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Family Violence and the Workplace*

What Can Employers Do?1     Helping a Co-Worker Who Is Being Abused

  1. Understand the Problem:
  2. Employers should know the basic facts about wife assault:

    • An estimated one in eight Canadian women suffers some kind of abuse-physical, sexual and/or psychological-from her current partner
    • Wife abuse occurs in every socioeconomic, racial, and cultural group
    • Abuse happens in a repetitive cycle. Once the pattern has been established, it is extremely difficult to stop without outside help
    • Alcohol and drugs may contribute to but do not cause the violence
    • Wife assault is a criminal offence

  3. Provide information to employees, such as:

    • Written information on the dynamics and effects of wife abuse
    • A list of community resources and how to contact them. In Saskatchewan, Canada, you can tell your employees about the Abuse Help Lines page near the front of every DirectWest telephone book.
    • Resources available within your organization (EAP, personnel, nurse)

  4. Offer Referrals

    • Train key contacts in your organization about wife assault so they can offer both victims and offenders appropriate counselling and referral services

  5. Practice Prevention

    • Work to eliminate any organizational policies, procedures and practices that implicitly or explicitly put down women
    • Encourage discussion in the workplace about the issue of family violence (see Awareness Information for People in the Workplace)
    • Hold a brown-bag lunch with a video on violence or with a speaker from a local shelter. Show a video from the National Film Board's Violence Against Women Collection* (English, Français) (see also the National Clearinghouse on Family Violence).
      *Many public libraries have collections of NFB and/or National Clearinghouse videos.
    • Provide financial support to community--based services for abused women
    • Sponsor a public forum on violence against women in your community
    • Speak out at every opportunity against wife assault; send a clear message that all violence is unacceptable
    • December 6 is National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women in Canada. Conduct your own special project: hold a poster campaign against violence, set up resource tables with information on wife assault in key locations in your building, or invite community speakers to your staff meeting

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What Can You Do to Help a Co-Worker Who Is Being Abused?1

  • Believe her
  • Listen and affirm her feelings without judging her
Give clear messages that:
  • she does not cause the abuse
  • she is not to blame
  • she cannot change her partner's behaviour
  • apologies and promises will not end the violence
  • abuse is not loss of control; it is a means of control
  • wife assault is a crime
  • she is not alone
  • she is not crazy
  • violence is never justifiable
  • the safety of the woman and her children is always the first priority
  • talk with her about her options and help her plan for her and her children's safety
  • give her the time and space to make her own decisions
  • give her a list of the key community resources that support and work with assaulted women
  • respect her need for confidentiality

An abused woman needs our support and encouragement in order to make choices that are right for her. However, there are some forms of advice that are detrimental and even dangerous for her to hear.


  • Tell her what to do, when to leave or when not to leave
  • Tell her to go back to the situation and try a little harder
  • Rescue her by trying to find quick solutions
  • Suggest you talk to her partner to try and straighten things out
  • Tell her she should stay for the sake of the children.
*from VIS-À-VIS, the National Newsletter on Family Violence (out-of print)

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