Intimate Partner Violence in the Work Place

By: Norma Subias, Clinic Social Worker II, LMR and

Dora Reyes, U of H Graduate School of Social Work Intern


People experience all sorts of pain, whether it is physical, emotional, mental, or verbal. At one point or another, we will all experience intentional or unintentional pain. When you are experiencing intentional pain from a person you love or you believe loves you, the experience can be shameful and paralyzing. Intimate partner violence (IPV), or domestic violence (DV), is “a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another person” (Houston Area Women’s Center 2020). The abusive behavior can be physical, sexual, emotional, psychological, economic, and/or spiritual. Domestic violence affects 1 out of 3 women and 1 out of 4 men in their lifetime. It is also important to note that during COVID, there has been an increase of IPV cases, most notably in deaths related to IPV. Given these statistics, no one is immune to finding themselves in an intimate partner violence situation, including employees here at Legacy.

Historically, IPV has been considered a “behind closed doors” or “family issue”.  But the impact of IPV affects all aspects of life, beyond just the family unit, including church, friendships, bystanders, and even at work.  About 74% of employed IPV victims are contacted by their aggressor while at work (National Domestic Violence Hotline (NDVH) 2020). In other words, it is highly possible that you could encounter a coworker who is in an IPV situation. We tend to focus on how to serve our patients dealing with IPV situations, but it’s equally important to remember that our colleagues are just as at risk. According to NDVH, some possible ways IPV shows up in the workplace are:

  • Excessive lateness or unexplained absences
  • Frequent use of ‘sick time’
  • Unexplained injuries or bruising
  • Changes in appearance
  • Lack of concentration/often preoccupied
  • Disruptive phone calls or personal visits from their partner
  • Drops in productivity
  • Sensitivity about home life or hints of trouble at home

It can be difficult to start conversations with your manager or coworkers about your personal life. However, if you need to take time off or are having difficulties completing your work, it is important to communicate with your manager. If you are not ready to speak to your manager, find a trusted colleague, social worker, or HR Specialist that might be able to guide you in this situation. Remember, you are the expert of your own situation and it is never easy to share your story. It takes courage to share your story, but you also have people around you who can provide support.

If you are a manager (or colleague) and an employee comes to you and discloses IPV/DV or you notice any of the above warning signs, some guidelines to consider are:

  • Find a private space to speak with your employee or colleague.
  • Listen attentively and without judgement. (Remember, it took courage to start this conversation.)
  • Validate their experience with statements such as “I believe you” and “You don’t deserve this”.
  • Reassure the person that you are there to help and support.
  • Maintain confidentiality as appropriate to the situation.
  • Determine what steps, if any, need to be taken to ensure the safety of your employee or colleague.
  • Offer to accompany them when discussing with a professional or reporting to law enforcement, if appropriate.

Below are some resources that are available for anyone experiencing IPV or a domestic violence situation. For a complete list of resources, feel free to reach out to any of the Clinic Social Workers in your Legacy Community Health clinic.



Legacy Employee Assistance Program 1-877-533-2363


Houston Area Women’s Center


Number: 713-528-6798



National Domestic Violence Hotline


Number: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY)