The Rapidian

Focus group lends skills to Safe Haven for Day of Caring

For United Way's Day of Caring, Safe Haven held a Focus Group to get feedback on a new initiative to address domestic violence in the workplace.
Staff and Board Members from United Way and Safe Haven Ministries discussing how best to reach out to businesses.

Staff and Board Members from United Way and Safe Haven Ministries discussing how best to reach out to businesses. /Heart of West Michigan United Way

Underwriting support from:

Safe Haven reports:

 

It is estimated that domestic violence costs U.S. employers between $3-5 billion every year, and another $100 million in lost wages, paid sick leave, and absenteeism. 74% of employed battered women say they were harassed by their partner while at work.

 

When employees are in an abusive relationship, there are increased risks for all personnel who work with this employee. There are costs from lost productivity for the victim and co-workers, and increased medical costs from the abuse itself, or indirectly from stress. Dangerous situations often play out at the work site because victims of abuse can’t afford to lose their jobs, so they have a predictable place where they can be found each day.

Jill Harkema, Safe Haven Executive Director; Carey Bisonet, Advisory Council Chair; Julie DeBoer, RaiseHope Coordinator

Jill Harkema, Safe Haven Executive Director; Carey Bisonet, Advisory Council Chair; Julie DeBoer, RaiseHope Coordinator /Heart of West Michigan United Way

NancyKennedy BruceOosterink TarraThompson MarylinBeckwith TeresaZ CaryBisonet SusanHalteman JillHarkema LisaMurphy JillDeBoer

NancyKennedy BruceOosterink TarraThompson MarylinBeckwith TeresaZ CaryBisonet SusanHalteman JillHarkema LisaMurphy JillDeBoer /Heart of West Michigan United Way

 
By: Teresa Zbiciak, Volunteer Center Program Assistant

 

Since 1990, Safe Haven Ministries has been helping women and children who have experienced domestic abuse. This year, they are launching a new initiative to equip employers to appropriately respond to domestic violence issues in the workplace. In support of this work, the Volunteer Center worked with Safe Haven to coordinate a Focus Group as a skills-based volunteer opportunity for United Way’s Day of Caring, capitalizing on the professional skills of partnering companies to offer feedback and new perspectives on their approach and materials.

 

Safe Haven requested a small team of individuals with a background in Human Resources to join their Business Initiative Advisory Committee for a half a day in which to get some feedback on their approach and their marketing materials.

 

“We are in uncharted territory here,” said Safe Have executive director, Jill Harkema. “Until recently, we have been content to respond to those coming to us for help. Now, we want to proactively go out and develop programs so that businesses and churches can identify potential situations and know how to properly respond. We are very grateful for the opportunity with United Way to reach out through their Day of Caring, and connect with people that we wouldn’t normally have the chance to connect with.”

 

Safe Haven's hope is to augment existing employee wellness programs with domestic abuse prevention and education presentations, as well as offer a toolkit for Human Resource departments.

 

Julie DeBoer, Raise Hope Program Coordinator for Safe Haven, clarifies: “It is not the job of the business to identify when Domestic Violence is going on, but rather to be able to notice certain indicating patterns and refer the person to a professional who can.”

 

The group - which included current and former board members of both Safe Haven and United Way, as well as corporate partners - took a deep dive not only into their business strategy, but also into the nature of how Domestic Violence is experienced and perceived by the public at large.

 

“It’s an uncomfortable, messy, taboo, personal subject – it’s really difficult to be truly aware of the extent of the problem, A lot of the times, it isn’t even properly named.” reflected Marylin Beckwith, who led the volunteer team from United Way. “But even though the task at hand is difficult, it is such an inspiring and worthwhile experience when everyone is working towards the same goal.”

 

If you are interested in learning more about this initiative, please contact Susan Halteman, Development Director of Safe Haven Ministries at 616-452-6664 ext. 204 or [email protected]

 

To find a volunteer opportunity that addresses domestic violence in our community, click here to visit our database. http://bit.ly/nnGkDw

 

Disclosure: This article has been written by Teresa Zbiciak, who is a VISTA in the Volunteer Center at Heart of West Michigan United Way, and participated in the Safe Haven Focus Group on United Way's Day of Caring.

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Comments

Wonderful way to use skilled volunteers!  Great idea Safe Haven and United Way!!!! 

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