If you aren't rich, you probably won't be burglarized.
A rapist is usually a stranger.
Domestic violence should be left up to the couple involved to work things out.
Most women are incapable of defending themselves.
All of these statements are commonly accepted myths, the kind of misinformation a new program designed by E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. Inc. attempts to correct to reduce the risk of sexual attack and personal injuries among its employes.
Considered a prototype educational program that addresses head-on a subject most companies shy away from, Du Pont's half-million-dollar Rape/Personal Safety Workshop was presented in Washington last month to women's advocacy groups only days after a Supreme Court decision confirmed that corporations could be held liable in sexual harassment cases. The timing, says Joseph Ignar, Du Pont's director of personnel relations and development, was coincidental but not unrelated.
"The development of the personal safety program is an acknowledgment of the increasingly greater number of women in nontraditional jobs in the company," Ignar says. "It becomes a natural and logical extension of our concern for the welfare of employes both on and off the job."
The huge chemical manufacturer based in Wilmington, Del., which already has an enviable corporate safety record, undertook the development of the program two years ago when, according to Ignar, it decided rape had become "too great a problem in our society" to ignore.
Experience had taught Du Pont that employes and their families needed assistance in "thinking through the rape issue." But, just as important, corporate guidelines were proving inadequate in preparing Du Pont management to give emotional support to personal injury victims. One Du Pont manager, who previously had tried to comfort an employe who had been attacked, was quoted in the program's training tape: " . . . nothing in policies, procedures or in my managerial experiences ever prepared me to deal with the deep emotional trauma . . .How to feel? What to say? What to do?"
Those are questions the program attempts to answer, not only for managers but for victims, employes and their families as well. Covering personal safety strategies, rape prevention, caring and support, and community resources, the workshop's underlying message is that "there are options that can keep us from being victims" -- and the primary one is education.
"We deal with child abuse, elderly abuse, traveling safety, physical assaults, robbery and a whole safety gamut, along with rape preventions," says Mary Lou Arey, manager of development at Du Pont, who helped design the program, its "No, Not Me!" personal safety handbook and a safety awareness inventory -- 35 statements and questions that, at the start of the program, rate individuals' attitudes and precautions they have taken.
*"We offer some safety strategies -- get our people to start planning ahead, what they would do if something were to happen -- and then we get them to personalize these strategies within themselves . . . send out assertive signals and build confidence."
When registering at hotels, for instance, Arey says she no longer accepts "that last room down the long dark hallway by the staircase," and instead demands a room next to the elevator. She is no longer embarrassed to back off an elevator when "getting a funny feeling about someone on it." And she tells of one of the program's graduates who recently was assaulted while traveling in New York: "Using a lot of our strategies and options, she fought the assailant off. As a matter of fact, she was so upset, she chased the assailant. Her comment to us was 'I don't know what I would've done if I had caught him.' "
Meanwhile, Du Pont has revised its corporate guidelines to meet employe and manager needs. Included in the changes: up to six months leave without pay for rape victims; legal advice; transfer to other Du Pont divisions if desired; and public affairs assistance if there is media involvement. "Most important is we encourage our women to go to anyone in our organization to talk about the rape," says Arey. "We feel that they need to go to someone who is sympathetic and that they feel free to talk to."
If initial reaction is an indication of the program's potential as a corporate model, local advocacy groups that have seen it applaud its comprehensiveness. "There was an awkward silence at the end of the presentation," says Char Mollison, executive director of Women's Equity Action League (WEAL), a Washington-based advocacy group that previewed the workshop with representatives of the D.C. Rape Crisis Center. "We thought we'd have to come up with some suggestions . . . but we were impressed with the program." Barely Managing?
For those seeking to strengthen professional and managerial skills, the University of Maryland's Center for Management Development offers a schedule of one-, two- and three-day seminars, from August through January. Topics range from "Mobilizing Your Energies for High Performance" to "Improving Leadership Skills" to "Dealing With the Difficult Employe." Costs start at $235. For the "Guide to Public Seminars" and registration information, call (301) 454-5577.