cases where an ‘order of protection’ may be necessary. Morton has traveled from Saratoga Springs to various centers to talk with people about her office’s services. However, some people reach out to other trusted, nonjudgmental supervisors, such as a dean or a vice president, for support, or, in an emergency call 9-1-1.

“This totally depends on who they’re comfortable confiding in,” Morton notes. “It’s a personal decision. Tom Vumbaco and I make a good team.” She also notes that their offices stay in touch with the person who has been assisted to remain supportive, as appropriate.

Morton – who emphasizes that she is not a counselor – can help refer people to the domestic violence shelters, hospitals, clergy, counselors or other services and can assist in dealing with workplace concerns. “We deal with concerns on an individual basis,” she says, “and our interaction with a person who is seeking assistance is confidential. The college must protect employees without disclosing private information, unless required to do so under law.”

Purple 3In 2009, victims of domestic violence were established as a protected class in the employment provisions of the NYS human rights law. The law prevents an employer from terminating or refusing to hire an individual based on their status as a victim of domestic violence and prevents discrimination in any form of employment.

SUNY Empire State College, to the fullest extent possible without violating any existing rules, regulations, statutory requirements, contractual obligations or collective bargaining agreements, takes appropriate actions to promote safety in the workplace and respond effectively to the needs of victims of domestic violence, Morton says. She suggests that employees and students become familiar with the college’s policy on domestic violence, and also wear purple on Oct. 19 to raise awareness.

Nearly one in four women in the U.S. reports experiencing violence by a current or former spouse or boyfriend at some point in her life; and almost half the women murdered in New York state are killed by their intimate partner. In addition, 80 percent of teens say they know someone who has been controlled by a partner and 60 percent know someone who has been physically abused.

For more information, go to www.nyscadv.org or www.opdv.state.ny.us.

For help 24/7, call 800-943-6906.

The Effect of Domestic Violence on Workplace Violence

Provided by the Family Violence Prevention Fund

Domestic violence doesn't stay home when its victims go to work. An abuser can follow them, resulting in violence in the workplace. Or it can spill over into the workplace when a woman is harassed by threatening phone calls, absent because of injuries or less productive from extreme stress.

With 31 percent of American women reporting being physically or sexually abused by a partner at some point, it is a certainty that in a mid-to-large size company, domestic violence is affecting employees. It is crucial that domestic abuse be seen as a serious, recognizable and preventable problem like thousands of other workplace health and safety issues.


  • 74 percent of employed battered women are harassed by their partner while they were at work.
  • Between 1993 and 1999 in the U.S., 1.7 million violent victimizations per year were committed against persons at work.
  • Homicide was the second leading cause of death on the job for women in 2000.
  • More than 29,000 acts of rape or sexual assault are perpetrated against women at work each year.
  • More than 1 million women are stalked each year in the U.S.; a quarter of them report missing work as a result.
  • Of the 4 million workplace crime incidents committed against females from 1993 through 1999, only 40 percent were reported to the police.
  • In a 1997 national survey, 24 percent of women who had experienced domestic violence said that the abuse caused them to arrive late at work or miss days.

Employer’s Perspectives:

Business leaders agree that domestic violence affects their workplaces Senior corporate executives say:

  • domestic violence is a major problem (57 percent)
  • this problem has a negative impact on their bottom lines (33 percent)
  • they were aware of employees affected by domestic violence (40 percent)
  • their company's financial performance would benefit from addressing domestic violence (66 percent)
  • domestic violence increases health-care costs (44 percent).


  • The annual cost of lost productivity due to domestic violence is estimated as $727.8 million, with more than 7.9 million paid workdays lost each year.
  • The costs of intimate-partner violence exceed $5.8 billion each year, $4.1 billion of which is for direct medical and mental-health care services, paid for by the employer.

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