Remember that every workplace is different. That means that your or your employer’s response may be different than the response in another workplace.
Here are some things you or your employer can do about domestic violence in the workplace:
- Learn about and become more aware of domestic violence. Share what you learn with your coworkers.
- Get informational materials such as posters, brochures, and lists of community resources.
- Hold a brown bag lunch featuring a speaker from your local domestic violence victim services program to talk about domestic violence.
- Be flexible. Allow the victim to take time off when needed.
Step One: SEE IT! What might you notice if someone is being abused?
- Physical: Unexplained and/or hidden injuries like bruises, black eyes, or broken bones.
- Emotional: Anxiety, depression, tearfulness, jumpiness, anger, worry, restlessness, quietness, confusion, speaking of trouble at home such as arguments.
- Social: Avoiding people, not answering the door or phone, canceling events, getting into arguments.
- Financial: Overdrawn account, foreclosure or eviction, wage garnishment.
- Legal: Divorce, child custody problems, child abuse investigation, frequent court dates.
- Work: Absences, tardiness, sick days, a decrease in work quality, unable to complete tasks, becomes isolated from co-workers.
Step Two: SAY IT! How you can talk about abuse?
Try the following steps when talking about abuse.
- Tell her what you see
- Express concern for her
- Show support
- Tell her the abuse is not her fault
- Ask open-ended questions
- Refer her to a help source
- Assure her that you won't talk to others about what she has told you so you don't put her safety at risk
How to talk to a co-worker you are worried about
Here are some ideas about how to talk to a co-worker you are worried about:
You: I am worried about you. You seemed pretty upset today after that phone call. And last week, I noticed a bruise on your arm.
Co-worker: Oh, it was nothing, really.
You: Are you sure? I'm concerned about you—I thought that maybe someone hurt you.
Co-worker: It was just an argument between my husband and me.
You: No one deserves to be hurt by anybody. If you want to talk about it, I'm here to listen. I also have a phone number to a confidential help line if you want to talk to someone to about what's happening and what you can do about it.
If you are wrong? At worst, she knows you are a caring person.
If you are right? If she tells you she is being abused:
- Just listen. Listening can be one of the best ways to help.
- Keep it confidential. Don't tell other people what she told you. If there is a direct threat of violence at work, tell her you both need to tell the employer.
- Provide information, not advice. Give her the phone number to the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-SAFE) or your local domestic violence program. Be careful about giving advice. She knows the risks she faces and is the best judge of what to do; encourage her to make her own decisions.
- Be there and be patient. Coping with abuse takes time. She may not do what you expect her to do when you expect her to do it. If you think it is your job to fix the problem, you may end up feeling frustrated. Instead focus on building trust, and be patient.
- Tell her it's not her fault. Other women get hurt also, and there are resources to help.
- Develop a safety plan. Whether or not the victim is planning to leave the relationship, there are ways to increase her safety. Victims may be at increased risk of violence when they attempt to leave, and need to make a safety plan. You can help her think through her options using the following information.
Developing a safety plan
Safety plan if she is planning on leaving:
A victim who plans to leave or has left the relationship might take the following steps:
- Vary routes to and from work or to and from childcare so he can't follow her home or to work.
- Get a restraining or stalking order and always carry it. Give a copy to her employer and ask them to enforce it.
- Ask her employer to take steps to keep the abuser away, including moving her to a new work location, enforcing a restraining order, and screening calls.
- Park in a different, but close location.
- Ask any security guards who may be on site to keep an eye out for the abuser and let her know if he shows up.
- Prepare a "Flight Kit" that includes money, documents, important papers, and extra car keys and clothes, and keep it in a safe place.
- Develop a plan for herself and her children for how to get out of a dangerous situation.
- Change her bank account and direct deposit for wages.
- Make copies of children's birth certificates and other important papers.
- Call a shelter for assistance in locating resources, getting support and keeping safe.
Safety plan if she is not planning on leaving
A victim who is not planning to leave the relationship might take the following steps:
- Pay attention to signs that an assault will occur and leave if possible. If she can't leave, move to a room with an outside exit, and avoid bathrooms, kitchens, or other rooms where there are hard surfaces or where weapons are kept.
- Call 911 if possible.
- Ask neighbors to call the police if they hear cries for help, yelling, or loud noises.
- Change locks if the abuser moves out.
- Make sure the children know what to do to stay safe if violence occurs. For example, they can go to the neighbors, call 911, or hide.
- Learn what resources are available if she needs to leave in a hurry (call shelters and crisis lines, talk to friends).
If a co-worker tells you that he has been violent at home, you should be very clear that it is not okay to abuse his partner. Here are some things you can say to the abuser:
- "No matter what the situation is, there are always ways to handle things without being violent. If talking doesn't work, you can always leave for a while."
- "I know you believe she started it, but you chose to act the way you did. No one can make you be violent or abusive. It is a choice you made."
- Never approve of the abuser's behavior or laugh with that person, if they try to make a joke about hurting someone.
- Refer your co-worker to resources at work or in the community. Give him information on a Batterer's Intervention Program in your community. Click here for resource info on Batterer's Intervention Programs in your community.
- If you see a co-worker using company phones, faxes or email to stalk or threaten someone, report it to an employer or the police.
If you see someone harassing or abusing someone on the workplace premises, report it right away to your employer, security or the police