Threat Assessment in Response to Domestic or Sexual Violence
In response to domestic or sexual violence or stalking, workplaces can engage in threat assessments, a set of strategies or pathways which provide information about individuals that might pose a risk at a particular point in time. Threat assessments can discern the:
- exact nature and context of a threat and/or threatening behavior,
- identified target (general or specific),
- apparent motivation behind the threat, and
- a perpetrator’s background, including work history, criminal record, mental health history, and past behavior on the job.1
Keep in mind that a threat level is never fixed and can change over time. For this reason, constant threat assessment is a must.
Working With the Victim to Develop a Response
When the victim knows the perpetrator, the employer should work immediately in partnership with the victim to develop a safe and effective response to potential or actual violence. Frequently, the target of violence has greater insight into the violent person’s behavior and can provide substantial information about the perpetrator.
If the victim does not know the perpetrator, a workplace should also take immediate steps in partnership with the victim to assess the level of danger and protect the victim and others who may be at risk.
Workplaces must tailor responses to the unique circumstances of each case. In some instances, workplaces need to take only a few precautions beyond those already in place. Other cases require a higher level of assessment and planning, including, when applicable, the creation of a resource or response team.
Workplaces should apply the following principles when working with an employee to assess a potential threat:
- Ask about and assess facts relevant to any workplace threat. To preserve privacy, limit personal questions about the history between the victim and perpetrator to matters that help reveal the potential risk.
- Keep confidential any information provided by the victim whenever possible, only sharing specific facts with those who must receive specific information in order to implement workplace safety measures.
- Do not advise the employee about personal safety issues away from work. If the employee has a relationship with the perpetrator; do not tell the employee what to do about the relationship. Refer the employee to qualified local services for victims to ensure that the employee receives appropriate information and assistance, including safety planning. Distribute the Safety Card on this website.
- Do not blame or hold a victim responsible for a perpetrator's threats or violent actions.
Workplace Safety Accommodations for Victims
Victim-employees may need workplace accommodations to address their own particular safety issues.
- In consultation with the employee, investigate obtaining a restraining order against the perpetrator in the employer's name if threats to the workplace have already been made, or consult law enforcement about obtaining a trespass order. See the Protection Order Guide For Employers and the Protection Order Guide For Employees on this website.
- Keep a copy of any protection orders (whether sexual assault, stalking or domestic violence) on hand at all times, especially if they include the workplace or any work site. See the Protection Order Guide for Employers on this website.
- Ask if the employee wants to provide relevant details about the perpetrator, such as a picture, physical description, license plate number, or vehicle make/model. With the employee's permission, give this information to security personnel and reception staff.
- Consider relocating the employee-victim to another work area or altering the employee’s work schedule until the direct threat is over.
With the employee's input, have the employee's calls screened, transfer harassing calls to security or a designated employee, and remove the employee's name and number from automated phone directories and websites.
Responding to Acts of Violence in the Workplace
Once acts of domestic or sexual violence or stalking enter or have an impact on the workplace, they become workplace violence. Normal emergency procedures can apply only if adapted to ensure confidentiality and safety for victims of domestic and sexual violence or stalking.
- U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2004). Workplace Violence: Issues in Response. Quantico, VA: Critical Incident Response Group, National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime, FBI Academy. Available at http://www.fbi.gov/stats-services/publications/workplace-violence. See also ASIS International, (2011). Workplace Violence Prevention and Intervention: American National Standard. American National Standards Institute, Inc.