Is Your Colleague Struggling with Domestic Violence?
Posted Oct 12 2012 6:00am
Though we often mistake family violence as a matter of smashed plates behind closed doors, there are far more subtle signs and far more lasting consequences. “Abuse can impact someone’s work,” says Audrey Bergin, manager, Domestic Violence (DOVE) Program at Northwest Hospital . Injuries can certainly keep someone from clocking in, but a partner who won’t stop calling or texting during work hours is also disruptive. Beth Huber, manager of thedepartment, explains that abusive partners can sabotage their significant others’ jobs to make them financially dependent.
Co-workers share close quarters, and there are certain things we simply shouldn’t ignore. Unexplained injuries or even missing patches of hair can be clear signs that something is amiss; but don’t discount that sinking feeling you get whenever you hear your colleague on the phone with her partner. Angela Fizer, community family advocate with the Family Violence Program at Sinai Hospital , says that “controlling behavior” can be an indicator of abuse. Bergin adds that if this kind of behavior happens in tandem with drinking, drug abuse and/or access to weapons, circumstances can get dire.
Reaching out can seem easier said than done, but there are a few ways to start. Bergin says that sometimes simply mentioning that you’ve noticed someone’s injuries or those urgent phone calls in the hallway is a good beginning. “The best thing to do is to acknowledge what’s going on,” she adds. “A victim’s fear is that people won’t believe them.” Once you’ve shared your observations, you can let your colleague know about the DOVE Program or the Family Violence Program. “Everything is done discreetly,” says Fizer. Meghann Mulherin, a family violence specialist at Sinai Hospital, explains that “we will find a way to meet people confidentially. We can meet outside the hospital or even get coffee in the atrium.”
The DOVE and Family Violence programs work with clients to create safety plans. “Domestic violence is so difficult to deal with on your own, especially navigating the court system,” Bergin says. “The best way to do it is with the extra support. We’ve helped hundreds and hundreds of people move on and live happy lives.”
Though we want the best for our friends and co-workers, it’s important not to push them to make the choices we think they should make, when we think they should make them. Extricating yourself from an abusive situation isn’t as easy as packing a bag and hitting the road. Sometimes, offering a sympathetic ear – sans judgment – is the best support you can offer. “Plant seeds and let them grow,” says Huber.
If you, or someone you know may need assistance, please contact the Sinai Hospital Family Violence Program at 410-601-8692, or the Domestic Violence (DOVE) Program at Northwest Hospital at 410-496-7555.