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Identifying The Signs Of Abuse In A Colleague Or Friend

How would you know if somebody you work with or even a friend is being abused? What should you look out for and how would you go about helping them?

Many times colleagues can be the ones to identify the signs of abuse as they have a different view of the other person’s life; they may even spot the signs more easily than somebody who is closer.


In both cases it is important to reach out to the person you think is being abused. You might be the only one who actually does something. Try and approach the individual in a non-judgmental and caring way. Sometimes just listening to a person can be extremely helpful.  If it is a colleague at work you may want to consider raising the issue with the company’s human resources department.


Often people think of abuse as something physical, but it encompasses a lot more than this one thing.  Abuse happens to both women and men, young and old. Many don’t speak about it, but it can even happen between family members, an adult child who is abusive towards their parents.

There are actually a few different types of ways that abuse can manifest:


  • The physical and sexual abuse
  • Emotional, verbal and psychological abuse
  • Harassment
  • Exerting control and coercion over another person
  • Economic / financial abuse, which can fall under control. This is where the abuser limits the resources available, forcing the victim to rely on them for finances.


The following signs displayed by the victim might indicate that abuse is occurring:


  • The person may start to wear clothing that they didn’t before, to cover up their bodies. Or have injuries that don’t quite match up with their explanation.
  • The abused person may withdraw from all social activities, cancel plans or make excuses for not attending meetings.
  • You may even be a witness to the abuse, where the abuser belittles and verbally assaults the person.
  • If your friend or colleague asks you to keep certain normal things secret, afraid of what their abuser might say or do.
  • If your work colleague’s work performance starts to suffer, poor concentration, handing in inconsistent or incomplete work and making a significant amount of errors.
  • Some abusers may even visit the partner at work, causing unpleasant scenes
  • If the spouse or abuser asks you questions about their partners whereabouts and activities
  • If the abused person is very reluctant to leave work
  • Signs of anxiety, not eating properly or becoming very jumpy and significantly less confident
  • The abused person may show signs in their body language – bent shoulders, doesn’t look anybody in the eye, avoiding conversations and choosing to sit alone.


“You can recognise survivors of abuse by their courage. When silence is so very inviting, they step forward and share their truth so others know they aren’t alone.” Jeanne Mcelvaney

What can you do about the abuse for a friend or colleague?


As mentioned before, offer your help and try to talk to your friend or colleague about it. If they do decide to talk, just listen. Try to provide information where they can get help; be careful if you give advice, sometimes your opinion might not be the best way. Offer your support more and show them your concern, let them know you’re there for them.


Some other ways to help:

  • It may come to a point where reporting the problem to authorities is the best option. Talking to management in a company or going to the police.
  • Gather information on how you can offer help and where to get help if you need it
  • Offer a safe place for them to come if they need to get away from their abuser


Call Lifeline for 24 hour support and telephone counselling: 011 422 4242 OR 0861 322 322


Here are some more important organisations you can contact for help.






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