Help a colleague

Don’t lose a colleague to domestic abuse or sexual violence


Learn how to spot it

Learn what to say

Learn how to support someone

Sometimes our closest colleagues can be suffering in silence. It can be difficult for someone to make a disclosure of domestic abuse, and your support is important.

With 1 in 3 women experiencing domestic abuse or sexual violence, as well as many men, trans and non-binary gendered people, it is highly possible someone we care about may need our support. Supporting a friend through abuse can be tough for you as well as them. 


But don’t worry, we’re here to help 



Signs to look out for

If you spot any of these signs, your colleague may be experiencing domestic abuse. 


Work productivity

  • Change in working patterns, frequent absence, lateness or needing to leave work early
  • Reduced quality and quantity of work
  • Change in the use of the phone or emails – for example, getting a lot of personal calls or texts, avoiding calls or a strong reaction to calls, texts or emails they receive
  • Spending more time at work and seems reluctant to go home


Changes in behaviour

  • Acting out of character
  • Becoming quieter, more anxious, tearful, aggressive, distracted or depressed
  • Isolating themselves from colleagues
  • Obsession with timekeeping
  • Secretive regarding home life
  • Worried about leaving children at home with their partner or family members

Do you need help?

Local domestic abuse services are ready to support you and your friend. Calling a helpline is not the same as reporting to the police, and support is provided confidentially. 

Are you an employer?

How and why to get a plan in place to support your employees.

Physical signs

  • Unexplained injuries, or repeated injuries with unlikely explanations
  • Change in appearance, such as the amount of make-up used or how they dress. For example, covering up and using clothing that might be hiding
  • Substance misuse
  • More tired than usual, without likely explanation


Other signs

  • Partner or ex-partner turning up at work frequently without likely explanation
  • Flowers and gifts sent for no apparent reason
  • Isolation from family and friends


Domestic abuse is very common. It can be very difficult for someone who is experiencing it to reach out for help from a support service or the police. This means that the scale of the problem stays hidden. Find out more


Learn the right things to say

If someone tells you about their experience of domestic abuse or sexual violence, it can be hard to know the right thing to say. The good news is that it’s actually quite simple with only four things to remember.  

"I'm sorry to hear that"

Show your colleague you believe them, and that you care. You might be shocked by the things you’ve been told, especially if you know the person hurting them. But remember, anyone can abuse or be abused, no matter how they seem on the face of it.

Why it’s important to say

Your colleague is being bullied and hurt, so they probably feel low. You could be the first person they’ve ever told, and they might feel alone and scared. If you are caring, your friend knows that at least one person has their best interests at heart. Your positive response will support them to cope with the situation.

“Thank you for telling me”

Let them know they’ve made a brave and positive decision to talk to someone. Don’t push for details unless they want to tell you. Reassure them you won’t share information about the abuse with anyone else without their permission unless it’s an emergency.

Why it’s important to say

There are many reasons why people experiencing abuse don’t feel able to speak out about it. A big one is fear of being judged or not believed. By reassuring someone they’re doing the right thing, you’ll help reduce that fear, and build their confidence to ask for further help from others.

“It’s not your fault”

Tell them what’s happening to them is wrong and they’re not to blame. Nothing they’ve done or said makes it okay to be abused. If the abuser drinks or is using drugs, has stress, depression, or anger problems, or had a bad childhood, this does not justify their behaviour. Abuse is the responsibility of the abuser.

Why it’s important to say

Often a person who is being abusive blames the victim or makes excuses, so they could fear what others think or blame themselves. Their self-esteem is probably quite low as a result of abuse. By telling them they’ve done nothing wrong, you’ll help to reduce their anxiety and also build their self-confidence to get further help.

“How can I help you?”

Ask them what they need. Let them know they can contact the local domestic abuse helpline to talk about their situation and get free, confidential advice. Help them store the number somewhere safe: 0808 800 0340 for women, 0115 960 5556 for men. Do not pressure them to leave. Try and be understanding if they’re not ready and let them know you’ll be there for them, whatever they decide.


Why it’s important to say

It’s important to know that help is available, even if they’re not in a place to take action. They may feel stressed, afraid, and exhausted. They might still love their partner or believe they’ll change. If you pressure them to do something they’re not ready for, they’ll only feel worse, and might pull away from all support.

Someone who is in control of their own decisions is more likely to get help and make changes that last.

If you’re worried about someone

If you have concerns about someone you work with, you can get confidential advice:


If you’re worried about a male colleague

  • Call our helpline here at Equation – 0800 995 6999 (Mon – Fri 9.30am – 4.30pm (24/7 confidential answerphone available outside these times)


If you’re worried about a female colleague

Further information

Supporting someone through a difficult and emotional time can be challenging. Remember to look after yourself.

If you need advice about how to support someone experiencing domestic abuse, call the free 24-hour local helpline, run by
Juno Women’s Aid

0808 800 0340


The Survivor’s handbook from Women’s Aid also contains practical information about every aspect of seeking support.

If you need further advice about how to support a man experiencing domestic abuse, you can call the free Mens Advice Line (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm), run by Respect 

0808 801 0327


How you can help

No matter how much time, money or resources you can afford to give, your support will make a difference. 


Give monthly

Could pay for four children
to take part in our early intervention projects


Give once

Could pay for one primary school child to receive our healthy relationship education program

Support equation

Check out the other ways you can support us



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