blog-posters-alex

I See DV As Complex, Even For Celebrities

Today’s How I See DV perspective is by writer Alex Iwashyna who blogs at LateEnough.com. Late Enough is a humor blog, except when it’s serious. Alex is a freelance writer, poet and media consultant who writes about about her life intermixed with important ramblings on her husband fighting zombies, awkward attempts at friendship, her kids outsmarting her, and dancing like everyone is watching. We are very excited that she lent her voice — and support — to our campaign. 

blog-posters-alexCelebrities seem to have it all — fame, fortune, the ability to get a book published that is poorly written and yet makes the best-seller list – not to mention the chefs, personal trainers and trips to exotic locales.

They are paid to look and act certain ways at certain times so I don’t mind the commentary on their dresses and hair and ability to act or sing. But I draw the line at holding celebrities to higher standards when it comes to domestic violence. I don’t think being famous gives people magical powers to escape abusive relationships quicker because, while they may have the financial means to leave, abuse is not a basic socio-economic problem. The women and men in these relationships are human beings who are going to respond like abused partners.

Take Rihanna and Chris Brown’s relationship. Almost everyone supported Rihanna when she left Chris Brown after the abuse went public, but when she forgave him and went back to spending time with him, people were mean and angry and ignorant. Ignorant because it takes seven times ON AVERAGE for a woman to leave her abusive partner. Maybe she could’ve been an anomaly and left the first time around, but she’s not. That doesn’t make her a bad role model. That makes her not yet even average. And the public’s reaction to this — the vitriol, the hate — makes it even harder for people to leave again. We set people up to not want to admit the abuse is happening again, to not be willing to seek help. Being kind, thoughtful and understanding is not condoning abusive behavior. Plus, what does an I told you so attitude even achieve?

Another very common reaction to abuse is to normalize it. “He’s just trying to make me better.” “I egged him on.” We rationalize because the truth that someone I love is also hurting me can be difficult to process or understand. “Real Housewife” Melissa Gorga recently wrote a book about her marriage, Love Italian Style. I have only read excerpts, but I noticed warning signs of an unhealthy relationship.

Men, I know you think your woman isn’t the type who wants to be taken. But trust me, she is. Every girl wants to get her hair pulled once in a while. If your wife says “no,” turn her around, and rip her clothes off. She wants to be dominated. (an excerpt from her book, which is a quote of her husband ignoring consent. More quotes can be found on Jezebel)

In the book, she also shares how she is not allowed to go on overnight trips, get a job or say no to sex more than once a day. Most of the public response to her book is how terrible and gross and awful they are as a couple and she is for writing this as an advice book. But, setting her husband aside, Melissa Gorga is just human. She may have more reach than the average person but that does not make her immune to a very human reaction to unhealthy behaviors: normalizing it so she can survive. Instead of demonizing her, we can react by saying, “If your relationship looks like this, know that it doesn’t have to be this way. Here are places to find help.”

These same relationships are happening every day to people we know. Nearly 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men experience abuse over their lifetime. While I would never want anyone to go through domestic violence, seeing complex relationships play out in celebrities’ lives could help us comprehend our own experiences or to be more understanding of our friends and neighbors in similar situations. Will those we care about read how disgusted we are with people being abused or see someone they can turn to and trust to not be judged?

About Our Contributor

Alex Iwashyna holds a medical degree and a political philosophy degree and became a writer, poet and stay-at-home mom with them. She uses her unique perspective on her blog, LateEnough.com, to write funny, serious, and always true stories about life, parenting, marriage, culture, religion, and politics. She has a muse of a husband, two young kids and a readership that gives her hope for humanity. While Alex believes Domestic Violence Awareness Month is every month, she’s grateful to be participating in How I #SeeDV this October.

blog-posters-tt

I See DV as Unacceptable

Today our special How I See DV guest is Tonya Turner, Director of Legal Services at Break the Cycle. In this position, she oversees the legal services program that represents young domestic and dating violence survivors between the ages of 12-24 in civil protection proceedings and custody matters. Tonya is an expert on LGBTQ dating abuse and has provided key trainings on the issue to law enforcement and the American Bar Association.

blog-posters-ttTonya, can you tell us a little about the service you provide to LGBTQ youth?

I provide holistic legal services to young LGBTQ survivors of dating violence, stalking and sexual assault. I also train young people about healthy relationships so that they can better identify unhealthy or abusive ones.

Why did you get involved with this work?

I believe dating violence, stalking and sexual assault are often normalized and minimized and I wish to help shape a world where dating violence is not acceptable or tolerated.

What sustains you in this work?

The fact that I genuinely believe that helping one person actually makes a difference. I believe the impact of my work can really shape the way young people view relationships and assist them in making healthier choices.

What are some of the unique struggles people in abusive LGBTQ relationships face?

Many LGBTQ teens are not yet “out” to their parents or friends and may be afraid that an abusive dating partner will “out” them to friends or family. Also, many young LGBTQ survivors are afraid to ask for help because bullying or harassment may start or increase.

Many LGBTQ teens also are afraid that they will be not believed or taken seriously. Often adults believe that abuse between LGBTQ partners is always mutual, does not occur in lesbian relationships, or that the abuser is only the more dominate partner.

What would you say to someone who is hesitant to get help about their relationship because they are afraid of getting outed?

I would stress that everyone deserves to be in a healthy and loving relationship. Next, I would discuss their concerns about speaking to their parents. If they are not ready to come out, I would encourage them to safety plan and connect them with LGBTQ resources so that they could get additional support.

How do you define a healthy relationship?

A healthy relationship involves two people who can laugh together, talk about anything, encourage each other and respect each other’s differences. In a healthy relationship, your partner makes you feel like nothing is impossible and they will be right there with you.

We know you were involved with the creation of showmelovedc.org. Can you tell us about that project?

Many LGBTQ people do not feel supported or know their legal rights. Show Me Love was a campaign created to celebrate healthy LGBTQ relationships, and to raise awareness in the LGBTQ community about legal rights and resources available to people in unhealthy or abusive relationships.

Please complete this sentence. I see DV_______.

I see domestic violence not being tolerated as we empower people to have healthier relationships and they stand up and say violence is not acceptable.

About Our Contributor

Tonya Turner is currently the Director of Legal Services at Break the Cycle. In her position at Break the Cycle, Tonya trains Metropolitan Police Department Officers and adult service providers about domestic violence laws that impact young people and how to better help young people experiencing abuse. She has provided substantive and skills training with such programs as the ABA’s Commission on Domestic Violence Custody Institute, the National Institute on Civil Representation of Victims of Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, and Sexual Assault Who Are D/deaf, Hard of Hearing and/or with Disabilities, and Best Practices for Lawyers Assisting Pro Se Victims of DV with Civil Protection Orders. Tonya also does outreach and education on LGBTQ domestic and dating violence. She is a board member of Rainbow Response Coalition (RRC). RRC is actively committed to informing LGBT people in the Washington Metropolitan Area of their legal rights and ensuring that law enforcement officers respond to dating/domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking calls involving LGBT people appropriately. Tonya is also on the advisory board for Show Me Love- a local campaign to raise the awareness, inform survivors in DC’s LGBTQ communities about their legal rights, and direct people to resources about maintaining healthy and violence-free relationships. Tonya received her advanced degree from Rutgers School of Law.

power and control wheel

Taking a Spin Around the Power and Control Wheel

We recently debunked the myth that abuse can be described as a cycle. If we can’t describe it that way, is there a more accurate way to talk about abuse?

Yes! It’s called The Duluth Model, and at its core is the Power & Control Wheel.

Relationship violence is a combination of a number of different tactics of abuse that are used to maintain power and control — which are the words in the very center of the wheel. The center is surrounded by different sets of behaviors that an abusive partner uses in order to maintain this power and control.

These sets of behaviors are:

  • Coercion and threats
  • Intimidation
  • Emotional abuse
  • Isolation
  • Minimizing, denying and blaming
  • Using children
  • Economic abuse
  • Male privilege

A lot of these behaviors can feel subtle and normal — often unrecognizable until you look at the wheel in this way. Many of these can be happening at any one time, all as a way to enforce power within the relationship.

Think of the wheel as a diagram of the tactics your abusive partner uses to keep you in the relationship. While the inside of the wheel is comprised of subtle, continual behaviors, the outer ring represents physical, visible violence. These are the abusive acts that are more overt and forceful, and often the intense acts that reinforce the regular use of other subtler methods of abuse.

How and why do we use the power and control wheel?

Our advocates use the wheel to help teach callers about the dynamics of an abusive relationship. It shows a victim that they are not alone in what they are experiencing, and that these tactics of maintaining power and control are common to abusers.

We also use the wheel to help other callers like friends, family members or even someone who may identify as abusive to better understand the complicated components of abuse and the many forms it can take. This can be really helpful in explaining the difficulties and dangers of leaving an abusive relationship.

To learn more about the Power and Control Wheel, visit the Home of the Duluth Model online.

abuse isn't a cycle

Is Abuse Really a ‘Cycle’?

We use many different words when we’re describing abuse: systematic, power, control, pattern, purposeful. One word we don’t use when talking about abusive relationships is cycle.

This way of describing abuse began in the 1970s and today, the “cycle of abuse” is still talked about in courtrooms, therapist sessions, in the media and more. Here at The Hotline we don’t use that descriptor, for a variety of reasons. Here’s why:

To describe abuse as a cycle makes it seem like there are four predictable, repetitive steps of what is going on in any relationship at any given time:

1)    Tension-building

2)    Incident — often a physical altercation

3)    Reconciliation

4)    Calm

If abuse was a cycle, it would be predictable — you could know what to expect and when to expect it. But the reality about domestic violence is that it doesn’t happen that way. While there may be recognizable patterns going on in a relationship (ex. you know your partner tends to get more confrontational after going out drinking) the violence rarely occurs in a predictable cycle.

An important reason why we don’t use the term “cycle” is because it’s sometimes used to blame victims for the continuation of abuse.

In her essay “Reframing Domestic Violence Law and Policy,” Professor Leigh Goodmark writes,

“Describing abuse as a cycle becomes problematic when this language is co-opted to be used against victims, particularly in a court setting — ex. “Why didn’t you leave during the calm stage?”

No one ever asks to experience abuse. The fault lies with the abuser, not the victim, so it’s important that we don’t use language that blames the person suffering abuse.

The model that more accurately describes what occurs in an abusive relationship is The Duluth Model and its Power & Control Wheel. It explains the many tactics an abusive partner uses at any one time to establish and maintain power and control over their partner.

To learn more about why we don’t refer to abuse as a cycle, check out the video below of Ellen Pence, co-founder of the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project, speaking about the creation of a new model of understanding abuse.

Pence also helped to create the Power & Control wheel, which was developed through listening to the stories of people who had experienced different types of abuse.

On Monday we’re taking a spin around the Power & Control Wheel, which will shed some light on a more accurate way of describing what’s happening within abusive relationships.

Head back to the blog next week to learn more!

digital safety

Getting Digital to End Abuse

In light of the recent tragedies that occurred in Steubenville, Ohio, and Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, it’s easy to feel like tech and social media is causing more problems than inspiring good.

While there have been examples of the two being used to harm, we’re also seeing social media and technology being used to prevent and spread awareness about domestic violence and sexual assault. Today, we’re taking a look at empowering apps, websites and projects that are changing the way we see abuse.


Apps Against Abuse

In 2011, Vice President Joe Biden launched the Apps Against Abuse challenge, calling on innovators to make mobile apps to prevent dating violence and abuse. Among the winning apps was Circle of 6, which uses texting to contact friends and employs GPS to tell them where you are. A new version has even been developed specifically for India, taking into account cultural differences, language and in-country resources.

Hollaback!

Catcallers are called out publically with Hollaback!, which lets anyone who has experienced street harassment share their stories, images and videos on an interactive map that documents where the incident took place. With both web and mobile apps, this nonprofit is taking the streets by storm in 64 cities and 22 countries. They hope to soon have the capability to allow users to report directly to the NYC government.

Project Unbreakable

Featured on an episode of “Law & Order SVU” in which a campus quad of hundreds of students held up posters with quotes from their attackers, Project Unbreakable is an image-based project that has spread all over the country thanks to the power of the web. It began on Tumblr and has been named one of the Top 30 Tumblr blogs by TIME Magazine. The woman behind the project, Grace Brown, photographs survivors of sexual assault holding a poster with a quote from their attacker. She has taken images of over 400 people for this “art of healing” viral project.

#ididnotreport

While a hashtag can be co-opted to victim blame and spread hateful messages (such as Torrington, CT’s #FreeEdgar), it can also be a powerful social media tool to begin dialogues on a global scale. In 2012 a blogger from London Feminist sparked a Twitter movement with the hashtag #Ididnotreport. She expected it to be limited to users tweeting about what she described as “low level harassment” but people everywhere began using it, especially in relation to serious sexual assaults. The hashtag opened up discussion and built an instant community of people with similar experiences, while highlighting the vast problem of underreporting and the many reasons people don’t report.

loveisrespect online chat and texting service

The loveisrespect online chat and texting service allows teens to talk about their relationship directly to a peer advocate whenever and wherever they want. This lets young people communicate in what can sometimes be a more comfortable and safer manner than in person or on the phone. The loveisrespect text service was the first in the country of its kind, and the service was actually launched by a text message from Vice President Joe Biden himself. Visit loveisrespect.org to use the online chat, or text “loveis” to 22522 to message an advocate today.


Have you heard of any other organizations that are using social media and technology in the fight against domestic violence and sexual abuse? Sound off in the comments — we’d love to learn about them.

when you see something, should you say something

When You See Something, Should You Say Something?

This past week disturbing photos of celebrity chef Nigella Lawson and her husband Charles Saatchi were all over the news. The couple was outside at a restaurant, and Saatchi grabbed her by the throat. What we know from the simple fact that photos of the incident exist — and that the couple was eating outside at a public restaurant — is that people witnessed what was going on. Yet no one seemed to have intervened. 

As a bystander to any kind of violence, it can be difficult to know whether or not you should get involved and what to do. If it’s an incident between a couple, many people feel like it’s not their place to intervene because it’s a ‘private’ issue.

On Tuesday evening, loveisrespect Director Brian Pinero spoke with Huffington Post Live about what we should do as bystanders if we witness something. He was joined by Director of the Center for Progressive Development Douglas LaBier, Defense Attorney Matt Kaiser, and Austin, TX bar owner Leon Solimani.

Check out the video below to see what they had to say. If you saw a couple fighting in public, would you intervene?

50 obstacles to leaving

50 Obstacles to Leaving: 41-50

Still with us? Today is our final day of demonstrating just how many roadblocks can stand in the way between abuse and freedom for a victim. A victim is never to blame for abuse. While these barriers to a violence-free life can seem insurmountable at times, know that advocates on the hotline are available to talk and brainstorm strategies with you 24/7 at 1-800-799-SAFE(7233).

41. Rural Victims: Victims may be isolated and simply unable to access services due to lack of transportation, or the needed programs are distant and unable to provide outreach.

42. Safer to Stay: Assessing that it is safer to stay may be accurate when the victim can keep an eye on the batterer, sensing when the batterer is about to become violent and, to the extent possible, taking action to protect themselves and their children.

43. Students: Students in high school or college may fear that untrained administrators will deny their requests for help. If the perpetrator is also a student, the victim often does not want them to be expelled from school.

44. Shame and Embarrassment: The victim doesn’t want to disclose the abuse or may deny that any problem exists.

45. Stockholm Syndrome: The victim may experience this syndrome and bond with the abuser.

46. Substance Abuse or Alcohol: Either the victim or offender’s substance abuse may inhibit seeking help, often for fear that the children will be removed.

47. Teens: Teens are at greater risk for abuse in their relationships than any other age group. Peer pressure, immaturity, no knowledge of resources, and low self-esteem all factor into the decision to stay.

48. Transportation: A lack of transportation condemns victims to a choice between welfare and returning to their abusers.

49. Unaware that Abuse is a Criminal Offense: This can occur often if family, friends and community professionals minimize the crimes.

50. Undocumented Victims: Victims facing complex immigration problems if they leave are often forced to stay with the batterers who may control their INS status.


Every person’s situation is unique, and you may be unable to leave a situation for a complex combination of different reasons. If you’re contemplating leaving an abusive relationship or struggling in one that you cannot leave, consider calling NDVH to speak confidentially with an advocate, and take a look at our resources on leaving safely.

*Sarah M. Buel is Clinical Professor, University of Texas School of Law (UTSL). She was founder and co-director, UTSL Domestic Violence Clinic; co-founder and consultant, National Training Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence; and a former domestic violence, child abuse, and juvenile prosecutor and advocate. She graduated cum laude from Harvard Extension School and Harvard Law School.

hurtful words

50 Obstacles to Leaving: 31-40

Leaving can be one of the most dangerous times in an abusive relationship, and there are countless reasons that victims are unable to leave. The question “Why don’t you just leave?” places blame on the victim and undermines the difficult, complicated nature of leaving abuse. To help address this, we’ve adapted Sarah M. Buel’s “Fifty Obstacles to Leaving, a.k.a., Why Abuse Victims Stay.”

This week we’re making our way through this list in hopes of illuminating the barriers that often prevent someone from getting out of an abusive relationship. Today we’re taking a closer look at ten more obstacles.

31. Mentally or Developmentally Challenged Victims: These victims are particularly vulnerable to the batterer’s manipulation and are likely to be dependent on the batterer for basic survival.

32. Military: If the victim or the perpetrator is in the military, an effective intervention is largely dependent on the commander’s response. Many commanders believe that it is more important to salvage the soldier’s military career than to ensure the victim’s safety.

33. No Place to Go: Victims can’t find affordable housing or there is no shelter space.

34. No Job Skills: Victims without job skills usually have no choice but to work for employers paying minimum wage, with few, if any, medical and other benefits.

35. No Knowledge of Options: Victims without knowledge of the options and resources logically assume that none exist.

36. Past Criminal Record: Victims with a past criminal record are often still on probation or parole, making them vulnerable to the batterer’s threats to comply with all of their demands or be sent back to prison.

37. Previously Abused Victims: Sometimes previously abused victims believe the batterer’s accusation, “See, this is what you drive your partners to do to you!”

38. Prior Negative Court Experiences: Victims don’t believe that they will be given the respect and safety considerations that they need in court.

39. Promises of Change: The batterer’s promises of change may be easy to believe because they sound sincere. Victims are socialized to be forgiving.

40. Religious Beliefs: Beliefs may lead victims to think they have to tolerate the abuse to show their adherence to the faith.

stay for the kids

50 Obstacles to Leaving: 21-30

“Why don’t you just leave the relationship?”

According to Sarah Buel: “This question has been fueled by those who believe that remaining with a batterer indicates stupidity, masochism, or codependence. Far from being accurate, such labels prove dangerous to victims because they tend to absolve batterers of responsibility for their crimes.

There are many different reasons that a victim may stay in an abusive relationship. This week to shed some light on the frequently asked question of why a victim doesn’t just leave, we’re taking a closer look at 50 different obstacles that prevent someone from leaving. Follow along on our blog throughout the week to read about all of them.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, call us toll-free and confidentially at 1-800-799-SAFE(7233) to speak confidentially with an advocate.

21. Keeping the Family Together: Victims believe it is in their children’s best interest to have their father or a male role model in the family.

22. Illiterate Victims: Illiterate victims may be forced to rely on the literate batterer for everyday survival.

23. Incarcerated or Newly Released Abuse Victims: Such victims often don’t have support systems to assist them with re-entry to the community. Parole officers may require that they return home if that appears to be a stable environment.

24. Law Enforcement Officer: If the perpetrator is a law enforcement officer, the victim may fear that other officers will refuse to assist or believe them if they come forward.

25. Lesbian and Gay Victims: Victims may feel silenced if disclosing their sexual orientation (to qualify for a protective order) could result in losing their job, family, and home.

26. Low Self-Esteem: Victims may believe they deserve no better than the abuse they receive.

27. Love: Since many batterers are initially charming, victims fall in love and may have difficulty altering their feelings with the first sign of a problem.

28. Mediation: Mediation can put the victim in the dangerous position of incurring the batterer’s wrath for disclosing the extent of the violence.

29. Medical Problems: The victim must stay with the batterer to obtain medical services, especially if they share insurance.

30. Mentally Ill Victims: Victims face negative societal stereotypes in addition to the batterer’s taunts that the victim is crazy and nobody will believe anything that they say.

talking with children

50 Obstacles to Leaving: 11-20

Can you imagine the frustration of a victim being asked, “Why don’t you just leave?”

While leaving seems like a quick and easy fix to escape abuse, we know that leaving an abusive partner is a complicated, difficult challenge and often the most dangerous time in a relationship. Victims have many reasons for staying. This week we’re giving you 50, adapted from Sarah M. Buel’s “Fifty Obstacles to Leaving, a.k.a., Why Abuse Victims Stay.”

11. Family Pressure: Family members exert pressure if they believe there’s no excuse for leaving a marriage or if they’re in denial about the abuse.

12. Fear of Retaliation: The batterer has shown willingness to carry out threats and the victim fears harm to themselves or the children if they leave.

13. Fear of Losing Child Custody: The batterer has used the threat of obtaining custody to exact agreements to their liking.

14. Financial Abuse: Financial abuse can take many different forms depending on the couple’s socio-economic status — ex. If victims have been forced to sign false tax returns or take part in other unlawful financial transactions.

15. Financial Despair: The victim realizes that they cannot provide for themselves or their children without the batterer’s assistance.

16. Gratitude: The victim feels gratitude toward the batterer because the batterer has helped support and raise their children from a previous relationship, or take care of them if they have health, medical or other problems.

17. Guilt: Batterers have convinced victims that the violence is happening because it’s their fault.

18. Homelessness: Homeless abuse victims face increased danger, as they must find ways of meeting basic survival needs of shelter, food, and clothing while attempting to elude their batterers.

19. Hope for the Violence to Cease: This hope is typically fueled by the batterer’s promises of change, pleas from the children, or family’s advice to save the relationship.

20. Isolation: The victim has been cut off from family, friends and colleagues and lacks a support system or people to stay with.

reaching out for help

50 Obstacles to Leaving: 1-10

“It would take me yet another year of planning, forgiving, calling, reaching for help, before I could leave.” —Sarah Buel

Leaving is not easy. On average, it takes a victim seven times to leave before staying away for good. Exiting the relationship is most unsafe time for a victim. As the abuser senses that they’re losing power, they will often act in dangerous ways to regain control over their victim.

We know victim’s frustrations with feeling like the abuse is somehow their fault. If only they’d leave, right? Wrong. We know better. In fact, we’re taking a closer look at 50 reasons why it may be near impossible to leave. To answer the often-asked question “Why don’t you just leave?” we’ve adapted Sarah M. Buel’sFifty Obstacles to Leaving, a.k.a., Why Abuse Victims Stay” — 50 different reasons that she has encountered throughout her 22 years of work in the domestic violence field.

Follow along on the blog this week as we discuss 10 different obstacles each day.

1. Advocate: The victim doesn’t have an enthusiastic supporter on their side so may feel discouraged or hopeless.

2. Batterer: The batterer is wealthy, famous, powerful in the community, etc., and can afford to hire private counselor and pressure decision-makers.

3. Believes Threats: The victim believes the batterer’s threats to kill them and the children if they attempt to leave.

4. Children’s Best Interest: The victim believes it is in the children’s best interest to have both parents in the home, especially if the abuser doesn’t physically abuse the children.

5. Children’s Pressure: The children put pressure (independently or by the abuser’s influence) on the abused parent to stay with their partner.

6. Culture and Race: Because of differences in race or culture, the victim worries about being treated unequally by the justice system if they come forward, or believes stereotypes about acceptable actions in their own culture.

7. Denial: The victim is in denial about the danger, instead believing that if they could be better partners, the abuse would stop.

8. Disabled: Victims who are disabled or physically challenged face obstacles in gaining access to court and social services, and may be isolated from basic info about resources.

9. Elderly: Elderly victims may hold traditional beliefs about marriage and believe they must stay, or are dependent on the batterer for care even in the face of physical abuse.

10. Excuses: The victim believes the abuser’s excuses to justify the violence, blaming job stress or substance abuse for example.

help a coworker

How to Help a Coworker Who Is Experiencing Abuse

Approximately 74% of employed domestic violence victims are contacted or harassed by their abusers while they are at work. Based on this statistic alone, it is possible that during your professional career, you may encounter a coworker who is experiencing domestic violence.

If someone is experiencing abuse at home, the effects of the abuse are likely to carry over into the work environment as well. You may notice changes in their behavior at work that could indicate that something is wrong. For instance:

  • Excessive lateness or unexplained absences
  • Frequent use of ‘sick time’
  • Unexplained injuries or bruising
  • Changes in appearance
  • Lack of concentration/often preoccupied
  • Disruptive phone calls or personal visits from their partner
  • Drops in productivity
  • Sensitivity about home life or hints of trouble at home

Follow your instinct, and if you feel like you should talk to them about what might be going on, do so. The worst that could happen is that they don’t want to talk – and even then, they at least know that you care. There’s no harm in asking. Work may be the one place where they can talk to someone safely without the abusive partner finding out. Also, your coworker may believe that you are more objective to their situation than family and close friends.

Be sure to approach them in a confidential manner, at a time and place without interruptions. When approaching the topic of domestic violence with your coworker, remember to be nonjudgmental. They may be embarrassed by the situation, and you might be the first person they are telling. Consider starting with a simple comment and question like, “You seem a bit preoccupied/stressed. Do you want to talk about it?” Give them the space to share what they want to share with you. Don’t pressure them.

If your coworker does open up to you about the abuse, listen and refer. Your role is not to fix the problem for them – sometimes, listening can be the most helpful. You might want to pass along some information to them. If it feels appropriate, pass on the number of the Hotline. We can help your coworker safety plan around their current situation and can refer them to local service providers.

If your coworker gives you permission, you can help them document the instances of domestic violence in their life. Take pictures of injuries, write down exact transcripts of interactions, make notes on a calendar of the dates that things happen. Documenting the abuse might help the victim to obtain legal aid later on.

If your coworker has been open with you about their situation, you can help them learn about their rights. Women’s Law is an excellent resource for information on domestic violence laws and procedures. Browsing this website with your coworker or giving them the link can provide them with crucial information.

Introduce them to the security guard, or volunteer to meet the security guard with them if they’d like help. Keeping the security guard at the office in the loop can help deter your coworker’s abuser from stopping by, make sure your coworker is escorted safely to and from the office space, and more.

Ask if they’d like to create a safety plan for their work environment. Ask what they would like you to do if their partner should call or stop by the office. If you’re having trouble coming up with a safety plan on your own, call The Hotline for assistance.

Above all remember that just supporting your coworker no matter what can make a difference. Respect their decisions – you may not know all of the factors involved. Your coworker may not do what you want or expect them to do. Instead of focusing on being the one to solve the problem for them, focus on being supportive and trustworthy in their time of need.