I’m writing this article because I am concerned with the ways in which any employer treats survivors of violence; especially domestic violence, and hate crimes. While the goal in life is not to experience this egregious harm, most can imagine the weight of traumatic social and political repression that does not gives some people the predictability of safety inside or outside of their home. This is not the victim’s fault, and it is a part of our larger social responsibility to take care of one another when society fails us.

Even in the circumstances outside of my control, I have experienced undue hardship from my employers and those who consider themselves my colleagues. I feel that they have failed me as I work to heal from multiple hate crimes. I am being consistently re-traumatized and asked to re-live the experience through consistent questioning of my character and my contributions to the field.

During August 2018 and June 2019, I was attacked by white supremacists in Portland, OR. Both times I submitted police reports. Both times I consulted with the hate crimes division. The second time I was able to run and not be harmed physically. The last time I was hospitalized. Both times, I was immeasurably changed.

I have since relocated and have engaged in multiple avenues for healing. In this process, how my employers have treated me has been an eye-opener. I have multiple employers and am not naming them. I have the privilege to do so. Others do not.

My reality has invited me think that if I am experiencing these hardships and discord after this experience, what about people with less privilege of resources than I? How are they managing? What resources are available? We all have to work, so I started my search from there. I was shocked to find that there are little to no protections for survivors of violence in the workplace. This is a raging public health issue and immeasurably impactful on the lives of marginalized groups.

I have worked for over 13 years as an interdisciplinary scholar and educator within and outside institutions of higher education. My goal was never to hold a seat at the “table” in higher ed, but to be an asset. I believe I have been. I wanted to help close the gap for my students who know marginalization as the norm. I wanted to provide an example of what radical education can look like within the walls of oppressive institutions.

The Harvard Business Review published a revealing article on the experience of black employees in the U.S. It was quite scathing. The authors write that

“instead of undervaluing and squandering black talent, they must recognize the resilience, robust sense of self and growth mindset.”

I have found this to be true in my experience. Until now, I didn’t feel like a diversity hire. In writing this, I’m looking for hope and understanding. I’m also hoping that someone else reads this and they learn how to advocate for themselves and with others.

As a first generation college student I know to well how people fall through the cracks of a lack of discretion in how policies and practices that don’t align the espoused values of a community or our country.

With these lived experiences I did not have any illusions of what being a faculty member of color would be like inside the “ivory tower.” However, whatever dreams I had of finding a safe place at work came to an abrupt end when white supremacists victimized me, and later, I was punished and harassed by colleagues because of it.

Institutionally and personally, my university has failed our students and me. The Harvard Business Review article author writes,

“executives will need to think deeply about their ethics and corporate culture and exert extra effort for a cause they may not consider central to their business.”

Below are my primary recommendations for employers concerning the needs of survivors of violence (primarily domestic violence, and hate crimes):

  1. Refrain from utilizing old practices of required documentation to support survivors of violence. Not all incidents are reported to the police. This does not invalidate the reality and impact of the harm caused.
  2. Maintain a safe environment for all employees regardless of their rank or position. Allow for space for employees to heal and take time off that does not go against their sick leave. Surviving violence is not the equivalent to the common cold.
  3. Infuse a trauma-informed approach to prevent isolating employees after these experiences.
  4. Utilize a broader scope of being in a protected class, and a non-discrimination policy. This would include experiences that individual has because of their group membership(s). This would bring an intersectional approach to implementing organizational non-discrimination policies and accommodations.
  5. In partnership with the survivor, appropriately inform co-workers and leadership within your organization to promote a safer work environment for survivors to limit re-traumatization.
  6. Limit or eliminate the rumor mill. Have equity based consequences for participating in such acts among co-workers.
  7. Refrain from putting the responsibility on the survivor to defend themselves institutionally through HR and/or the union. Utilize community based groups to be advocates with the survivor, if they choose. Do not penalize them for not knowing what they need immediately after or within months or years from the violent incident(s).
  8. If there are children or adults who are dependents of other survivor, institutionally increase the contributions the employer makes to childcare, health care and other benefits for 6 month to a year to promote well being for the whole family.

I suggest that employers have protections for survivors of violence that include clauses on hate crimes, domestic violence, emotional abuse, financial abuse, etc. I think that paid time off, support in relocation, re-defining a person’s job description to meet their needs should also apply. As I continue to develop these ideas I will share them. Thank you for reading.

To ask me any questions about this, email me at drcryscrain@gmail.com.

In solidarity, action, and concern,

Crystallee Crain, Ph.D.

Regarding my free speech protections: https://www.cupahr.org/hew/files/Faculty-Staff-Free-Speech.pdf

Academic. Activist. Writer. Explorer. Scholar. Lover. Friend. Free. Funky. Persistent. Kind. Clear. Unapologetic. @crystalleecrain www.crystalleecrain.org