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Surviving Domestic Violence As A Leader In Corporate America

by Kinta C. Gates

The Freedom Factor

CFO - Chief freedom officer

There are so many laws still on the books, worldwide, that do not serve victims or survivors, leaving them exposed to further abuse (or worse). More specifically, there are far too many corporations that have no policies in place, related to handling the impact of domestic violence in the workplace.

As the abuse in my previous marriage escalated, I would find any excuse to stay later at the office, just to avoid what I knew would be my fate as soon as I walked through the door of my home. Prior to that, I would be one of the first to arrive at the office which then afforded me the opportunity to be one of the first to leave. This drastic swing in my schedule was never questioned by any of the other leaders or my peers.

Our office was an early version of the open concept, so there was limited privacy, at best. With that in mind, it should have been easy to pick up on the intense phone conversations, coupled with noticeable mood swings and sudden lack of focus throughout the day; all as a result of the threatening calls I was receiving from my ex-husband. No one ever questioned it. Am I blaming anyone for not noticing? Absolutely not. I'm sharing this to hopefully prompt you, the reader, you, the leader, and you, the HR professional, to now take greater notice of your colleagues while you’re together for eight plus hours a day. Employers have a great responsibility to support employees facing trauma related to domestic violence. It’s not an easy undertaking, but it is necessary as a preventative measure that can aid in saving many lives. Unfortunately, many companies don’t begin to think about adapting policies directly related to domestic violence until someone has been killed.

Because domestic violence is characteristically isolating, many employers are largely unaware of the far-reaching impacts for victims. Of the roughly 1.3 million American women who experience some level of trauma with domestic violence each year, more than 32,000 will lose their jobs as a result of the abuse. Policies that provide paid leave for victims allows them the time and space necessary to get the emotional, physical and legal support that they require. I’ve been on both sides of this discussion – as a victim working for a company with no domestic violence policies in place and as a leader, who because of my own experiences, recognized, coached and developed a path to safety for one of my associates who was experiencing abuse at that time. An employee who feels supported in the workplace, without the worry of losing their job because of the harrowing experience of abuse, is much more likely to be a productive employee.

Having survived this trauma as a leader, I'm uniquely positioned to understand the point of view of women in leadership who share this same experience. As leaders, we tend to feel that we have to show up strongly and confidently at all costs. Domestic violence provokes isolation and when you add on the responsibility of leading a company or an organization; it’s not the easiest part of life to openly share with someone. The fact is, we too, are human and not exempt from experiencing trauma. Women win together and I'm grateful for the opportunity to serve others in this capacity. If you are a woman in leadership needing support, please feel free to reach me, in full confidence, at I've journeyed this road already, on my own, so that you don't have to. Whatever it takes, let's get free!

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