Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault

Curly-haired woman in black looking down

DV and Sexual Assault

Did you know that sexual assault and domestic violence often go hand in hand? When we hear the term sexual assault, we often think of attacks by strangers. This isn’t always the case. In fact, around 33% of sexual assaults are committed by a current or former spouse, boyfriend, or girlfriend.

Intimate partner violence also tends to start young, during the “tween” or teenage years. The CDC reports that among survivors of sexual assault, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner, more than 22% of female survivors and 15% of male survivors experienced intimate partner violence for the first time between the ages of 11 and 17. Between the ages of 18 and 24, those figures jump to nearly half of female survivors and one third of male survivors.

So we know that many sexual assaults are committed by intimate partners, and we know these issues affect adolescents as young as 11 years of age. The big question is, what can we do to change this?

Learn the warning signs.

If you can recognize the red flags for abuse in relationships, then you can protect yourself and potentially others from harm. The Power and Control Wheel can be a helpful resource that shows the types of behaviors to watch out for. It’s also a good idea to know what rights you have in your relationships. We put together a quick exercise to make it easy to do on your own, or even with friends.

Educate others, and start young.

Once you know all about the warning signs of abuse and the qualities of healthy relationships, share your knowledge. One of the most important things we can do is educate young people about healthy relationships and consent. Teens need to know before they start dating how they should be treated, and just as importantly, how to treat their partners. Having these conversations early will equip them with the tools to choose respectful partners, and say no to questionable ones.

Take action.

Last but not least, you can take action! Consider volunteering with organizations like LifeWire, donate if you can, vote for legislation that supports survivors and their families. On a more personal level, never underestimate the positive impact you can have on a person just by listening. If a friend reaches out to you about abuse, listen to them and believe them. That kind of support may not be available to them at home, and your support can make a world of difference.

Weathering the storms

Woman in winter clothing and hat standing in snowfall looking towards sun

Unexpected snow day

Debbie was excited when she moved into her own apartment in February. After a year living in shelters, she looked forward to a having a place of her own where she felt safe and could continue to heal.

But, the first morning Debbie woke up to several inches of snow. She didn’t know what to do. The neighborhood was unfamiliar and her fridge and cupboards were still bare.
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Children’s Services

Four kids

LifeWire offers individual advocacy and weekly support groups for children and youth who have witnessed abuse in their homes as well as for teens who have experienced violence in their own dating relationships. Often youth join our support groups because a parent is participating in LifeWire’s services or because they participated in one of our workshops in their school or community group. In 2017, 311 children and youth participated in LifeWire’s support groups.

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Abby, Age 8

Abby's Vision Board
Abby’s Vision Board

By Jane Singer, Children’s Advocate

When Abby, age 8, entered our transitional housing program this summer, she was so excited to finally have a stable place to call home. After bouncing from shelter to shelter, she and her mom were finally able to settle down long enough to decorate her room and make real connections. Abby is one of the friendliest kids I’ve ever worked with, but the years of instability made her nervous, self-conscious and anxious to please. It’s been a joy to watch her grow comfortable enough to show her bright personality to the other children and adults here, and we’ve worked consistently in the children’s group and one-on-one to build her self-confidence.

One week in March, the children’s group members made vision boards for their rooms by choosing words that would inspire and motivate them. We went through nearly 150 words and I asked them to consider which qualities they felt they already had and which they wanted to have on their boards to encourage them. Most of the other kids chose just a few words, but Abby enthusiastically nodded and grabbed almost every word as we read and defined them. Her vision board ended up being huge—the largest piece of cardboard I had could barely contain all of the qualities she knew she contained.

After group, she excitedly took her board back to her mom and proudly showed her and the other ladies in the house each word. It was so heartwarming to see her in action, confidently describing herself in such positive terms.