WISE Support – Dartmouth

Dating Violence

What is Dating Violence?

Dating violence is a pattern of coercive and manipulative behaviors committed against a current or former intimate partner to gain power and control. Dating violence is also sometimes called relationship violence, domestic violence, or intimate partner violence. All of those terms refer to relationships that are abusive. Anyone can be a victim or perpetrator, they come from all demographics. They are at Dartmouth too.

You are not alone

On average, 20 people per minute are victims of physical violence by an intimate partner in the United States. 1

43% of college aged women experience abusive dating behaviors including, physical, sexual, tech, verbal or controlling abuse. 2

According to the CDC, 1 in 4 women will experience severe physical violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime.

WISE has 30+ trained advocates to support you every hour, every day. Call 866-348-WISE for immediate support or email a WISE Advocate.

Another layer: Identity and Same Sex Relations

Abusers who are LGBTQIA are exercising the same behaviors of power and control, entitlement and ownership over their partners, just as heterosexual or cis abusers. Additional layers of shame, depression, fear, powerlessness and silence are created when identities are culturally marginalized. It may not feel safe looking for support from families, friends or communities who had previously excluded you because of your LGBTQIA identity. If the abuser is also part of the LGBTQIA community it may feel extra hard to find support because of pressure from the group, or fear of additional criticism from the outside world.

Abuse is never your fault.

You are not alone

44% of lesbian women and 61% of bisexual women experience rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner. 3

26% of gay men and 37% of bisexual men experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime.

25% – 33% of LGBT relationships are abusive. This is the same percentage as straight relationships. 4

36% of lesbians, 55% bisexual women have been slapped, pushed, or shoved by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime. 5

Around 30%-50% of transgender individuals will experience relationship violence in their lifetimes. 6

Another layer: immigrants and refugees

Domestic violence can happen regardless of where we live, who we are, whom we love, where we come from, what our economic status is, what language we speak, or what our citizenship status is. An abuser may use specific tactics related to your identity as an immigrant to maintain power and control over you.

The following are a list of unique and additional barriers that a person who is an immigrant may experience when trying to find safety from abuse:

• Your abuser may lie to you about your rights, use your cultural background against you, or use threats about child custody or deportation to silence and frighten you.

• You may worry what might happen if your abuser is deported.

• You may be dependent on your abuser economically or for immigration status.

• You may worry about your family here or in your home country if you choose to speak out about the abuse.

• You may struggle to find adequate support and advocacy if English is not your first language.

• If you are a person without documentation, you may worry about whether it is safe to talk to your doctor or anyone about what is happening at home.

• If you are a person without documentation, you may worry about whether you can use or trust the legal system to keep you safe. Additionally, turning to the police or other authorities may feel unsafe if these were sources of danger or abuse in your home country.

Things You Should Know:

• You have the right to live free from sexual and domestic violence. Regardless of your immigration status, you can get a protection order from the courts.

• Abuse is never you fault. Abusers use a pattern of behaviors to have power and control over the victim.

• There could be immigration, employment, housing and welfare options for you in your current community.

• You are eligible to apply to the courts for a protection order against your abuser, even if you are undocumented.

There are laws that ensure immigrant survivors/victims of sexual or domestic violence can seek safety and support in this country. Even if you are an undocumented immigrant, there are different ways to gain lawful status in the U.S. without the knowledge of your abuser.

Call 866-348-WISE for immediate support and access to our Immigration Legal Services. WISE has 24-hour access to translators. We can arrange a phone meeting or and in-person meeting so you are able to connect with an advocate through a translator.

Does your partner…

disrespect you in public or in private?

demand you share social media passwords, texts, and phone messages?

prevent you from working, sleeping, studying, or taking care of yourself?

take your money and not pay you back?

insist this is what relationships are like?

claim your friends or family are trying to ruin your relationship?

blame you for problems in your relationship?

pressure you to do sexual things that make you uncomfortable?

force you to drink, use drugs, or do things that get you into trouble?

destroy your belongings or property around you?

undermine your parenting or threaten to take away your kids?

provoke you and blame you for your reaction?

threaten to share personal information, spread rumors or hurt oneself or both of you?

Abuse is not because of…

poor anger management skills—dating violence is about a desire to have power and control over the partner, not because the abuser gets angry or “out of hand.”

substance use or abuse—drugs and alcohol often act as an excuse for an abuser to act more extreme but the manipulative and coercive behaviors are present without substances.

childhood experiences of abuse—violence is a learned behavior but it is not an excuse for perpetration.

low self-esteem—abusers feel entitled to power and control over their partners and are confident that the behavior is acceptable.

lack of trust–is never an excuse to control what their partners do, to whom they talk to or with whom they spend time.

Abuse is never your fault.

Increasing safety in an abusive relationship

There are ways to increase your safety while you are in an abusive relationship and when you are leaving one. We believe that you are the expert in your situation. Only you know how to stay safe from your abuser. Below are some strategies that may be helpful for you. We are here to talk with you and discuss what safety means to you and how to stay safe in your relationship.

Identify the people in your life who you can tell about the abuse: friends, family members, professors, counselors, co-workers, doctors, police officers, Safety & Security, advocates.

Establish a safe word that will tell your supporters that you need them to take action without alerting the abuser that help is on the way.

Think about how you want your supporters to help you: listen, keep important documents safe or hold onto money, call the police or Safety & Security?

Keep records and evidence of the abuse: take pictures of injuries or property damages, call the police or Safety & Security, keep a log of events

Keep your prescriptions safe from your abuser. If you are concerned about your abuser damaging or withholding your birth control, talk with your medical provider about the best method for you.

Find a hidden place for money, an extra car or room key, and copies of important documents: somewhere in your dorm, a friend’s dorm, at work, in your car.

Create new email and social media accounts. Consider having an email that you do not access from your personal computer. Using a non-personal computer will reduce the likelihood that he could be tracking your history or keystrokes and access passwords.

Consider having a separate phone and number where people can leave messages or call without the abuser having access. Google voice can be a way to do this through a computer (so you won’t have to hide a phone).

Avoid dangerous clothing or accessories (i.e., scarves or long necklaces that can strangle).

Create several believable reasons and alibis for you to avoid time with the abuser. Identify safe places where you can go to for short or long period of time. Some ideas might be a friend’s place, work, a park, public business, shopping center, bookstore, library, gym, class, etc.

Seek medical treatment for injuries caused by the abuse and have injuries documented by a medical professional.

Preparing to end an abusive relationship

Leaving is often a dangerous time for victims of dating violence. Take all threats seriously and plan for your safety.

Anticipate how your abuser will react to you leaving

Women who are victims of dating violence have a much higher rate of being arrested as a result of abusers calling police or Safety & Security. Think about whether they might accuse you of a crime or report you to campus officials?

You can call WISE and work with an advocate to plan a safe escape.

After leaving an abusive relationship

Change locks on your apartment or ask your UGA about updating your dorm room lock.

Change your cell phone number or block your abuser’s number.

Unfriend the abuser on Facebook and other social media platforms, make sure your privacy settings are strong. Even with privacy settings if you have friends in common some of your information may still be available to the abuser.

Inform those who you live or work with to screen your calls and make sure that your abuser cannot get through to you cannot contact you or visit you at work.

Avoid certain areas that your abuser may look for you: school buildings, parties, banks, stores, restaurants, gyms, etc.

Record any irregular occurrences, stalking behaviors, or signs of the abuser. Be aware that abusers can easily access technological devices to stalk their victims.

Change or vary your routines so that your abuser cannot track or follow you.

Plan in advance what you will do if you see your abuser in public or if they try to contact you.

How Can I Support Someone In An Abusive Relationship?

58% of college students say they don’t know how to help someone who is a victim of dating abuse. 6

Supporting a friend or loved one who is in an abusive relationship can feel frustrating, overwhelming and scary. Here are some helpful tips for supporting victims, safely and effectively:

Stay in touch

Abusers frequently isolate their victims from friends and family. Do not take it personally if your friend is suddenly busy or unable to see you. Do your best to stay in your friend’s life, check in on your friend and let him or her know that you are available.

Listen and believe

Abusers intentionally make their victims feel confused, embarrassed and/or guilty. Listen to your friend openly and without judgment.

Focus on the abuse

Point out the behaviors that are abusive rather than criticize the abuser. Talking about what an awful person the abuser is naturally makes the victim feel defensive.

Use the Empowerment Model

The goal of an abuser is to have power and control over the victim. Remind your friend that (s)he has the power to make their own decisions.

Call 866-348-WISE for immediate support or email a WISE Advocate.

Sexual Violence

What is Sexual Violence?

Sexual violence is any unwanted sexual contact or behavior including: sexual harassment, voyeurism and rape. Only we can decide what happens to our bodies and it is never our fault when someone chooses to violate that right.

  • any sexual act with someone who, for any reason, cannot consent or refuse
  • any act of violence where sex is a weapon
  • any form of non-consensual sexual activity
  • any sexual act one is forced to perform
  • Each state has different laws around sexual violence and reporting.

Each state has different laws around sexual violence and reporting.

Vermont state sexual assault statute

Find your state sexual assault statute

You can read more in our Surviving Sexual Violence Booklet.

What is Rape?

Rape, also referred to as Sexual Assault, is defined by the FBI as: “penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” 8

You are not alone

1 in 4 college women report surviving rape or attempted rape at some point in their lifetime. These are anonymous reports on multi-campus surveys sampling thousands of college students nationwide (Fisher, Cullen & Turner, 2000; Tjaden & Thoennes, 2006). This rate has remained the same since studies in the 1980s (Koss, Gidycz, & Wisniewki, 1987).

1 in 5 young women have been sexually assaulted while they are in college. 9

First year students are most vulnerable to rape during the Red Zone – the period between Labor Day and Thanksgiving.

91.9% of female victims of rape were a partner or acquaintance of the perpetrator (CDC, NISVS, 2011).

For female rape survivors, 98.1% of the time a man was the perpetrator (Black, Basile, Breiding, Smith, Walters, & Merrick, 2011).

For male rape survivors, 93% of the time, a man was the perpetrator (Black, Basile, Breiding, Smith, Walters, & Merrick, 2011).

96.1% of drug related sexual assault involved alcohol consumption (Steven et al., 2010).

In up to 50% of the cases, the victim, perpetrator, or both had been drinking (Abbey et al, 2004).

WISE has 30+ trained advocates to support you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Call 866-348-WISE for immediate support or email a WISE Advocate.

LGBTQIA survivors

Everyone’s experiences of sexual violence are different and unique. Additional layers of shame, depression, fear, powerlessness and silence are created when identities are culturally marginalized. It may not feel safe looking for support from families, friends or communities who had previously excluded you because of your LGBTQIA identity. If the perpetrator is also part of the LGBTQIA community it may feel extra hard to find support because of pressure from the group or fear of additional criticism from the outside world.

Rape myths often hide the realities of dating and sexual violence in our culture and make it much harder to recognize all the varieties of experiences and identities that are affected. Cultural myths such as women cannot rape or that a man who raped a man must be gay, can make survivors feel like their experience was not actually an assault and create implications or confusion around sense of identity or what happened. If you experienced sexual violence, know that it is real and it is not your fault.

Hate Crimes

When people are targets for crime and violence because of their identity, the violence is considered a hate crime. 10 There are additional laws that exist to protect people who are victims of hate motivated violence. 11 There are additional laws that exist to protect people who are victims of hate motivated violence. 11

Male survivors

In our society, men and boys are pressured to be strong, powerful, dominant, and in control at all times. Because of social pressure, male survivors of sexual violence often feel unable to talk about what happened or to seek help. Everyone processes sexual assault differently. Whatever you may be feeling is normal. Some common feelings that male victims experience are:

Confusion: Sexual violence does not always hurt. You may have been physically aroused by what happened. It is a normal physiological response and does not mean that you wanted the assault to happen.

Questioning: Sometimes men, who were assaulted by other men, question their sexuality. A physiological response stimulated by a perpetrator does not indicate homosexuality.

Betrayal: You may feel that your body betrayed you because you did not fight the perpetrator. It is very common for sexual assault victims to freeze and become unable to fight.

Embarrassment: You did nothing wrong and did not cause the assault. The perpetrator is the only one to blame for what happened. It was not your fault.

Avoidance: You may have a desire to avoid your feelings or forget about the assault. You can talk about what happened to you. You do not have to go through this alone.

WISE advocates support all survivors of sexual violence, including men. For information and support exclusively for male victims, check out www.1in6.org . You are not alone.

Immigrant and refugee survivors

Sexual violence can take many forms in various immigrant communities, including but not limited to sexual assault, forced marriage, and female genital mutilation.

If you do not have legal residency, you may worry that the assault will affect your ability to remain in this country or will affect your attempt to become a legal resident. As a victim of a crime, you have very specific rights. However, immigration can be very complicated. Our immigration attorney can help you think through your options.

Any sexual violence that you experienced was not your fault. No matter the situation, no one deserves to have that happen to them. As an immigrant you may experience additional or unique challenges in the aftermath of sexual violence:

Community Alienation. Domestic violence and sexual assault are frequently normalized or regarded as a “family issue.” You may be afraid to seek support fearing you will be stigmatized by or alienated from your community. Religious values may play a part in this process, prioritizing the unity of the family over your safety.

Service Accessibility. If English is not your first language, it may be challenging to access advocacy and support. WISE has access to translators and can arrange for phone and in person meetings with you, an advocate, and the translator.

Fear of Deportation. Many immigrant women stay silent about their abuse because they fear deportation. Due to their very different legal statuses, refugees, legal immigrants, and undocumented immigrants have different rights in these situations.

Refugees bear a special status from the US government, allowing them to petition for legal permanent residence after one year in the US. Although you may be protected from deportation as a legal permanent resident, the perpetrator can be deported if convicted. Women often resist seeking help because they do not want husbands or partners to be deported.

People who are immigrants on spousal visas depend on their partners for their legal right to be in the US. They can be deported without the relationship to their spouse. As a result, victims may not feel safe seeking help at the risk of alienating a spouse and losing their legal right to be in the US. If this is your experience, our immigration attorney can help you navigate this situation.


The legal definition of consent varies from state to state.
New Hampshire Legal definition of Consent
Vermont Legal definition of Consent
Your state’s legal definition of Consent

It can be confusing when considering legal definitions and solely relying upon body language. Consent is not just permission. For any sexual act to be consensual, it has to be freely chosen, without coercion, force or manipulation. A person has to want to engage in sexual activity for it to be consensual. The clearest way to guarantee consent is to talk. Current ideas about hooking up are based on the idea that we can assume everything is okay until someone says NO. This is wrong. Consent means that you are asking before anything happens and assuming a NO until you hear a clear YES.

  • Pressuring someone to say “yes” is not consent.
  • Body language must match verbal language. If your partner(s) does not seem into it, check in with them.
  • Consent for one sexual activity does not assume consent for another sexual activity.
  • You and your partner(s) can change your mind and stop whenever you want. Just because you’ve started to hook up, doesn’t mean you have to keep going.
  • Alcohol and drugs can affect one’s ability to consent.
  • No one can legally give their consent when they are incapacitated.
  • “No” does not mean “try harder.”

What does consent sound like?

YES! Let’s do it I want to___ That feels so good Keep going Don’t stop Can I touch you____? Check in with your partner What do you want to do? Do you like this? Do you want to make out? Would you be into doing ___? Does that feel good? What do you like? What do you want to do to me? What do you want me to do to you? Do you want to try _____? Do you want to stop? Do you want to keep going? Are you OK? Is there anything you don’t want me to do to you?

Check in with your partner

What do you want to do?
Do you like this?
Do you want to make out?
Would you be into doing ? Does that feel good? What do you like? What do you want to do to me? What do you want me to do to you? Do you want to try __?
Do you want to stop?
Do you want to keep going?
Are you OK?Is there anything you don’t want me to do to you?

More resources for consent

Sex Needs a New Metaphor
Consent Culture
If She’s Not Having Fun You Have To Stop
An Immodest Proposal

I think I’ve been raped. What should I do now?

50% all student victims do not identify what has happened to them as “rape.” This is especially true when no weapon was used, there is no obvious physical injury, and alcohol was involved 16

We all respond to trauma in different ways, you are your best expert. WISE advocates can talk you through your options, so you can decide what makes sense for you.

Healthcare and Evidence Collection

You may want to consider seeing a doctor to examine any internal or external injuries and test for pregnancy or STIs. This can be done at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, Alice Peck Day or Planned Parenthood.

Nurses, called Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs), are specially trained to care for sexual assault victims and collect physical evidence

If you want to make a report to law enforcement, it is highly recommended that you are examined by a SANE as soon as possible, although a SANE can collect evidence within 5 days.

Try to avoid the following: brushing teeth, eating, drinking, showering, going to the bathroom or anything that may destroy physical evidence on your body.

Bring the clothes that you were wearing during the assault (especially underwear) in a brown paper bag.

If you are unsure about making a report you may have evidence collected by a SANE anonymously and the evidence will be stored should you choose to make a report at a later date.

Exams are paid for by the state. Your insurance will not be billed.

Making a report

The SANE will notify the police only if you give permission. If you do not give permission, you will need to contact the police to give a statement.

If you are under 18 the police will automatically be called.

We know that when we experience trauma, our brains do not always allow them to remember the assault chronologically. This is a normal physiological response to what has happened to their body. You can read more about trauma in our Surviving Sexual Violence Booklet.

Give yourself time to remember and write down things as they come to you. This can help provide a clear statement.

Once you give a statement, what proceeds is out of your hands. It is up to the police to decide whether they have enough evidence to continue with an investigation.

A WISE advocate can go with you to make a statement to the police.

Making a report through the college

Making a report through the College: Any individual who has experienced a victimization by someone who is affiliated with the College has the option to make a report or file a complaint with Dartmouth College through the Title IX Coordinator. You can choose to make a report with the College regardless of whether or not you also report to law enforcement. You can also report to the Department of Safety and Security or the Office of Judicial Affairs. If the report is received by the Department of Safety and Security or the Office of Judicial Affairs, they will promptly notify the Title IX Coordinator.

Please note that some people and resources on campus may have to disclose any knowledge of sexual violence (as well as other forms of gender-based violence) to the Title IX Coordinator. To confidentially discuss this process or for support in navigating this process, you can contact the WISE Campus Advocate. All communication with WISE advocates is privileged and confidential.

For more information on what resources at Dartmouth College are private or confidential, see here.

How can I support someone who has experienced Sexual Violence?

Supporting someone who has survived sexual violence is much harder when we do not have good information. Because of the intrusive myths that exist about sexual violence, many survivors feel silenced. Read the Surviving Sexual Violence Booklet more information, tips and resources.

Listen and believe People do not like to talk about sexual assault. False reporting only happens in rare occasions. If the survivor says that it happened, it did.

Tell the survivor it was not his or her fault No one wants to be assaulted. The survivor did not ask for it no matter where (s)he was, what (s)he was wearing, how much (s)he was drinking, or what (s)he was doing. The only reason the assault happened is that the perpetrator chose to assault the individual.

Use the Empowerment Model A victim loses power when violated. By empowering the survivor to make his or her own decisions, (s)he regains power. Let the survivor have control. Let the individual see how proud you are that (s)he survived.

Let the survivor process at his or her own pace It can be a difficult time for loved ones because they want the survivor to “get better.” Each person has his or her own pace for processing trauma. Rushing a survivor is not helpful.

Encourage the survivor to exercise self-care Walks, eating well, taking baths, yoga or spending time with friends can be healing activities. We all want and need different things. Help identify what would be comforting to the individual.


What is stalking?

Stalking is a pattern of behavior directed at a specific person that would put a reasonable person in fear. The motivation of a stalker is to have power and control over the victim. Stalking behaviors often are not criminal individually, but do become criminal when the context is examined.

New Hampshire Stalking Law
Vermont Stalking Law

Stalking can involve threats or sexual innuendo and the stalker generally tries to intimidate or induce fear in the person they are stalking.

You are not alone

The rates of stalking on college campuses are higher than in the general population and are similar to the rates of sexual assault (National Center for Victims of Crime, Stalking Resource Center).

1 in 4 women and 1 in 13 men have experienced stalking at least once in their lifetime. 16

4 out of 5 campus victims knew their attackers (Fisher, 2000)

81% of victims stalked by their intimate partners report previous physical assaults by the same offender (NVAW Survey). 66% of female victims and 41% of male victims are stalked by current or former intimate partners. 17

  • Abusers may stalk their victims as a way to maintain control during the relationship.
  • Abusers may stalk their victims as a way to regain their control if the victim leaves the relationship.

Stalking victims who are raped most often identify the stalker as a former intimate partner, friend, roommate or neighbor (U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics 2009).

What are some characteristics of stalking?

Victims may only realize they are being stalked once they identify a pattern of strange or suspicious incidents.

receiving phone calls and text messages
getting incessant messages left on social networking sites
finding unwanted letters or gifts
feeling of being followed, stared at or watched
seeing the stalker at random or unusual places
having things moved or missing from your home
creating print flyers about you
posting information about you online
trying to contact or gain information about you through other people
showing up at your home, work, etc. uninvited
making direct or indirect threats to harm you or people in your life
damaging your property

The person being stalked often develops a sense of loss of control over his or her life and is forced to change routines.

Technology and stalking

Perpetrators may use technology as a tool for stalking. Technology is constantly changing and advancing. It’s important that you regularly check privacy and security settings for your personal profiles.

A stalker may:
check your internet history if they have access to your computer
install spyware software that sends copies of your keystrokes including: passwords, websites visited, emails sent
follow you via social media “check-ins” or mutual “friends”
post private information, pictures or other content about you, build websites or blogs
write attacks through email or social media send incessant emails or messages
call constantly and leave voicemails and text messages
use call spoofing software that allows him or her to change the number that appears on your caller ID or change the sound of his or her voice
track you using GPS within your cell phone if the stalker has access to your cell phone account
place GPS underneath your car, in your bag, etc.
place very small cameras in your room, or car.

How can I increase my safety?

Stalking can be very dangerous and should be taken seriously. 76% of intimate partner femicide victims had been stalked by their intimate partner. 18

Trust your instincts! You are not crazy and your fear is real. Take all threats seriously.
Change routes. Leave for your class or work at different times, vary your schedule.
Decide in advance what to do if you see the stalker in public, at home, at work, at school, etc.
Ask for support from trusted friends, family, teachers, coaches, employer or co-workers.
Change passwords frequently: email, PIN, online banking, phone screen lock, Facebook, etc.
Keep privacy and security settings on personal online profiles up to date.
Do not communicate with the stalker.
Consider getting a second phone and/or new email address to keep in touch with friends and family. You will have the security of a private phone and email and you can keep a record of incriminating evidence of calls and messages on the old phone and email account.
Keep evidence of stalking in order to demonstrate a pattern and to provide context for the scary behaviors.

  • Write down time, date, place of any stalking occurrence
  • Keep emails, messages, notes
  • Photograph any damages

Talk and safety plan with Campus Safety & Security or local police.

Call 866-348-WISE for immediate support or email a WISE Advocate.

Legal protection

In New Hampshire:

You may apply for a Domestic Violence Petition if you are being stalked by a current or former intimate partner or household member. If your stalker does not meet the relationship criteria for a DV Petition, you may apply for a Stalking Petition. Both orders are obtained at Lebanon Family Court in Centerra Parkway.

To learn more about police support in New Hampshire, read the NH Stalking Protocol for Law Enforcement.

In Vermont:

You may apply for a Relief from Abuse Order if you are being stalked by a current or former intimate partner or household member. If your stalker does not meet the relationship criteria for an RFA, you may apply for an Order Against Stalking or Sexual Assault. Both orders are obtained at Windsor Family Court.

On Campus:

You can meet with the Title IX Coordinator and request a No Contact Order or contact Safety and Security to discuss the possibility of a No Trespass Order.

A WISE Advocate can support you through any of these processes.

How can I support a friend?

Listen and believe

Many behaviors of stalkers are not criminal and may not look scary or harmful out of context. A victim may find talking about the experience difficult. (S)he may fear that (s)he will not be believed or will be viewed as crazy. Validate the individual’s feelings and experiences.

Check in often

Stay in contact. Establish a frequency of time that the two of you will connect.

Document evidence

Document any evidence of stalking that you witness. Make a report to the police if the individual asks for your help.


Empowerment Model

The individual is not the cause of his or her problem. With information and support, the individual can make the best decisions for generating a solution.

The process of empowerment enables one to gain power, authority and influence over oneself, within institutions or society. Empowerment can be the totality of the following or similar capabilities:

Having decision-making power

● Having access to information and resources to make decisions aligned with personal goals and outcomes

● Having a range of options to make choices (not just yes/no, either/or)

● Having the ability to exercise assertiveness in collective decision making

● Trusting one’s ability to affect change for oneself and in the world

● Having the ability to build skills for improving one’s personal or group power

● Being active in a growth process and self-evolution that is never ending and self-initiated

● Increasing one’s positive sense of self and overcoming stigma

● Increasing one’s ability to identify things that are comfortable and those which violate a sense of self or boundaries

Empowerment is a multi-dimensional, social process of increasing the capacity of individuals or groups to make choices and to transform those choices into desired actions and outcomes. The process creates power to use those choices in oneユs own life, community and society, with individuals acting on issues that they define as important.

WISE works from the perspective that domestic and sexual violence is embedded within a social and historical context of oppression, and must be addressed comprehensively through education, advocacy, and empowerment. The services offered by WISE are designed to support empowerment by providing information, tools, resources, and opportunities, based on the goals and objectives defined by each survivor. WISE recognizes that the systems victims are involved in are often confusing and perpetuate social imbalances of power. The organizational mission and services of WISE are rooted in the principles of the empowerment model.


The empowerment model arose from the feminist movement of the 1970s, which understands domestic and sexual violence within a social, cultural and historical framework of inequality between the sexes. Domestic or sexual violence perpetrated by men against women, children or other men is a result of this systemic power imbalance that serves to keep men in power.  Empowerment is based on the belief that everything possible should be done to restore power to victims through validation, community and celebration of their strengths. Other interventions may consider the victim disordered, as if she were maladaptive or contributing to the violence perpetrated on her. The empowerment model instead works to identify and challenge the external conditions of the individual’s life, to promote resilience in the face of adversity, and to make the victim the primary player in discussions and decisions about her future. This is based in a social justice mission to work with an individual around her unique situation, and simultaneously dismantle the circumstances which allow for violence to happen.

Because domestic and sexual violence often remove one’s ability to exercise control over one’s life, the first goals of crisis intervention in the empowerment model is to validate what has happened to the individual and make obvious the innate power, and survival strategies that the individual has developed to stay alive. The empowerment model recognizes that violence is never the fault of the victim, and WISE works with people to exercise the individual’s power by providing a safe, supportive space to brainstorm, experiment, and gather information without judgment. The empowerment model aligns with the desires and expectations from Feder’s meta-analysis . It has also been consistently validated by evaluations conducted with survivors using WISE services.  Because the empowerment model directly responds to the root cause of violence being perpetrated as a social system in addition to the immediate needs and long term goals of survivors, it is the most effective model for our work.


We are pleased to announce that Welcoming All Nationalities Network (WANN) is now an official program of WISE.

Since 2011, WISE has been the fiscal sponsor of WANN. The fiscal sponsorship  provided WANN  the capacity to provide essential legal services to humanitarian immigrants in New Hampshire and Vermont, all of whom are victims of gender-based violence.  In turn, WANN’s support for many of WISE’s immigrant clients strengthened the impact of WISE’s already powerful work. Over the last 7 years working together, we  recognized an increasing need for sustainable support for immigrant survivors of gender-based violence in the Upper Valley. By incorporating WANN as a WISE program, we ensure that these humanitarian immigrants are supported.

Alongside WISE’s Crisis and Advocacy Program, Emergency Shelter and Supportive Housing Program, and Prevention and Education Program, WANN will continue to provide  comprehensive services that offer immigrant survivors of gender-based violence an opportunity to improve their lives and the lives of those they love.  We firmly believe that this migration of WANN to WISE empowers both organizations to live more fully into our shared vision to create a world of freedom, justice, equality, and dignity where all can thrive.

Legal Services

US immigration law provides protection for undocumented immigrants who have been victims of crimes or who have suffered persecution before fleeing their home country. WANN offers free consultations to assess an individual’s eligibility for these humanitarian immigration statuses or for other benefits under the law. Representation, when appropriate, is low-fee or free, depending on the ability to pay.

WANN’s legal services are primarily in the following areas:

  • VAWA petitions for victims of domestic violence
  • Asylum and refugee issues
  • T visas for victims of human trafficking
  • U visas for victims of crimes
  • Naturalization
  • Humanitarian petitions

Community Education and Networking

Since 2011, WANN has helped organizations and individuals provide culturally relevant services in the Upper Valley, to meet the needs of our increasingly diverse population. WANN provides workshops for entities that have contact with vulnerable immigrants, such as: local medical centers and health clinics, public school English Language Learning educators, law enforcement, and social service providers.

Workshop topics can be designated to meet the needs of your organization.

Past trainings include

  • Cultural effectiveness for local service providers
  • Orientation to public schools for families new to the US
  • Humanitarian immigration options
  • Know-your-rights for immigrants


“I was being abused by my husband, and my work permit expired. I had saved some money to pay the rent, but he took it from me to buy drugs and beer. I could not even call the police when he hit me and stole from me because he said he would call immigration on me. WISE and WANN saved my life. Without them I would be suffering with no way out.”
– WANN Immigration Legal Services Client

“It has been such a great asset to have WANN in our community. Over the years we have benefited from educational outreach events for parents on immigration, legal rights, financial knowledge, and community-wise topics. We’ve been able to reach out to WANN for support when we know of a family in need of assistance with complicated immigration issues that they would not be able to overcome without WANN. With the growing diversity in the Upper Valley, I predict the value and need of WANN’s services in our community will continue to grow.”
-Educator of English Language Learners in the Upper Valley