Domestic violence follows victims to the workplace, study finds

WATCH ABOVE: Abuse is a dark reality for a startling number of Canadians. Shirlee Engel speaks with one survivor who hopes her story will inspire others.

TORONTO – Melissa Corbeil was trapped for years in an ongoing nightmare.

She couldn’t escape until one particularly vicious attack at the hands of her husband.

“He pinned me down on the love seat and straddled me and was choking me in front of my daughters and my youngest started to scream,” Corbeil told Global News.

“And to this day I think if she, if she hadn’t screamed I don’t know if I’d be sitting here.”

A neighbour called police and Corbeil eventually managed to leave the abusive man to whom she’d married for almost six years.

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WATCH: Domestic violence survivor Melissa Corbeil talks about the abuse that led her to leave her first marriage 

The abuse didn’t end at home in London, Ont., Corbeil said: It followed her to work for the Ontario government.

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“They accepted my excuses at first. And then they took it to my boss,” she said.

And after she left, her coworkers helped her make the transition from battered wife to empowered survivor.

Corbeil’s story of abuse is a familiar one for a third of Canadian workers, a study conducted by Western University and the Canadian Labour Congress found.

And half of those abused find that abuse follows them to work.

The study collected data from more than 8,400 Canadian workers over the age of 15 through an online survey.

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WATCH ABOVE: A study has been completed looking at how domestic violence impacts people while at work. Global News speaks with one of the lead authors Barbara MacQuarrie.

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Fifty-four per cent of those reporting domestic violence said the abuse continued into the workplace; 41 per cent reported receiving abusive calls or text messages from their partner while on the job. Eighteen per cent of respondents said the abuser physically came into the work place.

Overall the study found 82 per cent said domestic violence affected their work performance; for nearly 9 per cent it got so bad they lost a job.

“We’re not asking employers to become experts in domestic violence. We are asking employers to reach out and use the community resources that exist and that have been put in place over decades to respond to domestic violence,” said Barbara MacQuarrie, community director at Western University’s Centre for Research & Education on Violence Against Women & Children.

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The Canada-wide study was modelled after a 2011 initiative in Australia that resulted in almost two million workers receiving domestic violence benefits.

READ MORE: Why don’t victims or bystanders report sexual assault?

“We’ll be redoubling our efforts to negotiate supports—like paid leave for domestic violence—in collective agreements, and ensuring union representatives are trained to provide the right kind of support in the workplace,” said Labour Congress president Hassan Yussuff in a statement.

Such high-profile cases as that of disgraced CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi have put a spotlight on violence against women and workplace harassment.

Speaking in the House of Commons Thursday, federal Labour Minister Kellie Leitch said she’ll be meeting with labour leaders next week to address the effects of domestic violence in the workplace.

“This is a combined responsibility, whether it be government, union leadership, employer leadership. We’re all in this together,” Leitch said.

*With files from Global’s Shirlee Engel


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