- Associated Press - Thursday, January 12, 2017

HUNTLEY, Ill. (AP) - A couple arguing in the lobby, evidence of a fight in a room and an employee suffering from chronic absenteeism or tardiness all can be signs that hotel staffs should notice and respond to in helping prevent domestic violence, Cynthia Schumann said.

Schumann, a 30-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department and a Huntley resident, created an online program designed to help train staffs in the hospitality industry on what to do if they see a potentially unsafe situation for guests or employees.

Through the course, called Responding to Domestic Violence in the Hospitality Industry, Schumann said she’s hoping to increase awareness and education about resources employers, employees and guests have when it comes to domestic violence.

It also serves to remind employers to include domestic violence training as part of their anti-violent strategies in the workplace.

“The impetus for us in developing this course was that acts of public violence are increasing nationwide, and for us to be prevention-driven, we need to have education and awareness,” Schumann said. “Including domestic violence in anti-violence strategies is really kind of a no-brainer, but research shows that little to no training in the area of domestic violence is little to nonexistent.”

Nearly 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men in the U.S. have been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Schumann worked with domestic violence cases during her last 18 years with the Chicago police when she served as a community policing sergeant.

She developed the program using knowledge from her experience policing, along with Aileen Robinson, the department’s interim domestic violence operations coordinator.

“I think what everybody takes away (from the course) is that they really did not realize the extent to which they’re at risk,” Robinson said. “And they did not, prior to the training, really feel like they had the tools, whether it was the language or the resources, to talk to somebody,”

While some might think of domestic violence as only occurring in the home, work is a place where an abuser always can find someone, Robinson said.

The course can be geared toward any industry, such as cosmetology, but it focuses on hospitality because hotels are easily accessible to the public, making the threat of violence both internal and external, Schumann said.

Managers, security and human resource personnel are recommended to take the course first, Schumann said, followed by other employees such as doormen and housekeepers.

“All of these employees are eyes and ears and see things that other persons may not be privy to,” Schumann said.

For example, if a doorman did notice a couple arguing in the lobby, he might tell security to keep an eye on the hall that couple is staying in, Schumann said. Or if a housekeeper is cleaning a room and notices broken furniture, he or she may bring that to the attention of a manager.

While domestic violence is a touchy subject, it’s important to notice signs of employees who are suffering, too, Schumann said. If a manager knows how to handle these scenarios, the employee can be introduced to resources such as legal options that they can use to receive help, she said.

“We’re not saying to become counselors and advisers and to intervene in family issues,” Schumann said. “What we are saying is to open your eyes and ears and be diligent about potential problems that could arise to keep your workplace safe, that employee safe and ultimately your entire place of employment because of the fact that these instances of public violence are increasing, and that it’s no longer isolated to the home.”

Jennifer Chase, managing director of events with the Illinois Hotel and Lodging Association, said Schumann and Robinson have been great resources for the association’s hotel members.

“As an industry, we are committed to ensuring hotel employers and operators have these necessary tools and resources to educate employees on guidelines and best practices to help avoid unsafe situations; protect themselves and guests from harassment, assaults or injuries; and respond to and report any kind of inappropriate behavior or misconduct,” Chase said in an email.

So far, about 350 people in the Chicago area have taken the course, Schumann said, and she hopes to spread it to McHenry County businesses now that she has moved to Huntley after she retired.


Source: The (Crystal Lake) Northwest Herald, https://bit.ly/2jAnD4i


Information from: The Northwest Herald, https://www.nwherald.com

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