Intimate Partner Violence accounts for almost $1.8 billion each year on lost productivity, earnings

Intimate partner violence is abusive, threatening behavior that is culturally learned and socially condoned and 80 percent of the people in this kind of situation don't even know they are in it, according to Louisa Printz, community educator for Safe Haven of Greater Waterbury, Inc.

Printz and Kaitlin Frawley, the Community Outreach Coordinator for the Prudence Crandall Center in New Britain, were the guest speakers at Wednesday's Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce "Domestic Violence in the Workplace," seminar.

The Prudence Crandall Center, in conjunction with Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce and Tunxis Community College, put together the program, which was sponsored by the Petit family Foundation.

Dr. William Petit, the president of the Petit family Foundation, introduced the seminar, which was held at the Tunxis @ Bristol office, 431 North Main Street in Bristol.

Petit said his foundation has been involved with the Prudence Crandall Center and Safe Haven for a long time.

He said the Petit family Foundation started helping the Prudence Crandall Center since 2007. The foundation has given grants to the center since 2008, Petit said. The Petit family Foundation gave a $100,000 grant to the Prudence Crandall Center in honor of its 40th anniversary in 2013, Petit said.

Both Safe Haven and the Prudence Crandall Center work to help and protect people affected by violence. "That's our connection to this," Petit said. Their objectives are primarily offering preventative services first and also helping victims get back on their feet, he said.

Printz was the main speaker during the informative and powerful seminar that included not only facts and figures but heartbreaking stories of women who experienced intimate partner violence.

The impact of IPV on the workplace is that 31 percent of co-workers feel the need to cover for victims of domestic violence by performing his or her work while they were absent or offer excuses for their absence, she noted.

About 25 percent of workers resent a co-worker because of the effect of her absences due to IPV. Thirty-eight percent of workers are extremely to somewhat concerned for their own safety due to a co-worker's abusive partner.

What are the impacts of IPV? They can mean increased health costs for heart disease, gynecological problems, gastrointestinal problems, substance abuse and mental health. IPV has also been linked to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression, anxiety, eating disorders and suicidal ideation and behavior, Printz said.

Health care costs for IPV victims are 1.5 to 2.3 times higher compared to other groups, she said. "The cost of IPV exceeds $5.8 billion a year," Printz said.

"Intimate Partner Violence accounts for almost $1.8 billion each year on lost productivity and earnings. Nearly 8 million days of paid work each year is lost due to IPV, this is the equivalent of 32,000 full-time jobs."

While 86 percent of the people abused are women, she said men and children are also victims of domestic violence.

Heterosexual relationships aren't the only group that experiences domestic violence. Printz said IPV is present in ¼ to 1/3 of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual) relationships.

"In the U.S., more than four women a day are murdered by their boyfriends or husbands," she said. "One in three adolescent girls report being a victim of teen dating violence."

How common is IPV? In 2005 in Connecticut, Printz noted that 20,012 children were involved in 40 percent of the domestic violence incidents reported to police.

"Who is at risk?" Printz asked the group. "Everyone. There is no type of victim," she answered.

Printz told the story of one woman who was completely controlled by her husband and yet, she had not one bruise on her. "IPV isn't always physical abuse," she said. "It's all about power and control."

IPV includes emotional and verbal abuse, stalking, physical abuse, isolation and digital abuse, which can involve using social media, texting or e-mails to threaten accuse and/or demean someone into staying in an abusive relationship.

Printz said emotional or verbal abuse is when your partner calls you names, puts you down, embarrasses you in public and even tells you what to wear.

Stalking involves leaving items or gifts for someone, constant calling, aggressive behavior and posturing, tracking someone's phone and/or car, or showing up at a person's workplace.

In some cases, IPV can also involve hostage-taking. Printz said there were four cases of hostage-taking in Connecticut already this year.

Physical abuse isn't just hitting someone, it also involves restraining someone or blocking them from leaving, Printz said. Many abusers say they have never touched their victims, but she recalled how one man stood there and punched a hole in the wall when his wife was in the room. "This was a threat," Printz said. "He didn't touch her, but he made her afraid to leave."

Financial abuse is also another form of abusive behavior, she said. This can involve harassing a partner while they are at work and causing them to lose their job, hiding or stealing their partner's money and not allowing them to work.

Another type of abuse is sexual abuse, which includes unwanted kissing and touching. "No means no," Printz said.

What things should people look out for? Printz said the warning signs for an abuser are someone who is possessive, isolating and demands and uses threats and intimidation. She added that some abusers send out body signals that show their anger.

Abusers often show a lack of empathy and have a superficial charm, Printz explained. "They often feel justified in their violent behavior and they have a history of aggression with others," she said. "They often slam things and are always angry."

Red flags to watch for are a former intimate partner who refuses to move on, someone who has ownership or access to weapons, someone who threatens to harm or kill, and someone who is suicidal.

What are some helpful things to say to a co-worker or friend you believe is the victim of IPV:

· "You don't deserve to be treated this way."

· "What can I do to help?"

· "How can I best support you?"

· I'm here to listen if you want to talk."

· "No one has the right to be abused no matter what."

· "Many people have experienced this."

What you shouldn't say:

· "I think you need to...."

· "Why didn't you....?"

Helpful things employers can do:

· Display educational materials on IPV in different areas such as the bathrooms or lunchroom.

· Display resources for IPV victims, friends and family members

· Be understanding and approachable.

· Be careful to preserve privacy and confidentiality.

· Offer 2-1-1 as a resource.

Safe Haven serves the towns of Southbury, Woodbury, Middlebury, Bethlehem, Beacon Falls, Naugatuck, Waterbury, Prospect, Cheshire, Watertown and Wolcott. Printz noted that some of the towns are quite affluent and services are needed just as much in those areas as some of the smaller towns and cities.

Prudence Crandall Center for Women was established in June of 1973 by a group of women who had a vision of a place for women to meet, share, and support one another. The initial focus of the center was to identify the health, employment and social service needs of area women and empower them to participate in all aspects of community life.

Prudence Crandall Center is the oldest domestic violence program in Connecticut and the second oldest in the nation. The center offers services to women, men and children who are victims of domestic violence.

It is the only domestic violence program serving Plymouth, Terryville, Berlin, Bristol, Burlington, Kensington, Plainville, New Britain and Southington. The Prudence Crandall Center's mission is dedicated to helping individuals achieve lives free of domestic violence by providing care, advocacy, support and education.

To reach the center's 24-hour emergency hotline for crisis intervention, counseling, shelter services, information and referrals, please call 1-888-774-2900. All services are free and confidential.

To find out how you can help the Prudence Crandall Center, call the administrative office at (860)225-5187.

For more information about Safe Haven of Greater Waterbury, their office number is (203)575-0388. Their emergency hotline is (203)575-0036.

Attendees included representatives from the New Britain Library, Thomaston Savings Bank and the Bristol Community Organization. Cindy Scoville, the vice president of membership, sales and affiliate support for the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce, Michael S. Ptaszynski, MD, a regional counselor, certified facilitator and FRONTSIGHT ambassador of the "Refuse to Be a Victim, Mind-Full Crime Prevention program, and Victor Mitchell, the director of business and industry services for Tunxis Community College, also attended the seminar.