Domestic Violence Warning Signs for the Workplace

Warning Signs and Risk Factors for Domestic Violence in workplaces

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RECOGNIZE that a colleague may be involved in an abusive relationship. See the indications of abuse. Here are some warning signs to look for:

  • 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 — also wearing sunglasses and unusually heavy makeup.
  • Uncharacteristic absenteeism or lateness for work.
  • Spending long hours at work, unwillingness to go home.
  • 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; unusually quiet 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. Others in the workplace may take insensitive or insulting messages intended for the colleague experiencing abuse.
  • 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 partner or spouse.
  • Fear of job loss.
  • The appearance of gifts and flowers after what appears to be a dispute between the couple which may include physical violence.

Someone who is behaving abusively at home may be “invisible” as an abuser at work. Perhaps he is an excellent worker, manager, professional and does not reveal overtly violent behaviour in the work environment.  Below are some visible warning signs that may indicate an abusive temperament:

  • May bully others at work.
  • Blames others for problems, especially his/her partner.
  • Denies problems.
  • Shows “defensive injuries” (such as scratch marks).
  • Is knowledgeable about the legal and social service systems and use it to his/her advantage so it appears that he/she is the victim.
  • Is absent or late related to his/her actions toward the victim or for court or jail time.
  • Calls his/her partner repeatedly during work.

Adapted from materials provided by the Colorado Bar Association

Common risk factors for lethal violence

The Domestic Violence Death Review Committee (DVDRC) is a multi-disciplinary advisory committee of experts that was established in the province of Ontario in 2003 to assist the Office of the Chief Coroner with the investigation and review of deaths involving domestic violence with a view to making recommendations aimed at preventing deaths in similar circumstances and reducing domestic violence in general. In 2010 the DVDRC identified the following as the top risk factors for domestic homicide:

1. Actual or pending separation  77%
2. History of domestic violence   72%
3. Obsessive behaviour displayed by perpetrator   56%
4. Perpetrator depressed in the opinions of professionals 50%
    a. (e.g., physician, counsellor) and/or non-professionals      b. (e.g., family, friends, etc)  
5. Victim had intuitive sense of fear      44%
6. Prior threats/attempts to commit suicide 39%
7. Perpetrator unemployed 39%
8. Prior threats to kill victim 33%
9. Prior attempts to isolate victim  33%
10. Access to or possession of firearms  33%
11. Control of most or all of victim's daily activities 33%
12. An actual or perceived new partner in victim's life 33%

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