How to Help a Coworker Who Is Experiencing Abuse

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.

help a coworker

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.

Comment section

5 replies
  1. This is a wonderful post about dealing with abuse with your coworkers. You are right, most times they don’t want to talk about it, but their actions speak louder than words. Please be aware of changes in attitude, are they missing work a lot, do they come in late. There are so many that you hit on in this post. I am a survivor of domestic violence and I just wish that my coworkers would have spoke to me about what they were seeing. I know they were seeing what I was feeling, but I guess they were scared to get involved. Now, as a survivor, I share my story on college campuses and other appearances with Domestic Violence. I use my story to empower others to not settle for abuse and mistake it as love. It is my mission to make a difference in my community and beyond. I recently won the title of MRS CLEARWATER FLA 2014 and will use my crown to empower women to fight for freedom to live life without abuse. A once victim is now a beauty queen who is making every day strides to bring changes to how we look at Domestic Violence as a society. HOTLINE..I would love to join forces with you. I would like to continue to share my story with you and others. If you have any functions coming up, I would love to make an appearance at your event as Mrs. Clearwater Florida. Please let me know how I can continue to support victims and survivors. Thank you

  2. i have a friend who has 2 kids age 3 and 1 him and the mother have been together 6 years with no problems well they split up and the guy she is with is dangerous and does drugs has weapons and abusive he has threaten to kill her and her family once before in november back in 2012

  3. Jaron,

    It sounds like your friend is in a dangerous situation. An advocate at The National Domestic Violence Hotline can talk with you further about the situation or you can give your friend the number as well. Advocates are available 24/7 at 1-800-799-7233. Thank you for reaching out through our blog community.


  4. Michelle,

    Thank you for sharing your story of survival with our blog community. It can be very empowering to hear there can be a life free from domestic abuse.

    It is great that you are raising awareness around domestic violence. By using your crown you will definitely shed light on this issue and hopefully encourage more women and men to speak out. Unfortunately, we typically don’t promote other websites, fan pages, films, and other projects unless we have explicit involvement, which is why we removed your facebook link.


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