By George Kevin Jordan, AFRO Staff Writer
January marks the 15th annual National Stalking Awareness Month, but D.C.has been ahead of the pack with a District wide policy on Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Stalking released at the beginning of the year.
“With this policy, we are talking another step to ensure that D.C. Government is a place where all employees feel supported and safe,” Mayor Bowser said in a statement. “By implementing this policy and being more intentional with our guidelines and resources, we can better work together to assist and support victims and survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking.”
According to information from the Stalking Prevention Awareness and Resource Center, (SPARC) an average of 6-7.5 million people are stalked nationally each year. About 1 in 8 employed stalking victims lose time from work as a result of their victimization and more than half lose 5 days of work or more, the data showed.
Though SPARC representatives would not comment on legislation and policy in D.C., they provided this statement:
“Stalking is a pattern of behavior directed at a specific person that causes fear. Many stalking victims experience being followed, approached and/or threatened – including through technology. Stalking is a terrifying and psychologically harmful crime in its own right as well as a predictor of serious violence: in 85% of cases where an intimate partner (i.e., boyfriend or spouse) attempted to murder his partner, stalking preceded the attack.”
D.C.’s policy unpacked workplace-specific signs of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking, and provides victims with protections against employer discrimination or retaliation. The plan also called for a workplace safety plan, designating agency points of contact for victims, and mandates confidentiality and other protections, according to the Mayor’s office.
The policy was crafted with the help of the D.C. Coalition Against Domestic Violence (DCCADV), a local organization.
“They sent a draft on what they were working on and we provided some feedback,” said Dawn Dalton, Policy Director for DCCADV. “We feel it’s a good policy.”
Late last year, the DCCADV released the “Surviving DC: A Domestic Violence Report” , detailing the organizations assessment of how a District agency “responds to domestic violence regarding staff who experience domestic violence and survivors who seek services from their agencies.”
The report was a survey of 23 agencies and only two, the Metropolitan Police Department and the Child & Family Services Agencies, received a passing grade.
The survey helped to solidify stark realities about domestic violence and its impact on survivors.
“One of the things we know here in D.C. is that there aren’t enough Domestic Violence services whether it be shelters or long term housing to meet the demand of survivors,” Dalton said.
Luckily the Mayor’s office had already been working on a policy for the District.
“All in all its (the policy) a positive and great step forward for the District to make,” Dalton said.
Other organization heads agree.
“Mayor Bowser’s District-wide Workplace Policy is a groundbreaking initiative that can serve as an example for other states, policymakers, and workplaces to adopt a practice that will not only keep D.C. employees safe, but provide a mechanism for preventing domestic violence,” said L.Y. Marlow Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Saving Promise. “By protecting employees, creating workplace safety, support plans and policies, and offering increased training for D.C. government employees, the District is that much closer to ultimately ending domestic violence.”
According to data from the DCCADV, nearly one-third of unaccompanied homeless women in D.C. indicate that violence is the cause of their current homelessness or housing instability, and 63% of unaccompanied homeless women with past experiences of violence and trauma report at least one act of violence against them during their current period of homelessness or housing instability.
About 50% of D.C. women have experienced psychological aggression perpetrated by an intimate partner in their lifetime, according to the report. Also about 39% of women living D.C. have experienced sexual violence, physical violence and/or stalking perpetrated by an intimate partner.
The D.C. Metro police received 35,909 domestic violence-related calls for service in 2017, according to the DCCADV’s data. This is a decrease from a year ago but an increase since 2013.
On a national level a person is a victim of domestic violence or assault every 20 minutes in this country, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, impacting about 10 million women and men.
Victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking can reach out to the D.C. Victim Hotline at 1-844-4HELPDC (1-844-443-5732) or contact them via chat at www.dcvictim.org. If anyone is in immediate or imminent danger please dial 911.