By Deborah O’Rell

You may have noticed the Empire State Building is purple these days. This is because October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

NYC Office to Combat Domestic Violence held its first ever conference to discuss Domestic Violence and the Workplace: Empowering Survivors Through Best Practices and Resources on October 16th.

Some of the numbers and statics are staggering.

1 in 4 women are victims of domestic or intimate partner violence

3 million children are witness to violence each year

Studies show boys who see violence often repeat it

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Rose Pierre-Louis, the commissioner for the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence, said hundreds of people, mostly women, are impacted every day. “Last year alone, there were over 280,000 domestic violence incidents reports filed with the city, with the NYPD. That’s almost 770 reports per day,” Pierre-Louis said.

This is a subject that was long hidden, people didn’t talk about it; and if a woman did speak up she most often was not believed.

Brooke McMurray, one of the day’s speakers, is a former publishing executive and advocate for survivors of domestic violence. She told of hiding her story from co-workers; the only person at her job who knew about her situation was the operator of the service elevator. She was always hiding from her abuser and could never come and go easily.

Today, while far too many women and men are suffering, at least they don’t have to feel so alone. There are now laws in place to protect them and an array of services available to support them.

Being a victim of domestic violence in now a protected status and you cannot be treated differently because of it.

It’s against the law to refuse to hire someone or to fire someone because they are victims of DV. This is huge. Victims are dealing with so much on the home front to add unemployment to mix often is the last straw.

Because DV is a protected status, even if you had to quit your job, you are still eligible to collect unemployment benefits. You only need to explain to your circumstances and quitting your job is not held against you.

Also remember, in New York City, workers are entitled to five paid sick days per year. All too often victims need to take time to speak with the DA’s office, have court appearances or deal with children in the home who are suffering as well.

The subculture must change. We must ALL, men and women, stand up for zero tolerance.

Employers can do a lot by creating an environment where employees feel safe to reach out for help. They need to be more proactive rather than reactive.

For help with the issue call 311, check out our website for more information or go here for a list of resources.

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