There is a quote by Jonny Ox that reads, “She’s battling things her smile will never tell you about.”

Let’s call her Jenny, a professional and highly efficient employee. She is friendly, a team player and a person you can count on. She is always polite in her reply that she is doing well. Her colleagues call her Super Woman because she can get the impossible done.

As the mother of two beautiful children and coupled with her recent ten-year wedding anniversary, some would say she has stability in her life. Yes, Jenny is a true pillar in her community and contributes to various community projects.

Then one afternoon out of the blue… an unthankful Client utters an abusive comment and Jenny snaps. Jenny, the Super Woman that everyone looks up to, the model person with stability, Jenny the pillar… breaks. The effects of her mental breakdown are damming to her career, a career that is left in shatters when she is later dismissed for gross misconduct after slapping a Client with her open hand.

Afterwards, Jenny would share that if anyone had truly taken the time to read her smile, they might have picked up on the dark force she continues to battle.

As the victim of gender-based violence, Jenny is left with not only physical scars but also deep-rooted emotional trauma. As Jenny edged closer to the end of each working day, her anxiety would grow, knowing that a night of suffering awaits.

She did not share her turmoil, especially not within the office environment, as employees with emotional trauma are easily labelled by colleagues as weak.

“I think labels on people is just an easy way of marketing something you don’t understand” – Adam Jones.

The fact of the matter is that gender-based violence is so rife in South Africa that statistically, you are in all probability rubbing shoulders with victims of such abuse on a day-to-day basis.

Emotionally intelligent employers understand that employees do not leave their issues at the door when they enter the office to report for duty.

This is why the South African Occupational Health and Safety rules evolved to include employee wellness. Whether this involves health benefits, counselling or coaching, employers are encouraged to introduce wellness programmes for their employees. A good place to start would be a workshop on gender-based violence.

Responsible employers are constantly aware of changes in employee behaviour and have the tools to effectively engage instead of kicking suffering employees to the curb.

It is true that employers do not only employ the victims of abuse but also employ abusers, and therefore a meaningful wellness programme has the potential to make a powerful contribution towards the fight against gender-based violence.

This Woman’s month employers are urged to become actively involved. The question is, do you suspect a Jenny within your organisation? Will you be a passive onlooker or will you take the time to listen, engage, or at the very least, educate your staff on the topic?

Please visit the following link for more information on how to apply for a protection order:

Written by Andries Cornelissen B. Proc, Practical Legal Training, Accredited and Certified Mediator, International Accredited and Certified Mediator London School of Mediation, Certified and Accredited Conflict Coach, Practicing Associate: The Association of Arbitrators, Certified and Accredited AHI Representative.