West Virginia advocate empowers the youngest victims of domestic violence

Raise Up Your Voice

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WOWK) – For too many children, home is far from being a safe haven. Josh Sapp works with the youngest victims of domestic violence. 

“My job entails a few things,” stated Sapp. “I’m responsible for any time we get kids and usually our kids are toddler age predominantly when they come into the shelter. I try to make it as close to home as I can and try to make sure they have toys and someone to talk to.” 

He coordinates many of the youth services offered through the YWCA Resolve Family Abuse Program in Charleston. 

“I think that the thing that people need to realize, is that kids in these situations are that they are victims as well and that often they’re the ones being targeted,” exclaimed Sapp. “But, we tend to think of them as being a secondary person to the mom or the dad. When kids come in through CPS or they come in through the court system, they have seen and experienced a lot of stuff that adults wouldn’t be able to process.” 

One of the ways he helps them process this is through support groups. They have one every Tuesday night for adults and children. And, they’re open to anyone! 

“Getting a chance to sit down in a room and realize that you’re not alone,” added Sapp. 

Sapp says it’s particularly important to work with kids who are experiencing or seeing domestic violence in their homes to help break the cycle. 

“Statistically, especially with boys who grow up in households especially with a male parent who hits the other parent, they tend to become abusers themselves statistically,” said Sapp. “And, we see a lot with a mom that comes in with toddler or eight-year-old’ish boy. They tend to be very aggressive and we have to work on that.” 

He even uses their background or current situation to help empower, not embarrass them.  

“They have the best tools to survive in their particular situation. So, I always try to work with them and add to that toolbox rather than saying no, no, no. Because they’ve been doing it. They’re survivors for a reason.” 

Josh Sapp

Making the topic of domestic abuse a part of more conversations is also something Sapp believes can help make a difference in society. 

“We have to normalize how we talk about domestic violence, period,” exclaimed Sapp. “We don’t blame victims for their car being stolen, but we tend to blame victims of domestic violence and say, why do you keep going back.”  

Whether children are in a homeless shelter or coming in for weekly meetings with their parents, Sapp says they have one main goal. 

“I think there’s nothing more important than providing a safe place. 

If you are interested in counseling services contact:
Teen Dating Awareness Program: 304.342.6228
Individual and Group Counseling: 304.340.3549

If you or someone you know needs help there are 24-hour Domestic Violence Crisis Lines available.
Charleston calling area: 304.340.3549
Toll-free: 800.681.8663

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