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Hidden violence at work

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I recently did a series called Danger Pay for the Free Press, focussing on how violence at work impacts different professions.

Figuring how to go at the story took time – reporters know from covering police press conferences and reading court dockets, as well as vetting public tips, about some of the most dangerous occupations when it comes to crime. For example, taxi drivers have always been front and centre of the issue, and led to reams of public debate on how to protect them from violent customers.

So what was the best part of the story, once I got amazing stats from Workers Compensation Board breaking down people who’ve missed work since 2006 based on their profession?

Well, what I didn’t expect... at all.

I was shocked by the "invisible" violence at work we never hear of – especially in fields like health care (people like nurse aides, orderlies and patient service associates were the number one group of people who missed time at work due to violence, with licensed practical nurses and registered nurses not far behind) and educational assistants.

(By the way, due to the volume of mail I got from readers as far as Norway on the series, I promised I would post the stats online so others could access them here – and share the really great research that Workers Comp pulled together for the Freep).

The statistics and series illustrated that violence at work often may not lead to criminal charges, and thus become buried from traditional crime stories that might normally arise.

I also think that may have a spin-off effect on the public appreciation of people who do dangerous work – if people aren’t willing/able to chat about things that hurt them out of fear of losing their job, how can the public properly appreciate the risks? When I chatted with people about the subject, the floodgates opened with reams of stories, but finding people willing to be named or photographed was considerably trickier.

The good news about the series is that it piqued my interest in the subject (my efforts to find the funeral director who was assaulted on the job, for example, sadly came to naught... and I couldn’t find a family/marriage counsellour who could share the risks of their profession. Know any?).

I’ve since received a lot more tips and insight from sources on the prevalence of violence at work.

Thank you to all those who shared their insight with me, on the record or off the record.

Given the stats included here, you can see the issue touches jobs I never even imagined possible.

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About Gabrielle Giroday

Gabrielle has handled the police and crime beat for the Winnipeg Free Press since 2009, meaning she’s seen the best and worst humanity has to offer.

Covering the crime beat in a city known for its homicide rate and violent crime can be challenging, but Gabrielle tries to look at the more complex factors that drive violent events. She began the beat after originally joining the Free Press in June 2005.

Her previous experience contributing to the Globe and Mail’s Report on Business magazine, the National Post, Maisonneuve magazine and NOW Magazine. She was also a member of the editorial board of the Queen’s University Feminist Review, and completed a degree there in politics and English. Some of the Toronto native’s favourite adventures include hitchhiking in the Cuban countryside during a stint studying in Havana, and hanging off the back of a jeep climbing the Kanchenjunga mountain in Nepal.

Gabrielle also felt privileged to write about the first-time elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the summer of 2006, and received a grant from the Canadian Association of Journalists and Canadian International Development Agency to write about sexual violence there.

She recently went to Cameroon in fall 2010 as part of an expert election monitoring team, on behalf of the Commonwealth.

When she’s not chasing a story, Gabrielle can be found jogging every morning by the Legislature and down Portage Avenue.

She’s always enthusiastic about stories that involve investigating the road less travelled or the opinion less broadcast.

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