Dine Out for DAIS helps make domestic violence everyone’s business

If there are two takeaway messages that staff members and supporters of Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (DAIS) would like to impart to every resident of Dane County, they are these: Domestic violence affects us all, and all of us can do something about it.

And while many members of Greater Madison's business community probably think they are only tangentially connected to the problem of domestic violence, they might be shocked to learn just how profoundly it affects the business world.

In addition to the crushing human toll domestic violence takes – on women, children and, in a surprising number of cases, men – there is a real and abiding economic toll.

"Certainly from a business perspective, domestic violence affects their bottom line," said Emily Barnes, director of development and communications for DAIS. "Victims miss 8 million paid days of work each year. That's affecting businesses' productivity at the end of the day. But also from an HR perspective, the fact that domestic violence really spills into all of the other places of the victim's life, not just at home. So she may take that to work with her, and maybe she will be stalked at work by her partner. It doesn't leave when she leaves to go to work during the day."

The number of workdays missed due to domestic violence is not the only concern. According to DAIS:

  • Lost productivity due to domestic violence is estimated at $727.8 million per year.
  • One out of five workdays missed by women is related to domestic violence.
  • More than 75% of offenders use workplace resources to harass, stalk, or threaten victims.
  • Twenty percent of threats to victims and 72% of stalking incidents occur at work, potentially placing other employees at risk.
  • One of the leading causes of workplace death for women is homicide perpetrated by partners.

It's that last bullet point that's perhaps the most chilling. According to one study, nearly 33% of women murdered in workplaces between 2003 and 2009 were killed by someone they knew, and 78% of the offenders were intimate partners.

But while many of these statistics are to say the least eye-opening, residents of Greater Madison, which frequently earns national laurels for its quality of life, can hardly afford to be complacent when it comes to domestic violence.

It's a problem here, too, as evidenced by the fact that one in three arrests in the county is related to domestic violence.

"One of the things we really wanted to do this year was reach out to the business community, because of the issue of domestic violence and the workplace, because I think there are a lot of people who realize that domestic violence is a problem but think it's a problem for other people," said Sue Mohoney, a member of the board of trustees for DAIS. "They don't realize that it could be happening right in their own backyard or right in their own workplace, or if you're a business owner, it could be within your workplace. Clearly, with the figures that one in four women in Dane County will be affected by domestic violence in her lifetime, the statistics are there that it's happening."

Food for thought

It was startling statistics like these that spurred Robert von Rutenberg, the co-owner of Mariner's Inn, Nau-Ti-Gal, and Captain Bill's restaurants, to help out. As the former president of Madison Originals, a local association of independently owned restaurants, von Rutenberg was instrumental in promoting Dine Out for DAIS, a fundraising initiative for the domestic abuse advocacy group.

The event, which takes place on Oct. 16 as part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, is in its third year, and the concept is as simple as it gets. If you dine out at one of the participating restaurants, 10% of your tab will go to help fund DAIS.

In its inaugural year, the event featured six restaurants. Last year, it grew modestly to around 11. This year, more than 30 restaurants are participating.

Much of that growth can be attributed to von Rutenberg's advocacy and his ties to Madison Originals, and he would love to see participation continue to grow exponentially.

"Absolutely – I don't care if you're locally owned or a chain or whatever," said von Rutenberg. "Anything we can do to help this organization. I would love to have 100 restaurants."

According to von Rutenberg, Dine Out for DAIS is a nice, palatable alternative to the typical fundraiser, offering "no bad rubber chicken, no long speeches, and [the option to] choose to go with as many people as you like."

"Unlike so many charities where you have to bring a check or go to a black-tie function, here you just enjoy a nice dinner with friends, and then a percentage of your evening goes straight to DAIS," said von Rutenberg. "You don't have to do anything else."

The money raised through Dine Out for DAIS goes to the organization's general operating fund, which helps cover the cost of its crisis line, support groups, legal advocacy, crisis response, and children's programming.

In addition, the organization runs the only domestic violence shelter in Dane County. Currently, DAIS is in the middle of a capital campaign to build a new shelter. At one bed per 15,000 residents, its current 25-bed facility is the smallest shelter per capita in the state, and the organization hopes to build a 56-bed shelter that would better serve the needs of the community. The shelter would also have additional program space and community education space.

As for the future of Dine Out for DAIS, Barnes is optimistic that there's virtually no limit to the compassion the local restaurant industry is able and willing to show.

"We really would love to expand, and one of the areas that we would hope to expand even further in the coming years is all throughout Dane County," said Barnes. "We have a really good base in Madison, but we're thinking, 'What are the other places in Dane County where restaurants can participate?' because we do serve all of the county."

Dine Out for DAIS participating restaurants:

Avanti Italian Restaurant Benvenuto's Italian Restaurant (Madison and Fitchburg) Bistro 91
Blue Marlin Bonfyre American Grille Brassierie V
Bunky's Cafe Captain Bill's Come Back In
Dahmen's Pizza Place Essen Haus Francesca's Al Lago
Graze Hawk's Bar & Grill Imperial Garden West
Joey's Seafood and Grill Liliana's Restaurant Lombardino's Restaurant
Mariner's Inn Monk's Bar & Grill Nitty Gritty (Madison and Middleton)
Old Chicago Plaka Taverna Prairie Cafe & Bakery
The Roman Candle (East Madison, Fitchburg, and Middleton) The Draft House Bar & Restaurant
The Great Dane (Downtown, Hilldale, East [Grandview Commons], and Fitchburg)
The Grumpy Troll Brew Pub & Restaurant The Klassik Tavern The Tipsy Cow
Wonder Bar Steakhouse