Women's business group supports DVERT program

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Domestic violence results in the loss of eight million days of paid work or the equivalent of 32,114 full-time jobs each year in the United States. The estimated cost of health care related to domestic violence injuries is $4.1 billion, according to Domestic Violence: Make it Your Business at www.makeityourbusiness.org.

Domestic Violence: Make it Your Business is a program funded by the Colorado Attorney General’s Office and coordinated through the Colorado Bar Association. The Denver-based program maintains an information Web site, provides training about domestic violence issues, operates a messaging campaign and creates local networks or organizations that address domestic or family violence issues.

One Colorado Springs organization that intercepts domestic and family violence issues is the Domestic Violence Enhanced Response Team (DVERT). Initiated in 1996 under the auspices of the Colorado Springs Police Department, DVERT is a collaboration of 39 local agencies involved with domestic and family violence situations.

On Aug. 10, the Tri-Lakes Women Business Owners and Managers group presented Caroline Holmes, DVERT program coordinator, and Sam Schafer, who serves on DVERT’s advisory board and the board of the Tri-Lakes Health Advocacy Partnership, with five large gift baskets for the DVERT Rewards Program.

The rewards program connects victims of domestic violence with multi-family housing units that provide subsidized living quarters to women who need to leave an abusive situation at a moment’s notice. The community’s safe house for abused women provides 27 beds and an eight-week stay. Many of domestic violence victims leave their home on short notice, without money, clothes, household supplies or food, so the rewards program instituted an ongoing gift-basket project, which has been supported by individuals, businesses and organizations. The victims are handed the gift baskets upon arrival at their new apartment.

Lori Wood, the president of the Tri-Lakes women’s group and the marketing director for The Doodler, specialists in promotional items, knows the danger involved when a victim hurriedly flees her abuser and her home. Wood, with her 2-year-old daughter in tow, left her former husband at 1 a.m. with nothing but the clothes on her back. She, too, turned for help to The Haven, an agency in Pontiac, Mich., that assists victims of domestic violence. “I could not have left without the help of that organization,” Wood said. Remembering her plight, Wood was encouraged when the women’s group chose the rewards program as its philanthropic project. “I think it is great that women in business can give back to the community and help other women to get back on their feet in a time of need,” Wood said.

Patty Attis, the treasurer of the women’s group, which meets monthly at King’s Deer Golf Club in Monument and owner of The Royal Gift Basket Co. separated the group’s donated items, which included items such as towels, toothpaste and peanut butter, into five laundry baskets and individually wrapped each.

Holmes was pleased with the baskets and the attendance. “I am so encouraged to see so many women business owners here today, learning about domestic violence,” she said. “Domestic violence is not just a woman’s issue, it is a community issue and a workplace issue.”

And the Springs housing community has rallied to assist the victims of domestic violence. Holmes said that 11 multi-family housing complexes, thanks to a coordinated effort by the Pikes Peak Board of Realtors and the Apartment Association of Colorado Springs, offer rent discounts or waive or reduce deposit fees for victims of domestic violence. Holmes said women are at the highest risk for injury and/or death when they are leaving abusive situations.

Addressing workplace issues related to domestic violence, Holmes said a survey of Fortune 1,000 executives showed that domestic violence has had a “harmful effect” on the productivity of 49 percent of the companies. Domestic violence accounted for 40 percent of attendance-related issues and 47 percent of all health-care costs was associated with domestic violence issues.

Holmes said the “bottom line” is that domestic violence affects the companies’ bottom line. She said there are 60,000 on-the-job incidents of domestic violence in the United States every year, and 85 percent of the victims are women. “One out of every three women are or have been victims of domestic violence,” she said.

Holmes said it is important that employers educate their executives, managers, supervisors and staff about domestic violence issues. Federal laws dictate a safe work environment, and knowing the characteristics of an abuser and the signs of abuse help employers assess and deal head on with problem situations, Holmes said. A workplace handout, “Family Violence & the Workplace,” is available through DVERT and other organizations that deal with domestic violence issues.

Holmes managed to toss in a bit of humor when she read excerpts from an article in a 1955 Housekeeping Monthly magazine. The women business owners, consultants and executives heartily laughed when they heard a few of the suggestions from “The Good Wife’s Guide,” which included: “Listen to him. You may have a dozen important things to tell him (when he gets home from work), but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first – remember: His topics of conversation are more important than yours. A good wife always knows her place.”

Most of the women agreed with the old cigarette advertisement: We’ve come a long way, baby – but, for some, there is still a long way to go.

Log onto www.dvert.org for more information.

- Marylou.Doehrman@csbj.com