Notice the Signs

Signs of Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is a pattern of behavior that is used to gain power or control over an intimate partner or household member, and it includes much more than physical abuse. Controlling behaviors can be psychological, verbal, emotional, or financial. If you or someone you care about is in a difficult relationship, please explore this section or call our 24-hour helpline.


  • Does your partner threaten or coerce you or your children?
  • Do you ever feel that you need to “walk on egg shells” to avoid upsetting your partner?
  • Do you feel that you don’t know what to expect?
  • Does your partner put you down or call you names? Do they minimize, deny, or blame you?
  • Does your partner try to intimidate you?
  • Does your partner continually criticize what you wear, what you say, how you act, and how you look?
  • Does your partner humiliate you or make fun of you in social situations?
  • Does your partner force you to have sex when you are unwilling?
  • Does your partner make most of the decisions?
  • Does your partner restrict you from getting a job, handing your money, or going to school?
  • Do you feel nervous or afraid when your partner becomes angry? Are you afraid to disagree with your partner?
  • Are you ever frightened by your partner’s violence toward other people?
  • Has your partner ever intentionally damaged your possessions?
  • Has your partner threatened to harm or actually harmed a pet?
  • Has your support network (friends, family, etc.) slowly been cut off? Do you feel isolated?
  • If you left, would you be afraid that your partner would harass or follow you?
  • Has your partner ever pushed, kicked, choked, restrained, spit on/licked, slapped, or otherwise hurt you in a physical way?

What do I do now?


Only you can decide whether it would be best for you to stay or leave your domestic violence situation. We encourage you to consider your safety first and foremost when choosing whether to remain in your home or seek shelter elsewhere. Although you can’t control your partner’s violence, you do have a choice about planning for safety. You can decide for yourself if and when you will tell others that you have been abused or that you are still at risk. Friends, family, and co-workers can help protect you if they know what is happening and what they can do to help.

  • When an argument begins, try to move to a room or area that has access to an exit. Avoid a bathroom, kitchen, or anywhere near weapons.
  • Practice how to get out of your home. Identify which doors, windows, elevator, or stairway would be best.
  • Devise a signal or code word to use with your family, friends, and neighbors when you need the police.
  • Identify a neighbor you can tell about the violence. Ask that neighbor to call the police if they hear a disturbance coming from your home or a predetermined signal.
  • Decide and plan where you will go if you have to leave home (even if you don’t think you will need to). This should be a safe place from which you can call for further assistance.
  • Use your own instincts and judgment. You have the right to protect yourself until you are out of danger.
  • Open a savings account in your own name and start to establish or increase your independence.
  • Have a packed bag ready and keep it in a secret place that is easy to reach.
  • Leave money, an extra set of keys, copies of important documents, and extra clothes with someone you trust.
  • Determine who would be able to let you stay with them or lend you some money.
  • Keep Women’s Aid Service’s 24-hour Crisis Hotline phone number ((844) 349 – 6177) close at hand, or better yet, memorize it and keep some change or a calling card on you at all times for emergency phone calls. If using a cell phone store our Hotline as a different name, so your batterer cannot find it. Remember to clear your call log/call history.
  • Review your safety plan as often as possible in order to plan the safest way to leave your batterer. (Visit our Resources (***link to resources page***) Page to develop your own safety plan)
  • Contact a W.A.S. legal advocate about obtaining a Personal Protection Order (PPO).
  • Change the locks on your doors as soon as possible. Buy additional lock and safety devices to secure your windows.
  • Discuss a safety plan with your children for when you are not with them.
  • Inform your children’s school, day care, etc. about who has permission to pick up your children.
  • Inform neighbors and landlord that your partner no longer lives with you and that they should call the police if they see your partner near your home.
  • If possible, obtain a P.O. Box and get an unlisted phone number.
  • Keep your Personal Protection Order with you at all times. (If you change your purse or wallet, that should be the first thing that goes in it or else get multiple copies.)
  • Call the police if your partner breaks the Personal Protection Order.
  • Think of alternative ways to keep safe if the police do not respond right away.
  • Inform family, friends, and neighbors that you have a Personal Protection Order in effect.
  • Document calls to the police, their responses, dates, times, etc.
  • Decide whom at work you will inform of your situation. This should include office or building security. (Provide a picture of your batterer if possible.)
  • Arrange to have someone screen your telephone calls if possible.
  • Devise a safety plan for when you leave work. Have someone escort you to your car, bus, or train. Use a variety of routes to go home if possible. Think about what you would do if something happened while going home. (i.e., in your car, on the bus, etc.)
  • If you are thinking of returning to a potentially abusive situation, discuss an alternative plan with someone you trust.
  • If you have to communicate with your partner, determine the safest way to do so. Have positive thoughts about yourself and be assertive with others about your needs.
  • Read books, articles, and poems to help you feel stronger.
  • Decide whom you can talk freely and openly with to give you the support you need.
  • Consider attending a domestic violence support group to gain support from others and learn more about you and the relationship.

DECIDING TO LEAVE                           

If you decide to leave your situation, you will want to take certain items with you. Remember, your safety is top priority. If you need to leave without these items in order to be safe, do so. Some people give an extra copy of papers and an extra set of clothing to a friend just in case they have to leave quickly.

  • Identification
  • Children’s birth certificates
  • Your birth certificate
  • Social Security cards
  • School and vaccination records
  • Money
  • Checkbook, ATM (Automatic Teller Machine) card
  • Credit cards
  • Keys & Spare Keys – house/car/office
  • Driver’s license and registration
  • Medications
  • DHS Bridge Card / Paperwork
  • Work permits
  • Green card
  • Passport(s)
  • Divorce papers
  • Medical records – for all family members
  • Lease/rental agreement, house deed, mortgage payment book
  • Bank books
  • Insurance papers
  • Address book
  • Children’s favorite toys and/or blankets
  • Items of special sentimental value
  • Important telephone numbers



W.A.S. be a place of refuge for you. Trained, compassionate staff provides confidential services for survivors of domestic, dating, and sexual violence, including:

  • Counseling and advocacy
  • Support in obtaining housing, employment, and other community resources
  • Educational and support groups focused on healing from trauma
  • Services for friends and family of survivors
  • Court accompaniment and legal assistance
  • Shelter/basic needs

When you call or come to our shelter, our staff will listen to whatever you want to share of your story. The healing process often begins with one-on-one talks or small group discussions with a trained client advocate or counselor. You will be encouraged to set your own goals for the direction you want your future to unfold; our job is to support you using our empowerment philosophy. No matter what time of day or night, our 24-hour Crisis Hotline is staffed to assist you in beginning your journey to safety.

For more information and other resources on domestic violence, see our Resources page.

Signs of Sexual Assault

Sexual assault is defined as any kind of sexual activity that is unwanted, done by one person to another without consent. So how can you figure out if what happened was sexual assault? There are three main considerations in judging whether or not a sexual act was consensual (which means that both people are old enough to consent, have the capacity of consent, and agreed to the sexual contact) or whether the sexual act is a crime. Therefore, here are a few questions to consider:


Are the participants old enough to consent?

  • In Michigan, 16 is the age of legal consent. People below this age cannot legally agree to have sex. In other words, even if the child or teenager says yes, the law says no. Generally, “I thought she was 18” is not considered a legal excuse – it’s up to everyone to make sure their partner is old enough to legally take part in sexual contact.

Are both people legally able to consent?

  • People who cannot legally give consent:
    • Cognitive Impairments
    • Some Elderly – especially those with dementia or Alzheimer’s
    • Intoxicated or Incapacitated – due to alcohol, drugs, or physical trauma, etc.

Did both participants agree to take part?

  • If someone uses force or coercion to make another person have sexual contact that is illegal and considered sexual assault. If someone threatens another person, their children, their pet, etc. to force them to have sexual contact then that is sexual assault.

Does that mean it isn’t sexual assault?

“I didn’t physically resist”

  • People respond to an assault in different ways. Just because you didn’t resist physically does not mean wasn’t rape — in fact, many victims make the good judgment that physical resistance would cause the attacker to become more violent. Lack of consent can be expressed (saying “no”) or it can be implied from the circumstances (for example, if you were under the age of 16, or if you had a mental defect, or if you were afraid to object because the perpetrator threatened you with serious physical injury).

“I am dating, or I used to date, the person who assaulted me.”

  • Sexual assault can occur when the offender and the victim have a pre-existing relationship (sometimes called “date rape” or “acquaintance rape”), or even when the offender is the victim’s spouse. It does not matter whether the other person is an ex-boyfriend or a complete stranger, and it doesn’t matter if you’ve had sex in the past. If it is non-consensual this time, it is sexual assault.

“I don’t remember the assault.”

  • Just because you don’t remember being assaulted doesn’t necessarily mean it didn’t happen and that it wasn’t rape. Memory loss can result from the ingestion of GHB and other “rape drugs” or from excessive alcohol consumption. That said, without clear memories or physical evidence, it may not be possible to pursue prosecution (talk to your local law enforcement for guidance).

“I was asleep or unconscious when it happened.”

  • Sexual assault can happen when the victim was unconscious or asleep. If you were asleep or unconscious, then you did not give consent. And if you didn’t give consent, then it is sexual assault.

“I was drunk.” or “He was drunk.”

Alcohol and drugs are not an excuse – or an alibi. The key question is still: did you consent or not? Regardless of whether you were drunk or sober, if the sex is nonconsensual, it is sexual assault. (If you were so drunk or drugged that you passed out and you were unable to consent, it was sexual assault. Both people must be conscious and willing participants.)


What do I do now?

  • Consider calling our 24 hour crisis line, and we can discuss the option of receiving a free, non-invasive medical exam from a SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) program. These exams can be done within 96 hours of the assault. The nurse can provide a medical exam (check for sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy, etc.), administer antibiotics, and collect a forensic evidence kit. If the nurse collects the evidence kit, you are able to then decide if you would like that kit released to a police officer. The nurse will facilitate this on your behalf, at your discretion.


If you choose to have an evidence kit collected:

  • Avoid bathing or brushing your teeth.
  • Avoid using the bathroom, if possible. If you need to go, avoid wiping. Blot/dab gently.
  • Save clothing, underwear, and other items (blankets, sheets, etc.) that were present during the assault.
  • If you suspect that you may have been drugged, advise the SANE or ER nurse, so a urine sample can be collected.


  • Consider reporting the assault. If you would like to report, call 911. If you would like help deciding, or just want someone to talk to, feel free to give us a call. If you do choose to report, we have a legal advocate that is able to walk with you through the entire process.


  • WAS has free, confidential counseling for survivors of sexual assault. We serve survivors, family, and friends. Call our crisis line for more information.


  • Please remember that it is never too late to call. Even if the assault happened years ago, we want to validate that many victims take time in realizing what may have happened to them. We believe you, and we are here for you.

Signs of Child Sexual Abuse

One sign alone typically does not indicate sexual abuse. If many behavioral or physical signs are present, though, consider speaking to someone.

Behavioral signs

  • Changes in school performance
  • Changes in appetite
  • Changes in sleep patterns (trouble sleeping or over-sleeping)
  • Adult sexual knowledge (using sexual terms that are atypical for a child of his or her age)
  • Sexually inappropriate behaviors
  • A return to infant-like behaviors
  • Odd or unusual bathroom behaviors
  • Increased aggression or anger
  • A sudden increase in sadness or isolation


  • Physical signs
    • Bloody or stained underwear
    • Pain or bleeding in private areas
    • Sexually transmitted diseases
    • Difficulty sitting or walking
    • Repeated yeast or urinary infections


What do I do now?

  • If a child tells about sexual or physical abuse:
    • Report any suspicion or information you may have as soon as possible. In Michigan, please contact Child Protective Services.
      • There is a 24/7 hotline to report abuse and neglect: (855) 444-3911
    • Stay calm. Feelings of guilt, denial, anger, or confusion are normal. However, if you have a strong reaction to a child’s report, the child might become unwilling to talk any further with you, the police, or a counselor. A strong reaction from you can increase feelings of embarrassment and guilt.
      Encourage the child to talk freely, but do not “put words in their mouth.”
    • Tell the child that he or she is not to blame. Most children, trying to make sense of what happened, feel that they somehow caused it or should have been able to prevent it.
    • Let the child know that telling you was the right thing to do. Do not promise not to tell.
    • Seek professional help. Feel free to contact Women’s Aid Service at (989) 772-9168 to schedule an appointment with our Children’s Counselor.



(“Signs of Abuse” – information paraphrased from “Aware, Inc.”)