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NEWS | Oct. 12, 2007

Know how to help a friend

By Jim Hernandez 437th Medical Group family advocacy outreach manager

It is not uncommon for someone to find out that a co-worker they are close to is involved in an abusive relationship. Your friend might reveal their partner is physically harming them, or subjecting them to a constant pattern of emotional abuse. What can you do to help?

First of all, listen to them without judging. Victims of maltreatment often believe the abuser's negative messages about them. Your friend may feel responsible for causing the abuse, ashamed about it and inadequate to cope well.

Second, let your friend know you care about them and have concern for their safety and health. Tell him or her they are not responsible for the abuse, and physical violence in a relationship is never acceptable. No matter what they've done -- alcohol or drug abuse, financial mistakes, parenting mistakes or jealousy -- nothing justifies the abuser's behavior.

Thirdly, refer your friend to a program specifically designed to assist people in abusive relationships. Such a program exists here at Charleston AFB. It is called the Family Advocacy Program -- part of the many services offered by the base clinic. Your friend can call Family Advocacy for assistance at 963-6972, or visit the office in Building 1000 between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

If you are the co-worker of someone experiencing domestic violence:

Do not directly confront them since it is important for an individual to self-disclose for their own safety and well-being.

Express concern and a willingness to listen, and be supportive if needed.

Offer support by listening and assisting; when an individual is ready, they will confide.

If a co-worker confides in you, encourage communication with the human resources manager and their supervisor.

If you witness an incident at work, contact your safety manager or law enforcement officials immediately. Make sure the incident is documented.

If you are the supervisor or manager of an employee who is experiencing domestic violence:

Be aware of unusual absences or behavior, and take note of bruises or emotional distress.

Contact the human resources manager to discuss concerns, resources available and ways to support the employee, e.g., safety planning, employee-assistance counseling, family resource referrals, flexible scheduling and security measures.

Be familiar with community resources and referrals.
Maintain confidentiality at all times; be sensitive to the seriousness of the situation.

Discuss who is appropriate to speak with the employee; agree on all forms of communication. 

Assist the employee in documenting all incidents with the abuser that occur in the workplace. (Information provided by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.)