CLEVELAND — Cleveland Councilwoman Jasmin Santana shared her childhood experience as a witness to domestic violence and explained why it's a crucial component in her effort to establish paid "safe leave" for city employees.
Santana told News 5 watching her mother cope with domestic violence and abuse issued by her father in their Cleveland household is one reason why she's hoping her "safe leave" legislation will be approved during a city council vote on Monday, Dec. 5.
The legislation, also sponsored by council members Charles Slife, Stephanie Howse and the Workforce, Education, Training and Youth Committee, would provide 60 hours of paid time off for non-union full-time city workers, and 30 hours of paid time off for part-time city employees who are dealing with domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.
“We know that there’s been an increase in domestic violence," Santana said. “For me this legislation is personal because I’ve experienced this, I witnessed this with my mom going through it. I was about nine years old when my mom was experience domestic violence. She worked at a factory, she wasn’t able to take time off.”
If passed, this would be the first type of legislation to be enacted in local government.
“It’s first of its kind among local Ohio government," Santana added. “It would allow city employees to go to court, hospitals, develop a safety plan, and most importantly to make sure that their kids are okay in school.”
Melissa Graves, the Chief Executive Officer with Northeast Ohio's Journey Center for Safety and Healing, pointed to state and federal statistics showing 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men are now experiencing severe physical violence by an intimate partner during their lifetime. More than 44% of working U.S. adults say they have experienced the effects of domestic violence in the workplace, and that up to 60% of victims of domestic violence lost their jobs due to reasons stemming from the abuse.
Graves believes paid safe leave for Cleveland city workers will allow them to better deal with the health, safety and legal issues domestic violence survivors face.
“They may be having to file a police report or go to court, or if there’s custody issues, or if they have to file a protection order, or if they have to relocate and find new housing," Graves said. “They may have to be changing bank accounts, they might have to be redoing all of their social media and phone accounts because of cyberstalking.”
Graves is hoping Cleveland will establish safe leave for it's non-union employees, and later extend the benefit to Cleveland union workers through contract renewals, setting an example for other Ohio cities and Northeast companies.
"Public and private employers, I really hope that they take a look at this and do something similar within their corporations, Graves said. “Paid safe leave can absolutely be the difference between being able to get to a safe place or not.”