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Advocates offer employers help

KIMBERLY NICOLETTI

FRISCO – Six years ago, Silverthorne resident Rachel Conner fell in love for the first time. A month later, the man fractured her wrist. A week after that, he pushed her through a sliding glass door and she ended up with 20 stitches in her head.”He called the police that time, and me being naive and stupid, I was like, ‘Why’d you call the police?’ and I went and hid at my neighbor’s house with my 1-month-old boy because I thought he would get arrested.”And he did. The police charged her with harassment, him with assault. Still, Conner stayed with him.”It was like a high-school love,” she said. “I was 26 years old, and he was my first real love that I felt. We were friends before he moved in, but one to two weeks after he moved in, it was like walking on pins and needles.”Conner’s employer fired her from her job as a waitress at a Mexican restaurant in Denver after her boyfriend strangled her.”I told (my boss) the truth about what happened, but he said he couldn’t help me,” she said. “He fired me for being late.”After Conner got pregnant and moved into a house, she said her “nightmare year” started.”I was beaten to where I didn’t feel pain anymore,” she said. “It was daily. I didn’t leave the house. You just get to where that’s the way you live, even though you hate it. I couldn’t support myself, and I didn’t know where to go.”Her boyfriend ended up in jail for eight months for violating probation for assaulting her, and when he got out, she became pregnant again. In her eight month, he strangled her, and she told him she was calling the police.”I stuck with my word this time because I was pregnant, and I watched my other two kids scream while he beat me,” she said. “I was not going to go through what I had been through for that year of getting beat daily.”After on-and-off relations with her boyfriend, Conner feels she’s finally taking charge of her life. She hasn’t talked to her abuser since November, and she’s working with Advocates for Victims of Assault by attending groups, building her self esteem and not using alcohol or drugs.”You just have to come to a place in your life when you’re done – when you can’t take it anymore,” she said. “I want my daughter to know it’s not all right to be treated badly.”It’s not just herConner is not the only woman with stories of domestic abuse.About 10 percent of the working population suffers from domestic violence. Businesses lose $100 million annually from turnover, absenteeism, lower productivity and excessive use of medical benefits due to domestic violence, according to the Colorado Bar Association, which presented a workshop to about 25 people addressing the impact of domestic violence in the workplace and training employers how to deal with it Wednesday.Sarah Vaine, assistant director of Advocates for Victims of Assault, recently trained with the bar association so she can teach local employers how to deal with suspected domestic violence.The advocates regularly education students, church groups, individuals and organizations about healthy relationships, sexual assault and trauma, but their emphasis on working with employers is new.”We get a tremendous amount of calls from victims of domestic violence and 90 percent of them are employed,” Vaine said. “It does affect their work. A lot of harassment and intimidation occurs when the victim is at work. I can train employers to support their employees, recognize signs and help them when they don’t know what to say.”Thursday, she will present a workshop on the impact of domestic violence on the workplace at Copper Mountain Resort. She is available free of charge to train any employers – whether it is a small or large company.For more information, call (970) 668-3906, or visit http://www.makeityourbusiness.orgKimberly Nicoletti can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 245, or at knicoletti@summitdaily.com.


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