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Gender-Based Violence and the Workplace

Gender-Based Violence and the Workplace


Domestic and sexual violence are pervasive in American society and can have a negative impact in the workplace. 

They cost businesses in increased health care costs, lost productivity, increased absenteeism, and increased employee turnover. One study found that that the short-term economic cost of lost productivity because of intimate partner violence, sexual violence, or stalking over victims’ lifetimes is $730 per victim, or $110 billion across the U.S. population, when victims lose time from work and education (Peterson et al., 2016)*.

Not only is there a cost to business, but there is a risk of violence at the workplace, to the survivor and to co-workers. The abusive partner's stalking, threats, harassment, intimidation, and physical violence can follow a victim to work.

Here’s how workplaces can support safety:



*Peterson, C., Liu, Y., Kresnow, M. J., Florence, C., Merrick, M. T., DeGue, S., & Lokey, C. N. (2018). Short-term Lost Productivity per Victim: Intimate Partner Violence, Sexual Violence, or Stalking. American journal of preventive medicine55(1), 106–110. 

New York State Agencies

The Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence is working to ensure that all state agencies implement best policies and practices for addressing gender-based violence in the workplace that are survivor-centered, trauma-informed, and culturally responsive.

To address the impact of gender-based violence in the New York State Workforce, Executive Order 19 requires the adoption of Domestic Violence and the Workplace Policies by all NYS agencies. For questions about the Domestic Violence and the Workplace Model Policy, please contact [email protected]

Here are some additional ways that state agencies can support employees in the workplace:

Private Employers

Employers have an obligation to provide a safe and helpful work environment that responds to their employees' needs. It's important for everyone to do what they can to help put an end to domestic and sexual violence.

Here are some ways that private employers can support employees in the workplace:

Supporting Survivors

Many people who experience domestic or sexual violence don’t know who to turn to or have had bad experiences reaching out for help. In the workplace, employees play an important role in providing support to their colleagues. Willingness to help is important. Being ready to offer the kind of help that’s needed, while staying safe, is even better.

  • Initiate a conversation in private and when you have enough time to talk at length, but only if they want to.
  • Let go of any expectations you have that there is a “quick fix.” Not doing anything may very well be the safest thing they can do at any given time.
  • Challenge false attitudes and beliefs that you may have about domestic or sexual violence. 
  • Believe victims and let them know that you do. If you know the person who has or is abusing them, it may be hard to believe that they are capable of abuse, but remember that abusers typically act differently in public than they do in private.
  • Listen to what they tell you. Avoid making judgments and giving advice. It is important to lift the voices and needs of survivors so that they have the support to get the kind of help that they want. They will let you know what they need.
  • Refer them to a service provider who can discuss their options and share resources.
  • Build on their strengths. Point out the ways in which they developed coping skills, solved problems, and showed courage and determination. 
  • Validate feelings. It is common for victims to have conflicting feelings – love and fear, guilt and anger, hope and sadness. Let them know that these feelings are normal.
  • Avoid victim-blaming. Tell the victim that the abuse is not their fault.
  • Take it seriously. If you are concerned about their safety, tell them you are concerned without judgment by simply saying, “Your situation sounds dangerous and I’m concerned about your safety.”
  • Offer help. Offer specific forms of help and information, such as providing child care, driving them to appointments or assisting with pets.
  • Give them control. Abuse and assault take control away from victims. Support their decisions about who to tell, what steps to take, and what types of support they need. Additionally, asking before offering any physical support such as hugs and being upfront about what support you can and cannot provide allows them to take control of their safety and next steps. 
  • Support and respect their decisions. Remember that there are risks with every decision a victim makes and there is no one way an individual must react to abuse or assault. If you really want to be helpful, be patient and respect their decisions, even if you don’t agree with them.


Resources for Survivors

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic or sexual violence, you are not alone. Advocates are standing by to offer free, confidential support, 24/7, in most languages.

Contact the NYS Domestic and Sexual Violence Hotline:

Call 800-942-6906 - Text 844-997-2121 - Chat

Check out our victim and survivor resources page for more.