Recognize, Respond and Refer
Recognize the signs of intimate partner violence to better be able to anticipate when problems may arise.
An employee may present the following clues that they are in an abusive relationship:
- Obvious injuries such as bruises, black eyes, broken bones, hearing loss – these are often attributed to “falls,” “being clumsy,” or “accidents.”
- Clothing that is inappropriate for the season, such as long sleeves and turtlenecks – wearing sunglasses or unusually heavy make-up.
- Uncharacteristic absenteeism or lateness for work.
- Change in job performance: poor concentration and errors, slowness, inconsistent work quality.
- Uncharacteristic signs of anxiety and fear.
- Requests for special accommodations such as requests to leave early.
- Isolation; usually quite and keeping away from others.
- Emotional distress or flatness, tearfulness, depression, and suicidal thoughts.
- Minimization and denial of harassment or injuries.
- An unusual number of phone calls, strong reactions to those calls, and reluctance to converse or respond to phone messages. Insensitive or insulting messages taken by others.
- Sensitivity about home life or hints of trouble at home – comments may include references to bad moods, anger, temper, and alcohol or drug abuse.
- Disruptive personal visits to workplace by present or former spouse.
- Fear about losing his/her job.
- The appearance of gifts and flowers after what appears to be an argument between the couple which may have included physical violence.
Respond appropriately when intimate partner violence is suspected or disclosed.
If risk is imminent or in progress call 911 and/or company security immediately. Then call the local Domestic Violence Hotline or local crisis line number.
Advise the victim to talk to the supervisor or designated staff person (e.g., employee assistance manager, human resource manager, security supervisor, owner, etc.)
Develop with them a safety plan for the workplace:
- If they are going to get a restraining order, encourage him/her to include the workplace and keep a copy on hand at all times. The victim may want to consider providing a copy to the police, his/her supervisor, security, or human services.
- If a restraining order is obtained provide security and the front desk with a picture of the perpetrator.
- If the abuser is sending them threatening e-mails at work or leaving voicemails of a threatening nature encourage them to save these for future reference/evidence.
- Ask the victim to name an emergency contact person in case the employee is missing, unreachable or is assaulted at the workplace.
- Designate a code work or phrase so he/she can alert you to danger.
- If his/her workstation is accessible from a public access, stairs, and elevators can it be moved or can barriers be placed between the entrance/stairs/elevator and the victim’s workstation.
- Can he/she be given priority parking near the building or in a well light public area?
- Can someone walk with him/her to their car?
- Can his/her phone calls be screened? Can the phone number be changed? Can caller ID be installed on his/her phone? Can someone else answer the phone for them?
- Can his/her name and number be removed from automated phone messages or directories?
- Can his/her checks be delivered to another location or be directly deposited?
- Don’t give out any information to others. Perpetrators often have excellent skills in obtaining information from co-workers. Determine what information needs to remain private and confidential.
- Make sure employees know about any workplace policies or procedures that are already in place.
- Establish flexible work hours or give temporary assignments to allow for leave on short notice if necessary and an opportunity to change up their routine.
- Encourage the employee to keep lines of communication open for an extended period of time.
Most importantly, ask the victim what changes could be made to make her/him feel safer. Remember, the victim knows the perpetrator better than anyone else.
Refer victims appropriately to seek information, support and guidance.