Irv Kooris, with The Home Depot, Shares his thoughts on Domestic Violence in the Workplace

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Six years ago Irv attended a Partnership Against Domestic Violence (PADV) conference. He was so impressed with the conference that he has been part of the PADV team ever since. At this year’s Domestic Violence in the Workplace Conference (DVIW), Irv is playing an integral role on the program planning committee as well as using his network to make sure that the community knows about the October DVIW Conference and what the PADV hopes to accomplish.

Irv is currently the director of associate services for Home Depot, which includes the men’s health management department and the company’s work life program, Care Solutions for Life.

“Care Solutions for Life is a benefit for all our associates and their household members to deal with a variety of issues, from a domestic violence situation, a child having trouble in school, written resources for pregnancy, or loss of a loved one. We provide face-to-face counseling for a certain number of sessions with no cost to our associates.”

Irv understands the effects domestic violence has on its victims, and DVIW provides an opportunity for people to understand how it should be dealt with in the workplace.

“Whether it is sexual abuse, depression, or other causes that we know exist in our world today, they are seldom discussed openly in the work place. So the idea of having a domestic violence conference that is really about the work place is unique.”

Although Irv has dealt with issues of domestic violence in the past, he admits that when he first attended the conference six years ago, it opened his eyes to new ways domestic or intimate partner violence can be handled in the workplace.

The conference will address the business side of domestic violence as well as examine the human factor.

“Whether it’s a high-level executive or a sales associate at the store, the problem doesn’t go away when you walk into work. For example, if someone is dealing with a domestic violence situation at home, it constitutes a potential danger at work, not only to themselves but to other associates and customers.”

“The goal should be to continue to engage businesses and engage the workplace because that is where a majority of people spend time.” Irv says the conference is not intended to turn the workplace into a treatment facility for domestic abuse. “It’s important that there is an awareness of what to look for, what to do and what resources are available to help the employee and the family.”

Irv Kooris is the Director of Associate Services which is part of the Medical & Health Management at The Home Depot. Kooris is on this year’s DVIW planning committee. 

Linda S. Boatright’s Views on Domestic Violence in the Workplace

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For years Partnership Against Domestic Violence (PADV) has dedicated a conference to highlighting ways to deal with domestic violence in the workplace. This October will be no exception as they bring business professionals together to discuss these issues.

Linda has been the director of employee and labor relations at Kaiser Permanente for the past five years. It was four years ago that she attended her first Domestic Violence in the Workplace (DVIW) conference, and she has made it a point to continue to share what she learned with others at her company.

“Looking at the stats, one in four women and one in seven men will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. In my company women represent more than 50-60 percent of the work force, and for that reason we felt very compelled to make sure that our managers, as well as the employees, know Kaiser is a safe haven that they can talk about domestic violence, and the mangers are equipped with the skills to recognize it.”

Working closely with employees, Linda knows the importance of having a work environment that people are comfortable in. “I think domestic violence is that little dirty secret that nobody wants to talk about. I am very committed to being an agent that says let’s change that, let’s give people an opportunity to talk about it.”

Having attended, and even chaired the DVIW in the past, Linda continues to learn and share information with others. Despite the fact that she has experience handling domestic violence situations with employees, the DVIW opened her eyes to issues she had not considered.

“One thing I learned is that domestic violence, like rape, is a power disorder; and many times it’s generational. Intimate partner abuse is clearly an issue too. Victims most often feel they are guilty of something. I want people to know that while it is an issue, there is also a solution, there’s also help. I cannot talk enough about the work that PADV has done in the Fulton and Gwinnett County areas.”

Linda says there are many reasons companies should attend the conference. “I believe that when we don’t talk about things, they become issues for people. These issues then find their way into the workplace. You may see increased employee absence, or see productivity problems. Kaiser is there to support employees and make sure that they have healthy lifestyles and healthy environments. I feel empowered to say let’s turn it around and make domestic abuse something that people feel comfortable acknowledging so they can get help.”

Linda Boatright is Director, Employee & Labor Relations HR, for the Georgia Region of Kaiser Permanente. Boatright has worked with Kaiser Permanente for five years, chaired the DVIW Conference in 2012, and served in an advisory capacity for the 2013 and 2014 conference. 

Marcus Delgado (PADV Board Chair, Cox Communications, Inc.)

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Over the past two weeks, the NFL has been forced to confront the realities of domestic violence as it relates to its teams and players. Unfortunately, much of the coverage has focused on the livelihoods of the players/abusers and the NFL’s handling (or mishandling) of the issue.  Little has been written about the sources of domestic violence and the effects on its victims.  As a father of a 15-year-old football-playing son, I wanted to take this time to reflect on why this issue is important to me and why it should matter to other men.

One in four women will be affected by domestic violence in their lifetimes. One in four high school girls have been victims of physical or sexual abuse. During my twenty-one year legal career, I have had the opportunity to assist many victims and hear their stories.  I have seen the terrible toll that abuse can take on these women and their children.  I have also watched them emerge from their circumstances even stronger, thanks to organizations like ours.  Domestic violence is a plague, but it can be eradicated.

We need men to take the first steps. Statistically, men are overwhelmingly the abusers in these conflicts.   When we create poor ideals of manhood—power, strength, subjugation of women—we create psychological structures that are difficult to remove.  If a young boy is taught that he isn’t a man until his first sexual experience, he may take steps to prove his manhood through force.  If his only images of women are through music videos, he will quickly objectify women and treat them as a lesser.   Both of these situations lead to the development of an abuser.

We also need to demonstrate that conflict resolution can occur peacefully.   Men should not view violence as the first resort.  Wives and girlfriends must be seen as partners, not opponents or combatants.  If a tension-filled issue arises (no matter how it may arise or who “started” the fight), we need to learn to de-escalate the problem.  We simply cannot begin hitting, and thereby use a strength advantage to silence a loved one.

Our work begins at home. We need to tell our sons, grandsons, fathers, and brothers, that manhood is defined by how we respect others—particularly, the women in our lives.  Our conversations with women should be filled with warmth, not vitriol and expletives.  We must set examples every day by demonstrating that kindness, care, and love are attributes of a strong man.  Otherwise, there will be a terrible price to pay for our daughters, sisters, and mothers.

There are many other factors that can lead to an abusive relationship (e.g., regularly witnessing abuse as a child). So I don’t mean to simplify a complicated solution.  My only desire is to start a dialogue about how we can stop this dreaded epidemic.  Let’s stop looking at domestic violence as solely a women’s issue.  The inclusion of men is mandatory.

Marcus Delgado is the Board Chairman of Partnership Against Domestic Violence, Georgia’s largest domestic violence prevention agency.  PADV’s mission is to end the crime of intimate partner violence and empower its survivors.  PADV offers safety and shelter to women and their children, and restores self-sufficiency and control to survivors.   To help us in our struggle to end domestic violence, please donate to Partnership Against Domestic Violence at http://www.padv.org.

Presenting our Final Legacy Society Honoree, Anne Bowen-Long

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Anne’s journey with PADV has been one of personal growth and healing.

After moving to Atlanta from Philadelphia in the early 90’s, Anne knew she wanted to get involved with an organization that helped victims of domestic violence. “I was raised in a volatile household and wanted to understand more about what that meant,” she said. “There is so much more to domestic violence than the violence itself. For me, fear and secrecy also shrouded my entire household.”

Anne has never been outspoken about her experience growing up, but knows she can help more people by having the conversation. “Domestic violence alienates people from their families and friends. There is a shame that surrounds it that is debilitating,” she said. “Through my work with PADV, I have been able to understand how unique each situation can be, and how to respond and offer help. I understand so much more now, and that understanding has propelled my passion for bringing the issues surrounding domestic violence forward.”

Anne began her PADV work as a volunteer, answering evening crisis line calls.  Later she joined the committee for PADV’s major fund raiser, the Hearts with Hope gala and silent auction, and ultimately was asked to join the board of directors.  She has served as board chair and is continuing her second term as director.

Anne credits the UPS culture of giving, and UPS affinity group Women’s Leadership Development, for the strong support that has enabled her community service.  In addition to her efforts on behalf of PADV, she has worked with Metropolitan Counseling Services, Ahimsa House, Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta and Women of Tocqueville – United Way of Greater Atlanta.

Her ultimate mission is to change the way people view and approach the topic of domestic violence. “I would like to see more companies educate themselves about the signals of domestic violence, and encourage an open environment where victims feel safe asking for help,” she said. “PADV has multiple programs to educate everyone from teens about dating violence, to the financial impact of domestic violence on corporate America. It is always reassuring when we see young people and companies attend our forums.”

When PADV invited Anne to join the Legacy Society, she knew it would be a great opportunity to continue her efforts. “It is an honor to be invited to join the Society,” said Anne. “I’m thankful for the opportunity to continue this vital work.”

Welcome to the Legacy Society Mary Jane Wolfe!

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Mary Jane Wolfe, our next PADV Legacy Society honoree, considers herself a “newbie” when it comes to her involvement with PADV. She has been active within the organization for three years and serves on the Gwinnett Advisory Committee.

“I was invited to a meeting by Sandra Strickland, but I didn’t know what it was going to be about. I went to the meeting not knowing anything and came away wondering how I didn’t know about PADV. One of the success stories from the shelter was there to speak to us. She talked about her entire experience with the Gwinnett Shelter. To hear about this local organization that is so pure and so good – I wanted to be part of it somehow.”

After that initial experience, Wolfe realized she needed to roll up her sleeves and give back to the organization that “grabbed her heart.”

“I wanted to get information out and raise funds for PADV. What I specifically did was bring it to the Women’s Club in Sugarloaf neighborhood. I brought my involvement down to something I could handle – getting the word out and getting funds. The Sugarloaf Women’s Club chooses three or four charities each year raising $20,000-$40,000 to donate to each cause.  We also send out information about that charity to the people of Sugarloaf. I am proud to say we’ve done really well.”

Wolfe decided early on that giving back fully to one organization was what was most important. Especially to a group that is in her backyard.

“The thing about people who live in Gwinnett County and the reason I’ve been able to get so much support for PADV, is this Gwinnett Shelter. People in Gwinnett are interested in helping anything having to do with Gwinnett County, and helping it grow. That includes the charities. The fact that one of the shelters is located here is great, and we are so proud of that. This is where we live, these are people we know, and these are people that might be able to help PADV.”

Wolfe’s dedication and cheerleader attitude towards PADV are main reasons she was invited into the Legacy Society. She is eager to grow with the organization and continue to build awareness for PADV.

“I’ve have only been with PADV three years. I am proud to be involved and I plan to be involved. I am looking forward to growing with the organization and learning how I can do more. I see where I can make a difference with PADV with some of the national charities you really don’t know if you’re making a difference or not, but here I can really see that trickle-down effect.”

We Want to Welcome Susie Trotochaud into the Legacy Society!

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Susie Trotochaud, our next PADV Legacy Society inductee, has been involved with PADV for 16 years serving in various roles for the organization.

“My husband and I were looking for a volunteer organization for employees of his company to support, and we found PADV. I had heard of the organization before, known as The Council on Battered Women, and knew they did good work. The employees created a cookbook of recipes, titled “Humble Pie,” that raised $10,000 for the Gwinnett PADV Shelter.”

After that experience and learning more about PADV Trotochaud and her husband, Scott, became more involved.

“I am amazed by how many people are affected by violence in the home – it doesn’t matter your income, age or education. People often see a “face” of abuse, but there is no single face; it can and does happen everywhere. People should get involved because more people need help than you would ever believe. You can be in a room with 50 people and be amazed how many have been affected by violence.”

Hearing from the survivors along with her many years of work with PADV Trotochaud discovered what type of strength people have to come to PADV.

“I feel I am a pretty strong person. I am one of those people who always says this would never happen to me, but I’ve have met some pretty strong women with PADV. The strength it takes to actually get away and change your life. That is strength I don’t think I have ever had to find in myself. It is inspiring.”

Trotochaud was awakened to the kinds of people it takes to run an organization like PADV. It requires people who have either experienced the violence themselves or are willing to open their minds and their eyes to the realities of abuse.

“Hearing the stories of people who lived in the situations, survived it and were helped by the partnership, along with knowing what we have been able to contribute has made a difference for people. Those are my fondest memories.  We are happy to continue to do whatever we can to help PADV. We still know that any support we give the organization will make a difference and that is what we want to continue to do.”

Legacy Society Honors Scott Dorfman

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Our next inductee, Innotrac President, CEO and Chairman Scott Dorfman. Dorfman has served as a PADV benefactor for more than 16 years.

Dorfman and his wife, Susie Trotochaud, initiated their involvement after searching for an organization that improved the lives of children and families. Dorfman and Trotochaud describe the moment they came across PADV as a “love at first sight” situation.

“We were looking for an organization that we felt strongly about. We wanted to find people who needed protection or families that needed help. When Susie found the Partnership (PADV) we knew right away that this was the one.”

Throughout Dorfman’s 16 involvement with PADV, he has seen the organization’s transformation. One of his fondest memories centers on a cookbook that he and his wife compiled to benefit PADV.

“It was back in the days when the organization had very few donations being given. Susie and I called on our Atlanta employees to submit their favorite recipes, and we took that and turned it into a cookbook, “Humble Pie.”  With 100 percent of the proceeds going directly to PADV, $10,000 was raised.”

Through his initial work with PADV, Dorfman realized that the impact of the book showed what PADV could offer to those who needed help.

“Susie and I were amazed by the number of employees requesting more information about PADV for victims of abuse… someone they knew or themselves. I thought, wow, this is really crazy. We were just doing this because we believed in the cause – but here’s a group of 200 people who not only came to buy a book, but also came to get help.”

Dorfman was inspired during his time as a Hearts with Hope co-chairman where he met a survivor who told her story.

“I volunteered my home as a location for filming with a survivor. She was a woman from India and had been brought over on false pretenses. She had no rights here, and she had no rights in India. I thought she really didn’t have a choice. She was kept in the home and abused. She had no idea that she really could get free. The Partnership opened her eyes. She soon realized, I don’t have to do this.”

PADV’s mission and personal stories impacted Dorfman, who feels that domestic violence safe havens are vitally important to society.

“Those who are abused – children and adults need somebody out there as an advocate; somewhere for them to go. For every woman or child being abused, there are 20 more whom no one hears about. Someone must hear their stories and help them heal.”

Welcoming Julie C. Smith to PADV’s Legacy Society

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I am honored to have been invited to join the Legacy Society. Over the past seven years I have had the great pleasure of being involved with PADV and becoming more aware of the issues that so many women and men face each day.

My involvement with PADV stemmed from Verizon’s long-time dedication to community service. As the manager of Verizon’s external affairs and philanthropic giving for the southern region, I saw the urgent need to raise awareness of and build conversation about domestic violence issues. When I learned that one in every four women and one in every seven men are reported to be victims of domestic violence, I knew I had to do more.

I began volunteering with PADV and their “Domestic Violence in the Workplace” initiative, helping companies learn to identify signals of domestic violence. This is an important and potentially life-saving component of the work we do. When you think about how much time we spend in the workplace together with co-workers, you realize the vital importance of establishing a safe and trusting environment. You want people to feel comfortable to ask for help when they need it – sometimes desperately.

Some companies are doing a great job of this, such as Sykes Enterprises in Tampa. The senior leadership there has been proactively learning about the issues and signs of domestic violence, and have increased awareness within their employee ranks.

Unfortunately however, domestic violence often has the stigma of a topic not to be discussed. The stigma dissipates as more companies have the conversation, and experts like PADV are helping start that conversation.

Raising awareness about domestic violence has become my passion. The people we help are neighbors, co-workers, friends and loved ones.  As a result of my involvement some victims have felt comfortable sharing their stories with me, and it is a source of great fulfillment to respond and provide encouragement in their time of need. I cherish helping them, and am fortunate and grateful for the opportunity to do so.

To that end, both Verizon and PADV have encouraged me to stay involved and work toward the goal of changing the culture surrounding domestic violence. That is a critical step toward the ultimate goal of no domestic violence and no need for shelters. Because of employers like mine and wonderful charities like this one, I am confident that I will have the support to see this goal come to fruition.

Sincerely,

Julie

Julie C. Smith is the vice president of state government affairs and external affairs for Verizon’s southeast region. She serves on the corporate leadership council at the Fernbank Museum and is a volunteer member at Buckhead Church.

Legacy Society’s Own Cathy Adams

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As we look forward to bringing in another list of remarkable Legacy Society inductees, we’re proud to introduce an inductee from the inaugural list – Cathy Adams, executive vice president and chief operations officer at Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlanta (FHLBank of Atlanta). Cathy has given her time and energy to the Partnership Against Domestic Violence (PADV) for more than 15 years, serving in a number of leadership roles. We are honored to have her join the Legacy Society. We spoke with Cathy about her work with PADV, including the ongoing relationship that FHLBank of Atlanta has with PADV. Here’s what she had to say:

How did you come to be involved with PADV?

I became involved with PADV about 15 years ago through Charlotte McRanie, who was the chairman of the PADV board and a close colleague of mine at FHLBank of Atlanta. The Bank has always been devoted to the PADV. A lot of people don’t know this, but PADV’s main office space used to be at FHLBank of Atlanta, which is indicative of our commitment to the organization. At the time, I was the human resources director at the Bank, and Charlotte would talk to me a great deal about hiring decisions for PADV.

In addition to business matters, Charlotte would often talk to me about the spirit of PADV. I learned about the challenges and what the organization was accomplishing. Domestic violence is a crime, and I didn’t fully believe or comprehend that at first. I thought we would help women find courage, and that’s part of it, but it’s also about the sacredness of home. Home should be a safe place. When you don’t have that, it comes before everything else.

Initially, I got involved with PADV because my corporation was involved. It was only after I got involved that I had a pretty significant transformation. In 2000, Charlotte McRanie transitioned off of PADV’s board and asked me to trade positions with her as a member.

Why did the issues become important to you?

I was very inexperienced being on the board of a nonprofit organization, so I went to every fundraising event and gathering PADV offered. I also visited the two shelters. I’ve heard many people mention that they cried when seeing the new Gwinnett Shelter because they were in awe of its beauty. I remember pulling into the driveway of the old Gwinnett Shelter and crying because it was so pitifully sad.

That was my moment of clarity, and I thought to myself, “We can do better than this.” I desperately wanted to create a safe alternative for these women and children. In that moment, something switched in my head and in my heart, and I realized the seriousness of this issue and the importance of the work.

There’s such a huge legacy for how the new Gwinnett Shelter came to life. It took years and years, and I’m proud to have been a part of the early work to transform that sad shelter into something magnificent.

Were there any major movements that happened during your time as PADV board chair?

During my time on the board, we were in the middle of the worst recession that many of us have ever known. At PADV, the demand for our services was going up and our ability to supply those services consistently was extremely challenging. When families are depressed and unemployment is high, the pressure exacerbates a lot of the factors that contribute to violence.

Part of our challenge as a board was that we had grown rapidly, and we were doing very programmatic things which were helpful, but we didn’t have as much experiential knowledge. As board chair, I established a governance board committee to help us do our jobs in the most efficient way. This reconnected the board to the people we were serving. I also added “a mission moment” to start board meetings with someone’s story, a picture or something to reconnect our meeting to the mission and remind us of the real reasons we were there.

Another important thing that happened during my time as board chair was that we changed PADV’s mission statement. Instead of saying domestic violence, we changed the words to intimate partner violence – because this happens in all communities at all levels. We also changed the statement to emphasize that domestic violence is criminal act. Previously, we had not come out using that kind of strong language. Our revised mission statement is something I’m proud of.

Current Mission Statement: PADV works to end the crime of intimate partner violence and empower its survivors.

How are you involved in the organization today?

What I do today is focused on making sure FHLBank of Atlanta continues to support PADV in every way. The Bank often provides space for committee meetings and night and weekend volunteer trainings. It’s a big deal to us, and it’s a contribution on behalf of the Bank. We also do an enormous amount of print work for the organization in terms of advertising, newsletters, event invitations, brochures, etc. And now, we have Sharon Cook on the board of PADV, and she has the full support of FHLBank Atlanta. Anything that the Bank can do to help her, we will.

People who have worked closely with PADV say that their experiences with the organization resonate with them in other areas of life. Has your work with PADV impacted aspects of your everyday life and/or work environment?

There used to be a time where if people didn’t come to work, they got fired. After working closely with PADV, I asked that we add a domestic violence policy to our employee handbook to provide a level of services and understanding, because we don’t want to penalize someone who’s a victim. The employer has a responsibility to become a part of the solution, not add to the problem.

My work with PADV has helped me be very careful to not form conclusions based on superficial indicators. There’s almost always an important story, and we have to take time to listen and be open. My experience at PADV has helped me to live up to my aspiration of always being patient and willing to lend an ear. If there’s a kinder, gentler, more patient Cathy, that’s who I want to be, and PADV has helped me get there.

What are some things you feel are important to growing and maintaining the legacy of PADV?

There’s not a week that goes by that I don’t hear a news story about domestic violence. I believe PADV has to maintain a strong presence and get the word out to our community. People have to connect the dots. Domestic violence is a pervasive mix of psychological and physical abuse, and we have to pay attention.

Welcome Daphne M. Walker to PADV!

During the month of October, Partnership Against Domestic Violence (PADV) will join together with organizations, survivors and advocates across the country in observing Domestic Violence AwFull_Shot_of_Judge_Daphne_M _Walker (2)areness Month. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigations, every nine seconds a woman is physically assaulted in the United States. Each day, more than three women are tragically murdered by a boyfriend or husband.  Domestic violence/intimate partner violence (DV/IPV) is a real issue affecting the lives of millions of women and their children.

Throughout my life, I have always been dedicated to women’s issues. After serving as a Girl Scout for 12 years, attending SpelmanCollege, a women’s college, and working in the Crimes Against Women and Children’s Unit as a prosecutor, my passion flourished. During my years as a prosecutor, I consistently heard stories of coworkers who noticed a behavior change in a fellow colleague. Once aware of the violence, he/she often felt responsible realizing the magnitude of the life-threatening situation.  All the signs were there: a black eye, tardiness to work, a change in mood, but the coworker did not want to get involved until it was too late.

PADV will continue to do our part in spreading DV/IPV awareness through education. On October 3, 2013, we will host our fourth annual Domestic Violence in the Workplace (DVIW) conference at The Home Depot headquarters. We look forward to an exchange between HR professionals and employees on this devastating issue. Most believe DV/IPV is a private matter disregarding the impact on not only children and family members, but, also the victim’s work environment. As we look at the residual effects of DV/IPV and the many instances occurring each year, the issue can no longer be private. It is time for all to take a stand in ending the violence. DVIW is a unique opportunity for PADV to equip all working professionals with the necessary tools. We want to ensure when issues arise, every company, big or small, has a plan of action. The right response could save a life.

In future years, PADV aims to move closer to our goal of eradicating DV/IPV. We will continue to educate the public on why DV/IPV is happening in our communities. We will bring the issue to the forefront and truly spark dialogue. We will position ourselves as a thought leader on DV/IPV and influence public policy.  Programs, like DVIW, are the first step to spreading awareness and educating the public. Please join us this Thursday, October 3, for a powerful dialogue on Domestic Violence in the Workplace.

Sincerely,

Daphne Walker

President & Chief Executive Officer

Partnership Against Domestic Violence