Victim Fired By Church
When Carie Charlesworth’s husband caused a troubling domestic violence incident, the Diocese of San Diego responded by firing her for it. Promising to pray for her in a letter (see below) she was told there was no role for her at her school or any other school in the Diocese.
Carie, a second grade teacher, and a victim of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), had done all the right things – she had called the sheriff’s office three times and notified the principle of her school of her dangerous husband.
She did what so many victims are terrified to do – talk.
Carie’s husband went to jail on two felony charges, but she says she felt like a criminal too because she was not met with support for her situation – she was fired.
Termination or fear of termination is common with Intimate Partner Violence. In a 2011 study by Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center approximately 40 percent of survivors in California reported being fired or feared termination because of domestic violence.
We’re launching a petition so you can express your point of view too by calling on Bishop Robert H. Brom to make a public apology and provide assurance that the church will protect victims of violence, not fire them.
The Executive Board of the National Partnership to End Interpersonal Violence across the Lifespan (NPEIV) is releasing this statement regarding the firing of Carrie Charlesworth from San Diego, CA, a domestic violence victim/survivor.
This event has caused us to wonder and be concerned about the true focus and priorities of society. Keeping our children safe is of prime concern; however the best means of doing so has been overlooked in this case. It is clear that we need to come together to develop a response to such situations, while not re-victimizing the victim. This statement hopes to encourage the use alternative methods of resolving such a dilemma and to emphasize the importance of educating others in order to establish procedures that protect the victim(s).
In light of current safety concerns for our children it comes as no surprise that a school and diocese would take precautions to protect its students. The heart of the issue in this case is the lack of support and termination of Ms. Charlesworth when she informed her supervisors of a security threat, specifically directed at her. Ms. Charlesworth was the focus of a seemingly dangerous individual, and she obtained a restraining order as a result. Would allowing her to remain in the classroom, even with precautions in place, expose children to a risk of violence? If so, how might the situation be handled to promote safety of children while protecting her and not re-victimizing a victim of domestic violence who followed the recommended protocol? Firing the victim for the actions of her ex-husband/offender amounts to re-victimizing the victim and her children, which results in perpetuating the abuser’s actions because the intent of his actions are usually to dominate and control her. How can we reconcile conflicts like this?
In this case it is difficult to determine how well authorities at the diocese understood the effects that their response might have on Ms. Charlesworth, her children, and on others in like circumstances. It is unclear at this point what alternatives may have been considered in this case One would like to see a solution that facilitates the safety of students and faculty as the priority, while avoiding any additional hardship for the victim and her family.
Ms. Charlesworth should be commended for her decision to alert school officials to a situation that created a danger for students and staff alike. Unfortunately, the majority of media coverage has focused on vilifying the diocese for their decision, which is intended to continue protecting those same individuals, instead of addressing gaps in protecting victims in the workplace from security threats and personal injury. Advocates for domestic violence victims and those who are concerned with school safety should come together to create a proactive solution. This goal can be accomplished through education and professional experiences. We can work toward safe and dignified solutions that hold offenders accountable and secure the safety of the victims.
We need to protect everyone in the school by mobilizing awareness and safety protocols that protect those at risk, such as Ms. Charlesworth and her children. Taking away her ability to teach in any school in the region after being a teacher for over 12 years, and consequently not allowing her children to remain in their schools, is not an acceptable solution and only exacerbates their feelings of insecurity and instability that are directly correlated to their abuser’s actions . Among the first steps to address this issue is to establish a protocol proactively with law enforcement and other school employees if her ex-husband violates the restraining order. By taking these small actions, we actively remove the offender’s attempts of controlling the situation and intimidating his ex-wife and children. Lastly, by ensuring that the offender is required to enter treatment and remain there is another key step. We are confident that if all parties collaborated on this issue, there would be other effective solutions that could be developed and implemented. In any case, firing a victim is not one of the acceptable solutions.