Before you ask a staff member if they are experiencing family violence, consider if you are ready to hear the answer “yes”.
It’s common for people to have concerns about asking, such as:
The following information will help you prepare to listen and respond appropriately when asking about family violence.
If you think that a staff member may be experiencing family violence, it is important to provide a safe place to talk. This should be a confidential conversation in a private place where the other party feels safe to disclose. The first thing to say could be something like:
I’m concerned about you. Could we go somewhere to talk privately?
Start with a statement about confidentiality, such as:
If the staff member tells you that they are experiencing behaviours of concern but does not use the term family violence, you could say:
Use a sensitive, non-judgemental approach.
Don’t judge the person or their life. For example, you may think that people in violent relationships should leave the relationship, but this is not easy to do.
Often the person using violence uses tactics that make it very difficult for their partner to leave and separation increases the risks associated with family violence.
Your role in responding to disclosures of family violence is to listen to and assist the person, not tell them what they should do.
Use empathic statements, such as:
Believe the person
Provide a strong statement that violence is never okay
Be clear that violence is never okay and that it is not their fault. Nothing they have done warrants physical, emotional or psychological violence.
Don’t say or imply that they may have contributed to the behaviour. For example:
Don’t say that the violence may have happened because the other person was drunk, angry, stressed or depressed. A common feature of family violence is that the person using violence blames the victim/survivor for provoking them, or blames circumstances. It is not helpful to reinforce these myths.
Statements can include:
Ask if they feel safe to go home today
This is an important question as the subsequent discussion will depend on the answer.
If they don’t feel safe, you need to ask:
If they do feel safe to go home, ask what assistance they need to keep themselves and their children safe.
I’d like to support you and help you to put some actions in place to keep you safe. I’m not a counsellor, but perhaps we can discuss some options and support services if you want to?
Recognise that it is not easy to leave
Some people find it very difficult to leave violent situations for a variety of reasons including:
Don’t try to fix the situation.
It is not your responsibility to fix or save the person from their situation. The person experiencing family violence knows the most about what is going on and what will be helpful for them and their children.
You may need support to manage your own feelings about not being able to fix the situation, particularly if the person is someone you know well.
Provide information about referral and support services
If you think it is appropriate for the situation, you may want to provide some information about family violence agencies so the person can follow up with professionals when and if they wish to.
Consider the following when making a referral:
Relationships Australia Victoria (RAV) provides services supporting individuals, couples, parents and families. These include counselling, relationship education courses and programs, and support groups for people affected by family violence.
We also provide a range of resources that can be downloaded free of charge from our website, including
For professionals and workplaces, RAV provides a range of professional development workshops to help staff understand the impact of, and respond to, family violence. Visit www.rav.org.au/training for more information on our services.
McFerran, L. (2011). Safe at home, safe at work: National Domestic Violence and the Workplace Survey. Sydney: Australian National Domestic and Family Violence Clearance.
Download a PDF copy of this tip sheet here.