WISE Support

Domestic violence, sexual violence and stalking happen everywhere, including the Upper Valley. WISE advocates are here to listen and support you. We know that you can make your own decisions when you have information and support. You are the expert in your life.

WISE Survivor Centered Advocacy

  • 24-Hour Crisis Line (866) 348-WISE 
  • Healthcare Advocacy
  • Forensic Interview Support
  • Court and Legal Advocacy
  • Social Service Advocacy
  • Safe Home and Emergency Shelter
  • Information & Referral
  • Survivor Groups and Workshops
  • Financial Advocacy
  • Family Violence Prevention Specialist Program 
  • Safety Planning 
  • College Campus Advocacy

Domestic Violence

What is domestic violence?

Domestic violence is a pattern of coercive and manipulative behaviors committed against a current or former intimate partner to gain power and control. Intimate partner violence, relationship violence and dating violence are all terms used to refer to a relationship that is abusive. Anyone can be a victim or perpetrator, they come from all demographics.

You can read more in our Surviving Domestic Violence Booklet.

You are not alone

  • On average, 20 people per minute are victims of physical violence by an intimate partner in the United States.
  • According to the CDC, 1 in 4 women will experience severe physical violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime.
  • In Vermont over the last 13 years, 52% of all homicides were domestic violence related (2007 Vermont Fatality Review).
  • In New Hampshire, more than 50% of women will experience a sexual and/or physical assault in their lifetime (2007 New Hampshire Violence Against Women Report).
  • WISE has 30+ trained advocates to support you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call 866-348-WISE for immediate support.

Another layer: identity and same sex relationships

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.

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.

Does your partner…

  • disrespect you in public or in private?
  • get angry if you spend time with others?
  • 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—domestic 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.

Identify the people in your life that you can tell about the abuse: friends, family members, co-workers, doctors, police officers, 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. Keep records and evidence of the abuse: take pictures of injuries or property damages, keep a log of events, call the police.

Keep your prescriptions safe from your abuser. If you are concerned about your abuser damaging or withholding birth control, talk with your medical provider about the best method for you. Find a hidden place for money and copies of important documents. Create new email/Facebook accounts and phone number.

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

Create several believable reasons and alibis for you to avoid time with your abuser.

Identify safe places where you can go for short or long periods of time. Some ideas: a friend’s or family member’s home, work, park, public business, shopping center, bookstore, the police station, library.

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

Read about the considerations for safety around technology.

Preparing to end an abusive relationship

Leaving is a dangerous time for victims of domestic violence. Take all threats seriously.

Anticipate how your abuser may react to your ending the relationship.

If you have children, will he call the police and accuse you of kidnapping?

Women who are victims of domestic violence have a higher rate of being arrested—might he accuse you of a crime?

Do you have shared bank accounts or credit cards that he may empty or max out?

Secure your money. If you have children, it is recommended that you take 75% of shared income. If you do not have children, take 50%. You do not have to spend the money, but it is very common for abusers to empty accounts or max out credit cards after their victim leaves. Learn more about financial safety.

Bring important items and documents such as: identification, birth certificates (yours and children’s), clothing, lease, house deed, insurance papers, house and car keys, medications, jewelry/valuable objects, address book/important contacts, school records, immunization records, last year’s tax return, comfort items.

Consider making arrangements with a friend or animal shelter if you have pets and do not want to leave them with the abuser. Call 866-348-WISE. You can talk with an advocate abut to a safe strategy for leaving.

Increasing safety in an abusive relationship with children

Establish a “safe word” with your kids that will signal when they should leave or call for help.

Talk with your children about how they can stay safe and where they can go when they feel afraid.

Help your kids think of safe adults that they can call or go to when they have questions or are scared.

Encourage your kids to identify emotions and build skills to honor their needs in safe ways.

Talk with your children’s school or care providers and create a safety plan.

Tell your children that violence and abuse are never okay. It is not their fault OR yours.

Preparing to end an abusive relationship with children

Tell your children’s school/care givers the specific people who are and are not allowed to pick them up.

Talk to your children about what they should do if they feel scared with a parent. Allow your kids to talk about the relationship without worrying about your feelings.

Plan with your children about what they should do if they see a parent without visitation rights or if the parent tries to contact them.

Remind your children that even though the abusive behavior is never ok, it is ok for the children to still love the abusive parent or want a relationship with him or her. Help your children connect with adults that they can talk to when they are confused.

After leaving an abusive relationship

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.

Inform family members, housemates and/or co-workers to screen your calls and make sure your abuser cannot contact you or visit you at work.

Avoid certain areas that your abuser may look for you (i.e., banks, stores, restaurants, gyms).

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.

Identify people that you can reach out to when you need support. Apply for a Domestic Violence Petition from Lebanon Family Court or Relief from Abuse Order from Windsor Family Court. WISE can help you with this. You can read about the relief that is available in specific states here.

How can I support someone in an abusive relationship?

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 them that they have the power to make his or her own decisions.

Safety plan: The victim knows best how to keep himself or herself and the children safe. Ask how you can be a helpful piece of their safety plan.

Call our crisis line, 866-348-WISE to talk with a WISE advocate about how to support someone in your life.

Sexual Violence

What is sexual violence?

Sexual violence is any unwanted sexual contact or behavior including: sexual harassment, voyeurism and rape. Only we should be able 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 manipulated, coerced, or forced to do
  • 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.

You are not alone

1 in 4 women report surviving rape or attempted rape at some point in their lifetime.

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.

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. There are additional laws that exist to protect people who are victims of hate motivated violence. There are additional laws that exist to protect people who are victims of hate motivated violence.

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, be unable to fight, or give in because it is safer.

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 someone else treat you that way. 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 immigrants 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

Legal definitions of consent can be confusing and relying on your interpretation of someone else’s body language is not enough to be sure someone is consenting. 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 have started to hook up, does not mean you are consenting to more.
  • 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?

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 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, or alcohol was involved.

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 healthcare provider to check for internal or external injuries and test for pregnancy or STIs. In the Upper Valley, this can be done at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Mt. Ascutney, Alice Peck Day or Planned Parenthood. If you are a veteran, the VA is also available.

Nurses, called Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs), are specially trained to care for sexual assault victims and collect physical evidence. Official evidence collection can be done within 5 days, but care and possibly other evidence collection is available and worth seeking out after 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.

If you can, bring the clothes that you were wearing during the assault (especially underwear) in a brown paper bag.

The SANE will notify the police only if you give permission, unless you are under 18, unable to care for yourself, or if there was long-term bodily harm. Evidence can be collected by a SANE anonymously. You do not have to decide to make a report. The evidence will be stored should you choose to make a report at a later date.

SANE exams are paid for by the state. Your insurance should not be billed. Talk to the SANE about billing.

Making a report

If you want to report the assault to law enforcement, contact the police. Crimes are investigated in the town that the crime occurred, so usually you should call police in that town. A WISE advocate can do this with you.

If you are under 18 and tell a healthcare provider, teacher, or other mandated reporter about the assault, the police will automatically be called.

We know that when we experience trauma, our brains usually do not remember events chronologically and memories might come back over time. This is a normal physiological response to what has happened. Some people find it helpful to write things down as they remember it. You can read more about trauma in our Surviving Sexual Violence Booklet.

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 widespread 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 usually do not want to talk about experiencing sexual assault. False reporting only happens in rare occasions. If the survivor says that it happened, it did.

Tell the survivor it was not their fault No one wants to be assaulted. The survivor did not ask for it no matter where they were, what they were wearing, how much they were drinking, or what they were 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 their own decisions, you help them regain power. Let the survivor have control. Let the individual see how proud you are that they survived.

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

Encourage the survivor to practice 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.

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

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

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.

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).

WISE has 30+ trained advocates to support you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call our crisis line (866) 348-WISE for immediate support.

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 if I’m being stalked?

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

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 local police.

Call our crisis line (866) 348-WISE for immediate support.

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.

How can I support someone who is being stalked?

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. They may fear that they 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.

Growing Up With Violence

While it is not uncommon to experience or be exposed to domestic and sexual violence, the violent behaviors you grew up with were not okay. The impacts of domestic and sexual violence are vast and varied. It can be especially challenging for people who grew up with the threat of violence and never felt safe to talk about the abuse. What happened to you when you were young was not your fault. You deserve the space to process your experiences and the opportunity to live a life free from violence.

You are not alone

You are not alone

15.5 million children in the US live in homes where an incident of intimate partner violence occurred at least once over the past year. For 7 million children, the violence at home was severe.

Only one quarter of domestic violence incidents that children witness are ever reported to the police. Less than 2% resulted in an arrest. “Children See Domestic Violence that Often Goes Unreported, Research Finds.” July 2014.

40-60% of men who abuse women also abuse the children in the home.

In 2012 26% sexual abuse victims were in the age group of 12–14 years and 34% sexual abuse victims were younger than 9 years.

The CDC estimates that approximately 1 in 6 boys and 1 in 4 girls are sexually abused before the age of 18.

In as many as 93% of child sexual abuse cases, the child knows the person that commits the abuse.

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

Call our crisis line (866) 348-WISE for immediate support.

What are the effects of growing up with domestic violence?

Not all children who are exposed to domestic violence are impacted in the same ways. Some children have more severe reactions than others. Being exposed to domestic violence includes not only seeing or hearing the violence, but also perceiving the violence and seeing the aftermath. 5

Each state has different laws around children witnessing domestic violence.

Find your state statute.

In a home with domestic violence, “fear, instability and confusion replace the love, comfort and nurturing that children need.”

Children may feel they caused the violence or feel guilty for loving the abuser. Often children live in constant fear of violence. The violence you were subjected to or witnessed was not your fault or the abused parent’s fault. The only person responsible for the abuse is the abuser. It is also okay to have loving feelings for the abuser and be angry about what they did. Whatever fleeting or lasting feelings you have are okay.

Violence is a learned behavior. Boys who witness domestic violence are more likely to exhibit violence towards their partners. Girls who witness domestic violence are more likely to be victimized as adults. Although violence is a learned behavior, it does not mean that one is destined to a life of violence. Norms can be unlearned. It is also not a justification for perpetrators to continue to abuse their loved ones. With support and information people can learn to have violence-free and healthy relationships.

Reactions to witnessing violence are varied. But some common symptoms are: guilt about the violence, sleep disturbances, headaches, stomach aches, concerns about individual safety and the safety of others, anxiety, aggressive behavior, difficulty concentrating, desire for revenge, coping behaviors that may be self-endangering (i.e., cutting, substance abuse), etc. (National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma & Mental Health. “Creating Trauma-Informed Services: Tipsheet Series: Tips for Supporting Children and Youth Exposed to Domestic Violence: What you might see and what you can do.” September 2011.)

Children who grow up with domestic violence may have impaired ability to concentrate and difficulty in completing school work. These behaviors are very similar to those of ADHD and can sometimes lead to a misdiagnosis.

Studies have found that children show remarkable resilience! As their environment improves (i.e., being surrounded by positive, supportive and healthy relationships, protective adults, etc.), the affects they experience can decrease. (National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma & Mental Health. “Creating Trauma-Informed Services: Tipsheet Series: Tips for Supporting Children and Youth Exposed to Domestic Violence: What you might see and what you can do.” September 2011.)

What are the effects of childhood sexual abuse?

People who perpetrate sexual violence against children or adults are exercising power and control over their victims. Perpetrators intentionally chose their victims and create an environment that gives them power over the victim.

Not all sexually abused children exhibit symptoms—some estimate that up to 40% of sexually abused children are asymptomatic; however, others experience serious and long-standing consequences.

About 85% of children who are sexually abused never tell, or delay telling, about the abuse. The abuser does a good job at making the victim unable to talk about the abuse through threats, coercion and manipulation. Victims of childhood sexual abuse are legally able to make reports as adults. The Statute of Limitations is different in every state

Find your state statute of limitations here.

Victims of childhood sexual abuse are not more likely to perpetrate sexual violence on others.

The perpetrator is likely to be male, and someone in the victim’s life who is viewed as a trustworthy person. Our society has an inaccurate view of who sexual perpetrators are. This makes it hard for victims to understand why someone they know and love is hurting them, as well as hard for the community to believe that it is true.

You deserve to be in control of what happens to your body. You deserve to have relationships that are safe and respectful.

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’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.

History of 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