Domestic abuse & sexual assault

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Help is a phone call away. For domestic abuse, call (877) TO END DV (877-863-6338) or (877) 863-6339 (TTY). For sexual assault, call (888) 293-2080. For more options, press Get Help Now.

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Ana's Story

Ana and her 3 children are safe from the abuse of her husband, but it was not an easy road. She was worried about supporting herself and her children because she didn’t make any money herself and she didn’t have any savings.

She also felt unsure about taking action against her husband, a man she loved and who was the father of her children. But when Ana began to fear for the safety of herself and her children, she decided to get the help that she needed.

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Step 1

At first, Ana wasn’t sure if her husband’s behavior was abuse. He controlled their money and watched every purchase she made. He didn’t like when she spent time with her family and friends. Sometimes, he called her names and accused her of cheating. But he always said he was sorry. He told her he acted this way because he loved her so much.

Options for help

Do you think you're being abused? Abuse may begin with acts that can be easily dismissed. But with an abuser, control and violence repeat itself. The cycle of violence gets stronger and can become life-threatening.


Read Signs of an Abusive Partner to learn about warning signs. Take the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence’s Are You a Victim? Quiz to tell if someone is a victim of abuse or domestic violence.

Step 2

As time went on,  Ana’s husband began to hurt her. He grabbed her during fights, sometimes so hard that he left bruises. She thought about telling someone or leaving, but was afraid of what he might do. However, after her husband punched her in the face in front of their children, Ana decided she needed to get help. 


Options for help

If you live with your abuser, you can ask for an Order of Protection that will make your abuser leave and stay away from you and your home. 
Living with someone who abuses you is very difficult, and the dynamics of abuse tend to occur over and over. It is important to protect yourself and be prepared during these harmful episodes, especially if there are deadly weapons around the house. If you have kids living with you, it is also important to think about children's safety. Family, friends, neighbors or coworkers may provide you with support and guidance.

Step 3

While her husband was at work, Ana went to her church where she felt safe. She talked to her pastor. He gave her the number to a hotline that could help her plan to be safe. He also encouraged her to talk to a family member that she trusted and could help her if she decided to leave her husband.


Options for help

There are hotlines and community organizations that help people escape abuse. Victims may speak to someone at a neighborhood church, domestic violence shelter, YMCA or YWCA, Women, Infant, and Children office, Rape Victim Advocate crisis center, and more.

Step 4

Ana told her sister about the abuse. Her sister was very understanding and offered to help in any way she could. Ana then called the hotline, where someone helped her come up with a safety plan that included the steps she needed to take to escape the abuse. She made a list of the people and places that could help her.

Options for help

It is important to plan ahead and know that you have rights that protect you, your children and even your pets. Victims may make a safety plan, which can help them respond to abuse and prepare to escape it. It may include a list of people who can help, the location of a safe place to escape to, and important contact information. 

Step 5

Ana packed a couple of bags with her and her children’s essentials, including medications and important documents. Her sister picked up the bags and agreed to hold onto them at her apartment.

Options for help

Victims may pack a bag of essentials and hide it with a relative, friend, or some place the abuser doesn’t have access to. It may include medications, birth certificates, licenses, passports, credit cards, cash, and keys. Read NCADV’s Planning Ahead for more suggestions.

Step 6

Ana could tell there was something wrong with her nose from when her husband hit her. She went to a local clinic and was treated for a broken nose. But the doctor noticed more than Ana's broken nose. He saw the bruises on her arms where her husband grabbed her and asked Ana if someone was harming her. Ana said her husband had punched her.

The doctor explained that help was available, including counseling and support groups. The doctor also told Ana that he was required to report abuse. He encouraged Ana to talk to the police so that she and her children would be protected from further abuse.

Options for help

Abuse injuries can be treated by a victim’s primary care doctor or at a local clinic. Some clinics offer both physical and mental health services at sliding scale fees, which are based on a patient's income.


There is also money to help survivors pay for expenses through Compensation for crime victims. For more information on financial help see Assistance for victims of violent crimes.

Step 7

Ana went to the police station to report the abuse. After filing the police report, she panicked and questioned what she had done. But with her focus on her family and their safety, Ana worked with the police  and filed charges with the State’s Attorney’s office.

Options for help

Victims may report abuse at their local police station. The State's Attorney can press charges without the victim’s cooperation, but it is very difficult. There are free legal organizations that help survivors of domestic abuse and sexual assault through the criminal justice process.

Step 8

Ana needed protection right away, so the court entered an Emergency Order of Protection along with the criminal charges. It took effect as soon as the judge signed it. The order required Ana’s husband to stay away from her and not make contact with her and her children for 21 days.

Options for help

The abuser does not need to be charged with a crime for victims to get legal help, like an emergency or long-term Order of Protection and No Contact Orders. Learn more by reading the 3 Types of Orders of Protection, Getting an Order of Protection for Domestic Violence and the 2 types of no contact orders.

An employer can also get a restraining order at the workplace to protect an employee at work. There are also special rights, protections, and benefits available to victims of abuse.

Step 9

Ana and her children stayed at her sister’s apartment while she figured out her next steps. Her husband followed the Order of Protection and she was relieved that her children were out of harm’s way. She also continued to work with the police and the prosecutor on her case.

Options for help

An order of protection protects an abuse victim, their children, property and even their pets. For more information see Getting an order of protection for domestic violence. If an abuser does not follow the order of protection, law enforcement will enforce the order of protection. For more information, see Violations of an order of protection.

Step 10

Ana needed money to get on her feet and become financially independent from her husband. She applied online for public benefits including Medicaid, SNAP, LINK and TANF. She also began to look for a job.

Options for help

Survivors of domestic and sexual abuse may find help online.  Many resources are available including financial education, access to public benefits including food stamps, LINK and TANF. Special help is also available for immigrants who are victims of crime


Sometimes abusers can post sexual photos of victims on public websites without their consent. This is commonly known as revenge porn. View the online removal guide for steps on how to remove these photos and contact the Cyber Civil Rights Legal Project for free legal help.   

Step 11

While the criminal case against Ana’s husband was ongoing, Ana decided she wanted a divorce. Because she was a victim of abuse, Ana found a free legal aid program to help her. Her lawyer was able to help Ana file for divorce and child support. 

Options for help

Getting a divorce and child support can be a complicated process. For more information and resources on divorce, see Getting a divorce and Getting child support.