- Suggest places that they can go to for help.
- Encourage them to talk to their manager if it’s safe.
- Protect their privacy unless you have immediate concerns about someone's safety.
- Your role is not to be a counsellor or support person.
- Get support yourself if you need it.
What to do if a coworker tells you they are experiencing family and domestic violence
It's important to respond to a disclosure in a safe and supportive way.
Your role is not to be a counsellor or support person.
You are not expected to have the knowledge of a specialist practitioner or social worker, however it is important to respond to all disclosures non-judgementally, and with respect and belief.
Here are some tips on how best to support a work colleague who tells you they are experiencing family and domestic violence:
- Listen to them and acknowledge their experiences.
- Believe and validate their experiences.
- Respect their autonomy and their independence in making decisions that will impact them. Don’t take control away from them. They to decide what happens next.
- Take their concerns seriously.
- Don’t ask for details. It is not necessary or appropriate for you to know all the details of the abuse your colleague has experienced. Be guided by what they feel comfortable to share.
- Maintain confidentiality about disclosures and communicate any limits to this.
- Where safe, support them to speak with their manager about how the organisation can help.
Where possible, support them to make a safety plan and provide information that supports their choices and links them to internal and external support services including professional family and domestic violence support workers.
- Provide information that will support their own choices (as much as possible) about what happens next.
- Link them to internal and external support services including professional family and domestic violence support workers.
Here are some things you can say to them:
“Thank you for speaking so openly with me about such a difficult topic.”
“I believe you and I will support you in your decisions.”
“I am worried about you and want to help you stay safe.”
“There is help available to you.”
Here are some things you can ask them:
“Are you safe?”
“What can I do to support you?”
“Can I give you information about services that may be able to support you?"
How you can help
- Recommend they get in touch with a professional family violence support worker.
- Encourage them to speak with their manager if it’s safe.
- Ask for their consent to share their information with their manager if they don’t want to bring it up themselves. You must not tell their manager if they don’t agree.
- Help them to make a safety plan if:
- they feel comfortable
- you feel comfortable.
Who can you talk to?
When you hear about someone’s experiences of family and domestic violence you might feel:
These feelings are normal.
Supporting a coworker who is experiencing family and domestic violence can be very hard, especially if you have lived experience of family and domestic violence.
It is important that you know that support is available to you as well. Here is a list of places that can help you.
Remember that 1800RESPECT is available if you need support.
What you should do if you are worried about your own safety
Access a professional support service such as 1800RESPECT.
Police if you are threatened.
What you should not do:
- Address the issue with the perpetrator.
Are you allowed to tell anyone?
If someone tells you that they are experiencing family and domestic violence, you must keep this information private.
You should not share any information you have heard with anyone inside or outside the organisation, without the permission of the person who told you.
This includes your manager or the owner of the business.
If you are worried about their safety or the safety of someone else, or if there are intervention orders that should be taken into account, encourage the person to seek assistance, such as contacting a professional support service like 1800RESPECT.
Do you have to report it to anyone?
If you find out that an employee is experiencing family and domestic violence, you might feel worried about them and want to keep them safe.
You might think you have to tell someone, like the police.
Mostly, it is up to the person experiencing family and domestic violence to decide who they tell and what help they get. This makes sure they are in control of how their situation is managed. This keeps them safe.