Employers taught to make their offices safe

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What: Screening and discussion of "Office Safe" When: 8:30 a.m. Tuesday Where: Steamboat Pilot & Today Conference Room, 1901 Curve Plaza RSVP: 879-2034

Advocates Against Battering and Abuse has just released an 11-minute film, starring Allison Plean, Diane Moore and Terry Cook, available for any business interested in training their staff about how domestic violence affects the workplace.

"Office Safe" follows a day in the life of a "valued employee," played by Plean. She shows up late for work with bruises on her arm. As soon as she sits down at her desk, the phone starts ringing. It's her husband. He calls every half hour with questions, demands and accusations.

Her boss, played by Cook, notices. The business that employs Plean's character already has a domestic violence policy in place. The boss confronts his harassed and abused employee.

"This involves not just you, but the whole office," he says. "This is beginning to affect your job."

Upon her request, he calls Advocates, and Moore arrives on the scene. She helps the company set up a protection program for its employee, and the film ends with Plean's character beginning a new life away from her abusive spouse.

"Office Safe" was written and produced by Plean and filmed and edited by Kelly Anzalone. It is available free of charge to anyone who wants to view it.

The film was created to accompany a presentation Moore gave this summer at the Ninth International Conference on Family Violence in San Diego, Calif.

The first Steamboat screening of "Office Safe" will be at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday in the Steamboat Pilot & Today conference room. Those interested in attending should call 879-2034 to RSVP.

Plean's character in "Office Safe" is primarily worried about losing her job if she tells anyone about her problem or asks for time off to stay in a shelter. This is a common fear, said Moore, Advocates' executive director. "She did not have to worry because her company had domestic violence policies in place.

"There is a lot of shame and humiliation involved in not wanting anyone to know. But if an employee knows that it's safe to tell their supervisor that they have a restraining order, it can ensure that the workplace is safer not just for them, but for other co-workers."

From talking to business owners, the most noticeable sign that an employee is in an abusive relationship are harassing phone calls.

Other signs include:

n Inappropriate clothing for the season (to hide bruises).

n Coming in late.

n Changes in personality, such as isolating oneself.

n Leaving work early.

n Lack of concentration.

n Startling easily.

n Begin unusually quiet.

Ninety-six percent of battered women experience spillover from their home problems into their job. Decreased productivity costs businesses more than $100 million a year, Moore said.

Since beginning its Workplace Violence training sessions three years ago, which will now be augmented by "Office Safe," Advocates has seen an increase in calls from businesses asking for advice and sending referrals.

In addition to "Office Safe," Plean also wrote, filmed and edited a 45-second animated public-service announcement about domestic violence that has been running on Channel 10. According to the PSA, one in four women is involved in a violent relationship.

"From working (at Advocates), I know that figure is not an exaggeration," Plean said.

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