WASHINGTON – The third-degree burns melted her chin and took parts of her ears as Yvette Cade attempted to put out the flames that nearly engulfed her the day her ex-husband stormed into her workplace, crushed her toes and lit her on fire.
“I felt my skin dripping,” the Suitland woman told senators Tuesday in support of legislation to address domestic violence in the workplace. “I was just like a great wall of fire.”
“What happened to me is extreme . . . but by no means isolated,” Cade testified of the highly publicized attack in October 2005 at her office in Clinton. Since then she’s undergone at least 18 surgeries and 92 days of initial hospital recovery, according to information submitted to the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety.
Only about 4 percent of employers provide training on domestic violence, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The legislation sponsored by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., seeks to protect domestic violence victims by enforcing regulations, including allowing leave time without penalty, unemployment compensation for victims of abuse and barring employers from making hiring decisions based on a victim’s domestic violence history.
For many victims, the choice between losing a job and putting oneself in danger is a difficult one, because not enough laws exist to protect and support domestic violence victims who must maintain their financial stability, said Cade who faced that choice.
“I think if Ms. Cade had been working in the District of Columbia when she was attacked, she would have been eligible for employee insurance compensation,” said Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.
“Right next door (D.C.), they have it in place,” said Cade in a later interview, explaining that her job did not offer compensation for the time she took off to go to court. “I was in the next county over from D.C. and I would have had that protection.”
Cade worked for a T-Mobile retailer in Clinton at the time of the attack, and testified that if she could have requested the day off work without consequence, she would have. That could have avoided her ex-husband’s 2:30 a.m. threat that day to “fry me like Crisco grease.”
However, employers who protect their employees risking becoming targets of the abusers, said Sue Willman, a Missouri employment attorney and domestic violence survivor.
“When they view anyone as assisting the victim, they view it as conspiracy,” Willman told the subcommittee, even when employers do something as simple as offer time off or screen calls for the victim.
Cade agreed that employers can and should do much more to help abuse victims.
“I was fortunate enough to survive,” said Cade, whose scars are still fresh from the burns of that day, “but not all others are.”