Listening to someone disclosing that they are in an abusive relationship is not easy and whilst I wish I could write a list of things of what to say and what not to say life is just not that simple and domestic violence certainly isn’t. Of course, their certain do’s and don’ts.

The Do’s

  • Thank them for trusting you
  • Let them know you believe them
  • Ask them how you can help them
  • Ask them why they choose you – be sure you are the one they want to disclose everything too before they have shared too much. They may prefer to go to HR for example.
  • Listening without judgment or presumption

The Don’ts

  • Ask them why they haven’t left or why they stayed
  • Tell them to leave
  • Make assumption about their situation
  • Make judgments, even if you have been through domestic violence yourself. You still, do not know their situation
  • Presume you know how they feel.

Obviously, this is not an exhaustive list. Which is why it is so important to understand the dynamics of abuse, know the signs and how to communicate to someone subjected to abuse.

This will enable empathetic communication and from that starting point, honest, open communication can start. Meaning the person disclosing will feel safe and understood. Thus, enabling the right help at the right time and minimising the chance of further trauma.

Believe when I say, disclosing domestic violence is never easy, especially in the workplace. If the disclosure is handled badly the person disclosing could feel unsafe and decide it was wrong to speak up. It may take months even years for them to speak up again.

So, listening with knowledge and understanding of domestic violence creates empathy which hopefully leads to trust. Which is good for all involved.



Lisa McAdams

About Lisa: Lisa is a survivor of domestic violence who shares her story openly; along with knowledge and understanding of abuse and her experience from her time in corporate to help companies develop an organisational culture of empathy and understanding.

She helps by bringing insights on this complex and emotional subject, ensuring managers understand the issue, the signs and how to communicate with those impacted by domestic violence.

Lisa is passionate about educating workplaces so they can ensure women in abusive relationships remain in the workplace. Because employment improves outcomes and can ultimately save lives.

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