What To Do When The Abuser And The Victim Are Both Employees
When a victim and an abuser work together, acts of abuse will almost certainly occur at work. The acts of abuse may be physical violence or intimidation. The abuser has ready access to the victim and will rarely leave abusive tactics outside the workplace door. The abuser may become jealous of the victim’s professional relationships, may insist on coming to work and leaving with her/him, may be more involved in the duties of her/his position or job than he/she should be, and may behave in other ways that jeopardize the victim’s job and safety. (Source CBA1)
If the victim and the abuser separate, continued acts of hostility and abuse may still be carried out at work. The close proximity and the legitimate necessity for both parties to be at the workplace present a difficult and sometimes dangerous situation. Harassing behavior may become violent before, during, or after work hours. (Source CBA1)
The employer must make accommodations that will protect, not punish, the victimized employees. Some accommodations might include separating the parties and flexing schedules. At the very least, employers are compelled to assure that any order of protection is NOT subverted. (Source CBA1)
While an employer cannot regulate an employee’s behavior while the employee is not at work, unlawful behavior on or off the company clock can be cause for workplace sanctions. (Source CBA1)
Someone in authority can order an abuser to stay away from the workplace. Failure by the abuser to stay away can result in a charge of trespass.
An abuser may commit other criminal violations on the premises of the workplace, e.g., stalking, assault, or carrying a concealed weapon. In these or similar situations, law enforcement should be called immediately.
An employer can obtain a protective order against an abuser who stalks, threatens, or harasses the employees or customers of that business. With a protective order, law enforcement does not have to wait until some other crime (e.g., assault, harassment, or trespass) is committed before arresting. A disadvantage to protective orders is that they may only further infuriate the abuser and/or give the victim a false sense of security. (Source CBA4) (See Employers Obtaining Protective Orders)
In speaking with someone who is abusive:
- Express empathy for difficulties he/she experienced/experiences.
- Do not blame the victim.
- Advise stopping the abuse (just as you would advise someone not to drive drunk).
- Do not ask how the victim provoked him.
- Do not encourage the person to find an attorney that will “fight this all the way.”
- Maintain that there is no excuse for violence.
- Speak to the victim’s reality as you know it, especially the extent of the victim’s physical or emotional injuries.
- Do not presume that what the person tells you is the whole story. Seek outside sources, law enforcement reports, medical records, eye witness reports, etc.
- Help the person understand that it is better to take responsibility for his/her actions and find help than obsessing over the victim.
- Remind the person that only he/she controls his/her behavior. No one can make him/her be abusive or lose control.
- Provide the person with a list of certified treatment providers. See Community Resources.
- Provide the individual with referral information to the Employee Assistance Program if he/she is a co-worker.
- Make an effort to stay in touch with this person. The perpetrator may be as isolated as the victim.
- Be persistent and realize you may have to take the initiative.
- Do not assume that the person understands the meaning of no contact orders, restraining orders, child support orders, or other court orders.
- If the court has ruled on parenting privileges, remind the person that the purpose of parenting time is to maintain contact with the children, not the former partner.
- Explain that information will only be released on a need-to-know basis and as required by law.
- Help the person de-escalate by suggesting practical ways to comply with court orders. (Source CBA4)
- Do not be taken in by excuses.
- Do not assume the victim is safe if he/she says it won’t happen again, even if the person who has been abusive is remorseful.
- Do not try to physically intervene. Rather, call the law enforcement.
- Do not feel guilty about calling the law enforcement. You might be saving someone’s life. (Source AFT)