We’ve all heard about domestic violence from the newspapers or TV, but it’s a lot scarier when it occurs close to home. If you have not experienced domestic violence yourself, there’s a good chance that you know a coworker who has. Over one-third of Americans say they have witnessed an incident of domestic violence. Furthermore, domestic violence can spill over into the workplace, as victims may be harassed by phone or stalked at work, or simply have trouble doing their jobs because of constant fear. In one survey, 94% of corporate security directors rated domestic violence as a major security problem at their companies.
What is domestic violence? Domestic violence is a pattern of assaults or other controlling behaviors that restrict another person’s activities. One person may try to control another physically, psychologically, sexually, or economically. Anyone can be a victim, regardless of age, sex, cultural background, or income level.
It is common for survivors of violence to blame themselves for the abuse and to feel isolated. However, support is available to help them create safer lives. If a coworker tells you she is being abused, do not judge or question what she says. Remind her that she doesn’t have to continue to suffer and that help is available.
If you feel you may be in danger, here are some steps that you can take to protect yourself:
- Talk with a trusted co-worker or manager.
- Contact the local police if you are in immediate danger.
- Notify your supervisor of your possible absence (e.g., if you need to move) and find out about your leave options. Be clear about your return to work plans.
- Consider obtaining a civil order (protection or restraining order) to keep on hand at all times.
- If you are concerned about your safety at work, submit a recent photo of the abuser and a copy of your protection order to your supervisor, security, and receptionist.
- Ask for a security escort and/or a parking space near the building’s entrance.
- Consider having your phone calls screened at work.
- Ask to relocate your workspace to a more secure area.
- Review the safety of your childcare arrangements.
- Give a photo of the abuser to your childcare provider. Consider changing providers, if necessary.
- If you seek medical help, ask the doctor to document your injuries. Hold onto evidence of abuse, such as ripped clothing and photos of bruises.
- If you are thinking of leaving, plan ahead. Hide spare keys, cash, and clothes. Collect important papers for yourself and your children. Collect evidence of your partner’s income and assets (e.g., pay stubs) if you plan to seek support.
- Locate a shelter or other safe place.