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Pay attention to your coworkers for signs of abuse

More than one-third of Canadians say they’ve worked with a woman they believed to have experienced intimate partner violence, according to a 2014 study by the Centre for Research and Education on Violence against Women and Children, and the Canadian Labour Congress.

Just think about that for a moment. Who have you worked with over the years who might have been living with domestic abuse? A woman who is experiencing violence at home might come to work tired or unkempt, frequently be late, take an excessive number of sick days or lose weight quickly. You might see bruises or injuries she can’t explain, or she may startle easily at times when others wouldn’t.

The most important thing you can do is let her know you’re there for her. Approach her privately and confidentially. Don’t push, but if you sense an opening, you can tell her what you’ve noticed and ask if everything is okay. You can give her our 24/7 crisis phone number 705-878-3662 or 1-800-565-5350. You can email or text her this website and point out the chat option in the bottom right corner of the screen.

You can also be an advocate in your workplace through the Signal for Help Responder at Work program of the Canadian Women’s Foundation. It offers online mini-training courses to help you be prepared to help others.

And although we’ve mentioned it here before, we can’t promote this often enough: Watch for this signal, which means “Please approach me safely. I’m being abused and I need help.” This powerful video explains what the signal is, how to use it and how to respond when you see it. As a coworker, you’re in a neutral position, unlike the woman’s family or close friends. If she’s experiencing abuse, she’s much more likely to talk to you about it—the same survey showed that 82 per cent of women in that situation will speak to a coworker, and 45 per cent will talk to their supervisor. Let’s pay attention and take care of each other. You might be saving a life.
By Nancy Payne