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Standing Firm campaign aims to shed light in Sewickley

| Wednesday, April 23, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Kristina Serafini | Sewickley Herald
Standing Firm Associate Director of Outreach Susan Nitzberg of Sewickley Hills stands amongst 'silent witness' silhouettes inside the Standing Firm office building in Squirrel Hill on Thursday, April 17, 2014. The silhouettes, each representing a victim of domestic violence, will be placed at various locations in Sewickley during the weekend of May 2 and 3.

“Partner violence happens at home, but it walks through your doors at work.”

That's the message Standing Firm Associate Director of Otreach Susan Nitzberg said she hopes residents, business owners and visitors to Sewickley get May 2 and 3 as part of an outreach to make people more aware of partner violence.

Standing Firm — a Pittsburgh-based organization that assists and informs employers to the financial, safety and human costs of domestic violence and its effects in the workplace — will place red painted silhouettes of a woman's outline in Sewickley during the Child Health Association's House Tour.

“People come to see great homes and that is wonderful,” said Nitzberg of Sewickley Hills. “We thought there's more to Sewickley than that. We wanted to show that this village has a heart and soul, and cares about what we can do to help our neighbors and employees.”

More than a dozen silhouettes — each representing a victim of partner abuse in Allegheny County — will be displayed at the Sewickley Public Library, Laughlin Children's Center and on Sewickley Borough property.

“It will be very impactful for people to see a representation of a woman,” Nitzberg said. The displays are not affiliated with the House Tour.

Nitzberg said she hopes the displays strike a chord with visitors who then could encourage their workplaces to educate employees about partner violence.

“The average person hopefully will see it and will read those words — ‘Partner violence happens at home, but it walks through your doors at work' — and think about that,” she said.

Standing Firm offers resources educating employers on how partner violence can affect the workplace. The group offers human resources information, security education and referral information.

Each silhouette stands about 5 feet, 3 inches tall and offers the Standing Firm website, sponsors and a QR code passers-by can scan on Smartphones.

Joining Standing Firm is free, Nitzberg said. Fees are required for training sessions.

More than 230 businesses across the region have joined, she said, including some in Sewickley.

Spoiled Chics owner Cora DeLoia said Standing Firm “has a very important mission and story to share.”

DeLoia, who serves as Sewickley Valley Chamber of Commerce president, helped offer a seminar earlier this month to Sewickley business owners that featured Standing Firm.

“If you're not sure what steps you can take and you're putting out other fires in your business or you're trying to stay afloat in the economy, if you join, you have access to all of the resources on the website,” Nitzberg said.

More than one in five full-time employees have been victims of partner violence, according to Standing Firm statistics. More than half of those victims said work performance was greatly impacted, according to the data.

The effects partner violence has on a workplace can vary, Nitzberg said.

“It's not if this will happen, but it's when,” she said.

“You have a stellar employee, who comes in every day, she's wonderful and then she starts being distracted, calling off, not showing up because she's being abused to the point where you have to let her go.

“It's very sad in terms of a human approach, but as a business, it's expensive for employers to recruit, hire, train a new employee.”

The organization offers information for heterosexual couples and gay couples, Nitzberg said.

“It's even more difficult for someone in a same-sex relationship to go for help,” she said.

“If they're not out, their partner often threatens to out them. In a heterosexual relationship, there is no outing. But if you're in a same-sex relationship and you're not out, that can be a threat used in an abusive relationship.”

Discussing partner violence in the workplace is difficult, Nitzberg said.

“There's a huge stigma surrounding partner violence,” she said. “People don't want to talk about it. It's the way people treated cancer 50 years ago.”

Bobby Cherry is an associate editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-324-1408 or

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