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Recognizing When a Colleague May Be Experiencing Domestic Abuse


Sometimes the signs that a woman is in an abusive relationship may be so subtle that you do not immediately recognize them. But it is important to know that domestic abuse is often fueled by silence and secrecy, and it is important to be aware of the symptoms.

It can be annoying when a coworker says she’ll help you get that project done, but she cannot seem to find the time to assist you. Or what about the coworker who is constantly distracted by the enormous number of daily calls and texts she receives from her significant other during the workday? Or the coworker who seems to have frequent and significant mood swings? One minute she’s smiling and interacting with her colleagues, and then suddenly she is withdrawn, quiet and depressed.

Do you know a coworker who:

  • Frequently makes plans and then cancels
  • Receives multiple calls, texts or emails from their significant other during the workday
  • Always has an excuse for not being able to participate in activities outside of work
  • Frequently takes PTO
  • Is always picked up and dropped off by her significant other
  • Has problems with addiction
  • Is in an on-again/off-again relationship
  • Has a significant other who in social or work situations makes “jokes” that shame, humiliate, demean or embarrass her
  • Has told you no one in her family likes her significant other
  • Has a relationship that progressed very quickly
  • Has told you her friends and family have stopped talking to her
  • Changes her mood after speaking with her significant other
  • Has changed her mode of dress and/or appearance

These are all signs of domestic abuse. Not necessarily domestic violence, but emotional, verbal and possibly financial abuse. The more obvious domestic violence signs would include the coworker who comes in with a black eye, bruises, or a broken bone and laughs about how clumsy she is.

These signs of domestic abuse are a compilation of domestic violence education and real life clients of mine. I was seeing one of my clients at her work because she was only allowed to drive to work and then home and he checked the miles every day. She also had to “check in” with him on her work computer every 30 minutes to prove she was at work. Another client, a surgical nurse, would be totally focused on her job and enjoying her coworkers, but then check her text messages on a break and her whole mood would change. One of my clients told me she used to accept invitations from coworkers to meet up for dinner or drinks but then would have to cancel because her husband was too upset. She would then go home, only to spend the evening with him giving her the silent treatment.

Sure, one of these signs doesn’t mean a woman is in an abusive relationship, as there may be other reasons. But it is something to be aware of and maybe be a little curious. The next time you feel yourself becoming annoyed by their behavior, try to talk to them about what you’re noticing and let them know you care. You don’t have to fix her situation or be her therapist, just let her talk and let her know there are people who can help. Domestic abuse is fueled by silence and secrecy. Don’t be afraid to bring it up, you could be saving a life.

If you’re to find help working through your current situation, you can get in touch with therapist Diane Wall at If you’re looking to pursue a legal course of action, our Denver family law attorneys at the Harris Law Firm are ready and waiting to provide you with the support and guidance you need. Contact us today by giving us a call at (303) 622-5502.

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