Addressing Gender-Based Violence in the Workplace

Gender-based violence (GBV) is a prevalent human rights violation that affects both men and women. This April, observe Sexual Assault Awareness Month by taking measures to address GBV in your organization.

Gender-based violence has been described as “an epidemic that requires a systemic response” in the workplace. Here, we provide an overview of gender-based violence (GBV) and its impacts, as well as strategies that organizations can engage to combat GBV in the workplace. 

What is Gender-Based Violence (GBV)?

Sex- or gender-based violence (GBV) is physical, sexual, psychological, or economic violence against a person on the basis of gender or violence that disproportionately affects those of a certain gender. GBV affects people of all ages, races, social classes, and economic standings. It often calls upon uneven power dynamics, such as those between men and women or managers and employees.

In professional environments, the most common forms of GBV are sexual assault and sexual harassment. Employees struggling with domestic violence or intimate partner violence at home may also be the victims of stalking behavior while at work. Although GBV affects all genders, women experience GBV at a far higher rate than men. In fact, research has shown that one in three women experience GBV globally. 

What are the Impacts of GBV?

GBV has far-reaching implications that can affect victims’ personal and professional performance and success. For example, many GBV survivors experience impaired mental and physical health, increased stress and anxiety, trouble sleeping, decreased motivation, and lack of self-esteem.

In the workplace, GBV can impact productivity and job performance, which in turn affects employee satisfaction and organizational success. Surveys have found that 67% of women suffering from GBV have had their perpetrator come to the workplace. In addition, employees who suffer from GBV miss an average of 11 workdays per year

In some cases, GBV occurs in the workplace. In 2020 alone, the U.S. Equal Employment Commission received over 11,000 reports of sex-based harassment. This can lead organizations to face legal proceedings, reputational damage, and financial losses.

How Can Organizations Combat GBV?

There are several ways that organizations can address GBV and its effects in the workplace, notably by developing and implementing effective prevention strategies. Components of these strategies may include:

  • Requiring employees to undergo violence and harassment training.
  • Establishing an intuitive reporting process so that employees can easily notify security if they or someone they know is experiencing GBV. This can help organizations identify potential risks and support employees in need.
  • Developing and sharing comprehensive GBV resources with all employees. This should include supportive workplace policies and procedures as well as relevant information for national hotlines, local resources, and organizational points of contact.
  • Ensuring that organizational culture and workplace norms and practices are not discriminatory

In addition to these preventive measures, organizations should also establish supportive policies for GBV survivors, such as counseling or time off.

Addressing GBV

Sexual Assault Awareness Month is an opportune time to review your organization’s policies for sex- and gender-based violence and to communicate relevant tools and resources with your employees.

One critical component of GBV prevention and response is establishing an effective reporting system with anonymous submission capabilities. Providing employees with a mobile risk management tool such as LiveSafe ensures that organizational security teams are aware of all suspicious or concerning behavior and can identify patterns, implement preventive measures, and quickly address concerns. LiveSafe also has a Resources feature that can be customized with organization-specific policies.

To learn more about the costs and impacts of sexual assault and harassment in the workplace, download our recent white paper, At Your Own Risk: The Costly Mistake of Ignoring Sexual Harassment & Assault In The Workplace.

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