Since 1991, Liz Claiborne, Inc. has been a corporate pioneer in addressing the issue of domestic violence. Their awareness and education programs include ï¿½Love Is Not Abuseï¿½ and ï¿½Safe at Home,ï¿½ and their television, radio and print PSAs (Public Service Announcements) are a consistent message of help and hope for battered women and their families.
Papierdoll recently talked with Jane Randel, Vice President of Communications for Liz Claiborne, Inc. about domestic violence, corporate and community awareness, and plans for future domestic violence programs.
Papierdoll: A recent survey of Americaï¿½s Fortune 100 companies on the issue of corporate participation in domestic violence programs found that only 12% of executives believe that businesses should become involved in such programs. Why do you think there is such reluctance for other companies to follow the Claiborne example? Is there a social or political stigma? Do think this reasoning is influenced by the fact that a majority of CEOs and decision makers are men?
Jane Randel: Just as it took time for companies to realize the need for providing employees with work/life balance and assistance with drug and alcohol problems, I believe businesses will come to see domestic violence as a workplace concern. However, this will be slow in catching on until we as a society remove the social stigmas that surround domestic violence and keep it behind closed doors. Right now, people see it as a ï¿½privateï¿½ matter, which contributes greatly to a victimï¿½s feeling of shame. Moreover, the general public does not know enough about this issue and its dynamics, so we tend to misplace the blame asking the victims why they do not leave, rather than taking the batterers to task for abusing in the first place.
I do not think the delay in acceptance of this issue is directly linked to the fact that many CEOs and decision-makers are men. Rather, I think it is an issue that many people ï¿½ men and women ï¿½ find uncomfortable to think about and thus it is easier to ignore than to address. That is why we do what we do and work with organizations like the Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence ï¿½ to help businesses realize that it is not in the best interests of their employees or their business to ignore it. No one expects a business to have all the answers ï¿½ just to know how to point employees who may need help in the right direction.
PD: Your company has created special edition bangles, tee shirts, gloves and other items to promote awareness of the Love is Not Abuse program. Are there any items planned for 2005?
JR: The fundraising items we create serve two main purposes: to help raise awareness and to help raise money, and the former takes precedence over the latter. T-shirts are currently available on www.lizclaiborne.com. Additionally, during the month of October we will donate $1 for every purchase made on the website to the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
PD: Do you think your efforts were successful when company representatives spoke before Congress in 2004 to address domestic violence?
JR: We are, of course, honored to have our work recognized at the Congressional level, but I would like to believe that anything we do to address this issue ï¿½ whether it is before Congress or with our own employees ï¿½ helps in the overall effort to end the epidemic of domestic violence in our country.
PD: Why does the issue of domestic violence seem to take a backseat to other health and safety issues?
JR: I think the impression that domestic violence is a private issue causes it to fall off many peopleï¿½s radar screens. Moreover, there are no easy fixes ï¿½ relationships in general are messy and solutions to unhealthy ones not so straightforward. These things together make it easy to overlook such a complicated issue.
PD: What was the catalyst for the companyï¿½s commitment to domestic violence awareness and prevention?
JR: Since 1991, Liz Claiborne Inc. has been working to end violence against women because we believe we have a responsibility to give back to the people who made us successful ï¿½ primarily women and their families. When evaluating what issue we could make the most impact on, we came across the rather alarming statistics on domestic violence and learned how underserved that community was. Moreover, consumer research told us that domestic violence was an issue of importance to women in general, and especially to our consumers. Frankly, even by todayï¿½s standards this would be considered a ï¿½braveï¿½ thing to do, as domestic violence is an issue that makes many people uncomfortable and is certainly not a ï¿½prettyï¿½ issue for a fashion company to take on.
PD: Do you know anyone personally who has been a victim of domestic violence, and did she find help through programs such as Love is Not Abuse?
JR: Unfortunately, we all know people who have been victims of relationship violence, be it physical, psychological or sexual. We just do not always recognize the signs. Those who came to me personally, I was able to direct to organizations that could offer help. Since we updated our internal domestic violence policy and protocol in 2002, we have helped more than 60 of our associates through these difficult times.
PD: What influence do you think the entertainment industry has on domestic violence, particularly songs, videos and other images that focus on beating or abusing women? Does this merely reflect the violence in our society, or contribute to it?
JR: I am not an expert on domestic violence, but in my view images like the ones described simply demonstrate the tolerance we have as a society for these types of acts. This is why we feel so strongly about educating teens about relationship violence and why we launched a pilot curriculum to do so. By reaching out to young people as they start to form the patterns for relationships going forward, we are hoping to start preventing unhealthy relationships in future generations.
PD: There has been legislation passed regarding domestic violence, but why do you think there is not more of a national agenda, across political party lines, to truly address the issue in a more significant way?
JR: The fact that our government addresses this issue at all is great. But again, I think that social stigmas play a role here, too. And while no one could argue that more needs to be done to help those who are victims of relationship violence, the best way to go about it and whose responsibility it should be (federal, state, local, etc.) remains at issue. That is why we feel the private sector should step in and work with the domestic violence agencies to address this issue appropriately in the workplace through awareness, education and prevention programs.
PD: Finally, do you plan to incorporate a global program on domestic violence to help women in developing nations gain more support in governments that may not even recognize the problem?
JR: So far we have only rolled out our internal program domestically, but we have worked through the Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence to send speakers overseas to help other countries with their business-oriented initiatives. In fact, representatives from Liz Claiborne have addressed audiences from London and Australia to Israel and soon Turkey. Additionally, we have funded initiatives on domestic violence and trafficking of women with organizations like Vital Voices through the Liz Claiborne Foundation and through Mexx, a European brand in our portfolio.
If you need help regarding domestic violence in your home, or know someone who does, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). For medical emergencies call 9-1-1.
For more in
formation on Liz Claiborneï¿½s ï¿½Love Is Not Abuseï¿½ program, visit www.loveisnotabuse.com. Youï¿½ll find free downloads on such topics as how to talk to your teenagers about dating violence, domestic violence awareness, and other related issues, and how you can get involved.