Domestic violence doesn’t stay home when its victims go to work: it affects productivity, increases absenteeism and raises the risk of violence in the workplace. With one out of every four American women reporting abuse by a husband, boyfriend or partner at some point in their lives, it is a certainty that in any organization, domestic violence is affecting employees. Workplaces are an ideal place for employees facing abuse to get help – after all, it’s the place many spend at least eight hours a day, away from their abusers. There are things that employers and co-workers can do to make a difference.
Possible signs of domestic violence in co-workers include:
How Employers and Co-workers Can Help
- Changes in behavior and work performance
- Lack of concentration
- Increased or unexplained absences
- Placing or receiving harassing phone calls
- Bruises or injuries that are unexplained or come with explanations that don’t add up.
If a co-worker confides in you that they are being abused:
The Workplace Safety Plan
- Believe them.
- Listen without judging. Victims of abuse often believe their abusers’ negative messages and feel responsible, ashamed and afraid they will be judged.
- Say things such as “I’m sorry that happened to you” or “I believe you” or “It’s not your fault”. Survivor’s that hear these words are more likely to seek additional support.
- Tell them that help is available and contact Waypoint or find support in the workplace.
- Help them create a workplace safety plan.
If you are dealing with domestic violence, create a safety plan, both for home and for work. Here are some suggestions:
Creating a Supportive Work Environment
- Talk with someone in the workplace you trust, such as your supervisor or human resources manager.
- Notify security of your safety concerns, if your company has security. Consider providing a picture of the batterer and a copy of protective orders to security, supervisors and reception area staff.
- Have your calls screened, transfer harassing calls to Security or ask to have your name removed from automated phone directories.
- Review the safety of your parking arrangements. Try to have security walk you to your car or obtain a space near the building entrance.
- Ask co-workers to call the police if your partner threatens or harasses you at work.
- Ask to relocate your workspace to a different or more secure area.
- Review the safety of your child care arrangements. Give a picture of your batterer and a copy of your protective order to the child care provider. If necessary, consider selecting a new child care site.
There are many ways to create a safe and supportive environment so that employees know if they come forward, they will be treated in a non-judgmental and supportive way. Here are some ideas:
- Display Waypoint posters with anti-domestic violence messages or Waypoint Crisis & Support Line calling cards in breakrooms or bathrooms where they can be taken discreetly.
- Run articles about domestic violence in your company newsletters.
- Hold a training seminar with managers and supervisors.
- Publicize your local domestic violence support program such as Waypoint.
- Talking openly about domestic violence is the most important first step in changing attitudes and behaviors around it. Providing awareness-raising materials and creating a supportive environment in which it can be discussed will let abusers know it is not tolerated and will let victims know that help is available.