If someone told you that one of your coworkers was trapped in an abusive relationship, but didn’t tell you which one, would you know what signs to look for in order to identify the victim?
This scenario is more likely than you think. Intimate partner violence is the most common cause of injury in women ages 15 to 44. One in four women will be physically abused by an intimate partner in her lifetime.
Intimate partner violence is not just a social problem; it’s also a workplace issue. Seventy-five percent of employed victims are harassed by their abusers while on the job. This puts employees and employers on the front line of recognizing and helping to prevent domestic partner violence.
Leaving an abusive situation can be dangerous and should not be undertaken without professional supervision.
What is intimate partner violence?
Intimate partner violence is an ongoing pattern of emotional, psychological, and physical abuse upon someone who is intimately related to the abuser. Intimate partner violence often starts with controlling, bullying behavior and escalates as time goes on.
Who are its victims?
Although most intimate partner violence is committed by adult men against women, anyone can be a victim–spouses, parents, boyfriends, girlfriends, grandparents, and children.
Why Not Just Leave?
There are many reasons why an individual can’t or won’t leave an abusive intimate relationship, all of which stem from the intimate nature of the relationship itself.
- Love: It’s possible to love someone even when they mistreat you. Most abusive relationships begin as loving ones. Victims still remember the person who cared for them and treated them well.
- Fear: Victims may feel a justifiable fear of being stalked and harmed or even killed if they leave. The abuser may have stated that he will kill the victim if she attempts to leave.
- Self-Esteem: Abusers systematically break down their victim’s self-worth. Someone who has been abused may feel that she “deserves” it.
- Economics: The victim may be financially dependent on the abuser for food, clothing, and shelter.
- Isolation: Part of the pattern of abuse includes isolating the victim from friends and family. Victims of intimate partner violence may not have a support structure that enables them to leave.
- Children: A victim may believe that staying with an abusive partner is worth it for the sake of the children.
- Hope: Victims often believe that their own behavior or other circumstances are to blame for the abuse and that the abuse will end if things just change for the better.
The EAP is ready and highly qualified to help you troubleshoot problems, examine options, deal with hard choices, and face the future.
What Can You Do?
Intimate partner violence crosses income, age, ethnic and racial borders. Anyone can be a victim. Knowing the warning signs is the first step in prevention. Some of them include:
Wearing unseasonable, long, or bulky clothing
Negative change in job performance
Unwillingness to talk about home life
Comments or concern about partner’s temper
Excessive or harassing phone calls
Unexpected and disruptive visits by partner at work
If you have suspicions that a coworker is being abused, the best technique is to ask how things are at home and leave the door open for further conversation. It’s important to remember that approaching the victim may not always yield a positive response. You can also consult your HR department or your EAP for further assistance.
Planning An Escape
A victim of abuse has a right to protect herself and her children. Use domestic violence experts and your EAP to help you plan ahead. If a potentially dangerous outburst occurs while you are home, have the ability to get out safely and arrange in advance to have the resources you need lined up.
Taking Legal Action
If you have decided to leave, you may need a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) to keep the abuser away from you, your home, your workplace, and the children’s school. The police will enforce the order when alerted, but you should educate yourself about how TRO’s work. Report any violations promptly. Make teachers aware of the TRO and discuss safe behaviors with your children. Let your employer know about the TRO, and alert security guards and coworkers. About 75% of abuse victims are harassed at work.