Domestic Violence Indicators


Domestic Violence may not begin at the workplace, but it affects the victim’s workplace. It can happen to both men and women, but more often women. There are many warning signs that an employee is experiencing domestic abuse. Changes in behavior, subordinate behavior, and many other tell-tale signs, can indicate abuse in the relationship of a co-worker. Remember, there is one place that the abuser knows the victim will always be – work.

Disruptive Calls

Any phone calls that are not work related are a disruption to the workday. But when they are numerous, abusive in nature, and from a significant other, these could be signs of domestic abuse at the home. These calls not only come to the victim, but also to co-workers, the abuser seeking information on the victim and their activities.

The victim, often, not only feels anxiety due to the content of the calls, but tension from the calls coming at work. The employee knows that the calls are against company policy, but cannot stop the calls from coming in. This causes even more stress for the victim. Threats via the phone calls, cause the victim to be uneasy, distracted, and unable to concentrate on anything except the abuse. All the signs that we will discuss, need to be reported to the proper manager.

Poor Concentration

One of the most glaring indications to a problem at home, is a good employee that suddenly has poor work performance. The employee seems distracted, maybe he/she takes longer to complete the tasks at hand, this is a behavior to note. This person’s concentration is not on work anymore, but on something else, probably the abuser. The victim is planning a get-away, planning how to hide the bruises, planning what to say to the abuser, but not planning on how they will get the work complete.

This lack of concentration can cost the team time, energy, and cost the company in productivity. In essence, the violence that occurs outside of the company, is costing the company in the end. Identifying changes in the victim’s behavior, like this, could help in identifying the problem and getting the victim the help that they need.


Black eyes, bruising, broken bones, these are all signs of abuse. Adults typically do not fall, run into doors, or slip and fall, in normal situations. But when the employee explains away injuries with convenient accident stories, further investigation is warranted.

Another warning sign is inappropriate attire or dress. For example, when the victim dresses in long sleeves on hot days, or wears sunglasses inside the building, this is to hide the bruising. The victim is covering the signs of the abuse with their dress. Wincing in pain when touched can be a sign of an underlying condition. Being suddenly startled, or unconsciously ducking when surprised can also be signs of physical abuse and possibly injuries.


Due to the circumstances at home, victims of domestic abuse frequently have high absenteeism rates. Victims often take unplanned vacations, and sudden uses of earned time. Absenteeism is frequent so to hide the injuries, but also due to the emotional abuse taking its toll on the victim’s physical condition. These absences cost the victim money, the team in time and recovery from the loss of a member, and the company in profits, and productivity of a trained employee.

Domestic abuse and the stress it exerts on the victim, often causes many other physical conditions, much like bullying. The victim can have health effects such as insomnia, headaches, gastric issues like ulcers, and even cardiac issues. This contributes to the increasing absenteeism of a domestic abuse victim.

Practical Illustration of Domestic Violence Indicators

Jack notices that Laura has been missing a lot of work lately. And when she is there, her work is subpar. He calls his manager Bill and reports that he thinks that Laura may be a victim of domestic abuse. Bill asks him to elaborate, a few absences does not necessarily make a domestic abuse case. He tells him that Laura has been wearing long sleeves, and it is July in Florida. This is not normal. He also mentions that she has been getting a lot of phone calls from home. Her husband called Jack last week, asking if Laura was at work that day. Bill agrees that there may be a problem and thanks Jack for his observant nature and reporting.

Bill calls in Laura and offers her assistance. he tells her that there is also an Employee Assistance Program that she can use, free of charge, anonymously. Laura makes an appointment with them for next week.

About the Author:

Joseph “Paul” Manley is the Founding Principal Consultant for Risk Mitigation Technologies, LLC, an Independent Security Consulting and Training practice with a focus on violence detection, prevention, response, and recovery. Paul is a retired Massachusetts Police Lieutenant, Board-Certified Workplace Violence and Threat Specialist, Security Expert, and Trainer.


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