Survivors who have experienced interpersonal violence often turn to those closest to them to seek support, which may include colleagues and coworkers. You may notice a change in your colleague's behaviors or attitude, or they may directly disclose to you.
As a coworker, you may notice that the survivor:
- Is having ongoing difficulties concentrating, completing work tasks, or meeting deadlines.
- Avoids common areas or interactions with others.
- Is repeatedly absent or late to meetings or work.
- Receives phone calls, emails, text messages, or other communications that results in them being distracted or upset.
This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, but to identify some examples of the ways you may see interpersonal violence impacting colleagues. The presence or absence of any of these or others signs is not an indicator of the level of severity or impact of the experience.
Experiences of interpersonal violence such as domestic violence, stalking, sexual harassment, or sexual assault can have significant short- and long-term impacts on an individual. These experiences can be traumatic and affect the way that a survivor interacts with the world. Below are several ways that you can respond to your colleague's disclosure in a way that recognizes the potential impacts of IPV.
- Believe your coworker and stay supportive. Sharing an experience takes a lot of courage. Don't ask what they did to cause the behavior or defend the other person. If we know the person they identify as causing harm, be mindful not to defend them, minimize, or justify their actions.
- Instead of asking "What's wrong with you?" or "Why are you so distracted?" try asking "What has happened?", "How can I help?", or "What do you need?"
- Ask them what they need. Your colleague may be coming to you without any intention or desire to report the experience, or they may want your help in reporting. Ask your colleague how you can help them. That may include going with them to speak to a supervisor or human resources representative, or reaching out for confidential support through SHARPP.