A few years ago, Ludy Green placed a victim of domestic violence in the Washington office of an esteemed international organization, with a salary of $45,000, plus benefits.
“She was doing great there—for a year and a half,” said Green, president of Second Chance Employment Services and one of the architects of the Violence Against Women Act, which Congress just reauthorized. “But then her boss somehow found out about her history. He started finding things to complain about, to the point that it drove her insane. Basically, he was kicking her out of the job.”
The woman was eventually transferred to another division, but the incident illustrates the extent to which domestic violence taints not just the perpetrator but the victim. The stigmatization of domestic-violence victims is one reason Green deals only with human-resources professionals—and insists that they sign nondisclosure agreements—when seeking employment for the women in her care.
“People like to judge,” she said. “They start to find behaviors that don’t even exist.”
Green’s own career began as a volunteer at My Sister’s Place, a shelter for domestic-violence victims, when she was an intern for then-Rep. Michael Bilirakis, R-Fla. Green was eating a turkey sandwich in the Rayburn House Office Building when she saw an ad for volunteers. “I just thought I’d help out with the children.... I was very young then.”
As a graduate student in human-resources management at George Washington University, Green would ask victims of domestic violence why they continually subjected themselves to abuse.
“It’s something that I noticed in the shelter,” she said. “Many women were going back to the abuser…. I started asking them questions. Their responses were always: ‘I don’t have the money. I depend on my husband. He pays all the bills, so what can I do with my children?’ ”
Green’s elegant solution to this “vicious cycle” was to create a job-placement firm specifically for domestic-violence victims. Second Chance Employment Services, which she founded in 2001, focuses on “vulnerable high-risk women, who often are the sole support for their dependents and who have limited job skills or extraordinary barriers to seeking employment,” according to its website. “SCES provides highly individualized training and counseling services, such as one-on-one training, bilingual and translation assistance, interview coaches to accompany applicants to interviews, and pre-placement and post-placement follow-up services for employers and employees.”
Green said the organization has placed 875 victims of domestic abuse in firms such as Booz Allen Hamilton, PNC, and IBM. Women in the program enjoy an extraordinary degree of flexibility during the first six months of employment, which allows them to go to court, seek counseling, or tend to sick children.
Beyond the work of SCES, Green helped convince lawmakers that domestic violence, which costs taxpayers tens of billions of dollars annually, was a matter of public concern. In conjunction with the office of Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Green helped draft language for the 1994 Violence Against Women Act. The trick was to improve the lot of domestic-violence victims without interfering with the services already in place.
“We had to figure out where this language can go without disturbing the whole issue,” she said. “Think about it: The funding goes to shelters and legal services, so why do a new service? My whole idea was, if [domestic-violence victims] are coming from transitional housing, where are they going? Unless they get meaningful careers on a long-term basis, they’ll go back to the abuser.”
Green holds a bachelor’s degree in international finance, a master’s degree in human-resources management, and a doctorate in industrial organization psychology from George Washington University, and she is fluent in Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, and German.
Earlier in her career, Green was vice president of human resources for the National Center on Education and the director of human resources with the Center for Development and Population Activities. She has also worked as associate director of human resources for SmithBucklin.
Asked where she grew up, Green said South America but declined to be more specific, saying only that she had witnessed domestic violence firsthand. “I came here, to my mother’s country, to change the life of women.”
This article appears in the March 12, 2013, edition of National Journal Daily as The Force Behind the Violence Against Women Act.