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When a woman is living in an abusive situation, her home is often a dangerous and stressful place. But the impact of domestic violence on her career is an important factor often not talked about.
Working outside the home may provide some relief for women, but the abuser can often turn her workplace into an unsafe and stressful environment for her and her coworkers. Even though she may be physically away from her abuser, the abuser may still know where she works and stalk her. He may send abusive messages, show up at the workplace, or call her repeatedly. The abuser may also become violent during work time.
The domestic violence she’s living with may cause the woman to be distracted while at work, which negatively affects her job performance. Her productivity may be affected. She may also be late or absent from work often, all of which can mean she has a higher chance of losing her job.
If you suspect that your employee or co-worker is being abused, there are some things you can do to help.
The first step is to understand the signs of abuse. The following are signs to look out for; but it’s important not to jump to conclusions. Someone can also show some of these signs if they aren’t in an abusive relationship.
Find a quiet time and let her know that you’re concerned for her, in a supportive and non-judgmental way. Tell her what you’ve noticed and stick to the facts, without trying to fix the situation. Ask her if she’s OK or if she’d like to talk. You’ll be showing your support in a way that is safe and comfortable for her.
Reassure her that you believe her and that the abuse isn’t her fault.
She may deny the abuse or be unwilling to talk about it. Continue to let her know that she can come to you anytime. If she does want to talk, listen patiently.
Refer her to a support network for domestic violence. Does your workplace have an employee assistance program, or some other designated person or group that can help? This might be a union steward, women’s advocate, human resources department or health and safety representative.
If you are concerned, you may need to go to your designed work representative, but be sure to keep it between the three of you.
For her safety, sometimes a woman has to leave her job when she leaves an abusive situation. Unfortunately, leaving a job suddenly can impact a woman’s ability to get another job in the future.
To address this and other abuse-related barriers to employment, Interval House’s Building Economic Self-Sufficiency (BESS) program helps women to start over, gain financial independence, and start to build or rebuild their careers. They learn how to write a resume and a cover letter, conduct a job search, prepare for an interview, and how to balance work and parenting. They learn how to make the most of the skills they already have, where they can get additional education, and how to work toward their personal goals.