Join Health Alliance Plan in Supporting HAVEN

HAP Volunteers

Smiling HAP volunteers lend a hand for the Groundbreaking Ceremony for HAVEN’s new campus.

Guest Post by: Susan Weaver Schwandt, APR, HAP

HAP supports HAVEN because we believe that no one should have to live in fear. Every person in our community has the right to live in peace, with a sense of well-being and security.

Recently HAP volunteers supported the Family Justice Center groundbreaking. Even a severe thunderstorm didn’t dampen their spirits because the volunteers knew that this new facility will be able to accommodate the growing demand for HAVEN’s services in Oakland County. As the only comprehensive treatment and prevention center, HAVEN helps more than 30,000 people each year. Last year, HAVEN had to turn away people 810 times due to lack of space.

The process for victims seeking shelter, personal protection orders, copies of legal documents and restraining orders can be overwhelming. By housing these services in a central location, HAVEN’s Family Justice Center will make it easier for victims to get help; thereby reducing the frustration factor and risk of returning to their abusers.

HAVEN’s domestic violence and sexual assault prevention and treatment programs help victims pick up the pieces of their shattered dreams. Victims find hope with HAVEN when they realize that they are no longer alone.

Survivors need a resourceful advocate, ally and protector who can speak for them and let their voices be heard. Caring, compassionate and knowledgeable HAVEN professionals earn the victims’ trust. They listen to each person’s story with no judgment, and provide the reassuring support, job training and resources necessary to help them recover and rebuild their lives.

HAVEN approaches domestic violence and sexual assault victims in the same way that HAP treats our members—with a sense of urgency, understanding, compassion and respect.

Please join HAP in supporting HAVEN’s Plant the Seeds of Hope campaign to raise the funds needed to build the Family Justice Center. Click here for more information.

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It’s Time the NFL Takes a Stand

I love football. I’m not sure exactly why but I just do. It probably has something to do with being raised in a small rural northern Michigan football town and having a family loyal to college football and torn between being a fan of the Detroit Lions or Green Bay. But here I am, a feminist who loves to watch football.

As a woman, I should feel right at home with the NFL. They love women right? I mean look at how nicely they have adopted the use of pink in all of their October games, demonstrating their concern over breast cancer by wearing pink shoes, pink gloves, and pink ribbons everywhere. So of course they love women. They especially love all the women who buy all of the pink themed NFL jerseys and other merchandise, helping the NFL stuff their pockets with green.

They love women so much that they suspended Ray Rice for two whole games, after he was caught on tape dragging his girlfriend out of an elevator after punching her. Two whole games! Thank goodness it wasn’t any longer than that, he might miss out on wearing pink in October.

According to UT-San Diego, 21 out of 32 NFL teams employee at least one player that has a domestic or sexual violence charge, arrest or conviction. And this number could certainly be higher as the data is only pulled from known reported cases and we know that not every case of domestic or sexual violence is reported. The NFL has suspended players for significantly more time (some an entire season) for marijuana use, use of banned drugs, DUI’s, etc. Heck even an illegal tackle during a game of a fully helmeted and padded player will fetch you a suspension of two games or more. Maybe the statement by Rice’s coach, John Harbaugh, sums it up best, “It’s not a big deal, I stand behind Ray. He’s a heck of a guy. He’s done everything right since.”

Domestic violence is a big deal. When at least 25% of women are victimized by such violence, it is a big deal. Just picture an NFL stadium and the thousands and thousands of women filling those stands, more than 25% of them have had a Ray Rice, “not a big deal” violent incident.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in handing down Rice’s punishment wrote, “The league is an entity that depends on integrity and in the confidence of the public, and we simply cannot tolerate conduct that endangers others or reflects negatively on our game. This is particularly true with respect to domestic violence.” The one thing that I am confident about – the NFL doesn’t want to hold its players accountable for domestic violence. I guess no lessons were learned from the murder/suicide of Jovan Belcher.

HAVEN has had the good fortune of having a 20+ year relationship with the Detroit Lions, serving as it’s “Courage House”. During our relationship we have had many discussions, frustrations and disappointments regarding the handling of domestic and sexual violence cases by the team and/or NFL. But we are thankful for the platform this relationship has afforded us, an opportunity to routinely educate Lions’ personnel, players, and fans about the crimes of domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse. We recognize that many of the players are our biggest allies and are sincere about using their celebrity status to elevate awareness.

So if the NFL isn’t ready to hold individual players accountable for their actions, it can start by holding themselves accountable to bring stronger awareness about the epidemic of violence against women in our culture. Maybe they can join companies such Verizon, Liz Claiborne, and others who are willing to take a stand putting their philanthropic priorities and their policies to work.
As Fox Sports 1 analyst Scott Fujita, stated on Twitter, “The message to my wife & 3 daughters today? The business that’s been such a big part of our life, really doesn’t give a f**k about you.”

Commissioner Goodell, drowning us women in a sea of pink, just doesn’t cut it. Prove to Scott Fujita and the rest of us that the NFL really does care. Sign the petition here calling on the NFL to implement harsher punishments for players involved in incidents of violence against women. 

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A Wonderful Opportunity

Last Fall I was awarded the Eugene A. Miller Fellowship by the McGregor Fund.* The Fellowship will allow me to investigate and research potential social enterprise opportunities for HAVEN. My key focus will be to measure opportunities based on best fit for HAVEN’s mission and the needs of survivors; seeking out a business model or venture that enhances the services we provide and that will also allow for survivor growth and autonomy.

As a part of the Fellowship, I have the wonderful opportunity to experience time away from HAVEN on sabbatical, both this summer as well as during the winter of 2015. This year, I will attend a summer program at Stanford University from July 14 through September 15, which focuses on social innovation as well as non-profit leadership. In addition to my academic experience, I will also have the fantastic opportunity of hiking in northern Arizona and southern Utah, an area of the country that I love.

In my absence the HAVEN Board of Directors named Marianne Dwyer, Director of Business Operations, and Emily Matuszczak, Senior Director of Programs, as interim co-CEO’s.

I am honored to have been selected to receive this remarkable opportunity. Not only is it a great opportunity for my professional and personal growth but a wonderful opportunity for other HAVEN staff to learn and grow as well.

I am excited to embark on this grand adventure and look forward to sharing what I’ve learned upon my return in September.

*The McGregor Fund is a private foundation established in 1925 by gifts from Katherine and Tracy McGregor “to relieve the misfortunes and promote the well-being of mankind.” The foundation awards grants to organizations in the following areas: human services, education, health care, arts and culture, and public benefit. The area of principal interest of the foundation is the City of Detroit and Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties. The McGregor Fund has granted nearly $220 million since its founding and had assets of $164 million as of June 30, 2013. Visit for additional information. HAVEN has been a beneficiary of the McGregor Fund for over 15 years.

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Language Matters

Having now had time to ponder the comments made by Detroit Tigers’ Manager Brad Ausmus, I find what troubles me just as much as his statement, and maybe even more so, was the laughter that this “joke” received by those in the room. Listening to the tape, I would label some of the laughter as the rather hearty type. Apparently some in the room found the joke rather funny.

What if the reaction had been that of silence? What if no one found the joke funny? What if the very next question was to call Ausmus out on the inappropriateness? We have all been quick to jump on Ausmus, but sadly he was just playing to his crowd. We unfortunately live in a culture that condones sexism, misogyny, and violence against women. “Jokes” are still told and those of us who are offended are told to lighten up.

I am, even after all these years, still surprised, how many men will make inappropriate statements to me after they learn where I work. Frequently it is some version of….”well you better not talk to my wife, boy does she have stories to tell…ha ha” or “my wife beats me all the time, maybe you can help me…ha ha ha.” Not Funny.

Why say it?

They say it just like Ausmus did – because they can. Because our culture allows it, because it so frequently “works” with a round of laughter.

I recall a survivor in a video we did for HAVEN a number of years ago. She shared how after she had been both physically and sexually abused that she, with a broken arm, returned to class. Her classmates “jokingly” said to her, what happened did your boyfriend beat you up? Up until that point she hadn’t shared her situation with anyone but opted at that moment to state the truth, so she said yes, as a matter of fact he did. And what do you think happened? Do you think someone said ‘wow that’s awful’ or ‘how can I help you’? No. She was greeted with a hearty ‘yeah right’ and laughter.

Instead of feeling supported, instead of being able to ask for help, the laughter reinforced her need to remain silent.

Language matters. And ‘jokes’ aren’t always very funny. So instead of asking me to ‘lighten up’ it is time to strive to change the culture and to stand up to all forms of violence against women.


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A New HAVEN – More Efficient, More Effective

For almost 40 years, we have been dedicated to eliminating domestic violence and sexual assault across Oakland County and surrounding communities. As the only comprehensive treatment and prevention center, we provide shelter, counseling, advocacy and educational programming to nearly 30,000 people each year and give families a chance to begin again.

While an enormous amount of work has been done to improve safety for the women and children in our community, everyday we see that intimate partner crimes remain a substantial problem. To combat this epidemic, we are taking a new stance against violence, one that will help people more effectively and efficiently. On Wednesday, we will break ground for our new facility and launch the long-awaited public phase of our Plant the Seeds of Hope Capital Campaign – slated to continue over the next 12 months.

For this $8 million initiative, we are currently seeking $3 million to be funded through new market tax credits and other incentive programs, leaving a $5 million fundraising goal. The funding will support the construction of a new HAVEN facility that will provide 36,000 square feet of residential, counseling, and advocacy space. The building will be located on approximately six acres of land, purchased in November of 2012, strategically located near the Oakland County complex in Pontiac.

To date, we have successfully secured more than $4 million (80%) and have completed the first stage of the campaign, which allowed us to purchase roughly six acres of land in Pontiac, hire an architectural firm and begin work with a construction manager. As we move into the second phase of the campaign, we are turning to you to seek donations of all sizes to help us secure the roughly $1 million still needed to build our new facility.

The new HAVEN will be based on a model – the Family Justice Center – that was pioneered in San Diego in 2002 and provide a central location for the services victims need. It has been adopted by communities in 33 states and 3 countries, and has proven to:

  • Reduce homicides
  • Increase victim safety, autonomy, and empowerment
  • Reduce fear and anxiety for victims and their children
  • Reduce recantation and minimization by victims

More than a new facility, this new HAVEN will provide a combination of services and interventions from a primary location, it will be a new, more effective way to work.

First, it will allow us to expand capacity to accommodate those in need. Our current shelter is a 1920s convent that needs repairs and is costly to maintain and operate. In addition, a lack of space forced us to turn away people 810 times last year – 5% more than the previous year.

Second, the new HAVEN will help expand our capabilities to provide victims with the help they need. The process for victims seeking shelter, personal protection orders, copies of legal documents, and restraining orders can be demanding and degrading. By housing services under one roof, we can make it easier for victims to get help; thereby, reducing their risk of becoming frustrated by the process and returning to their abusers.

Third, the new HAVEN will bring greater awareness of sexual assault and domestic violence to our community. Because this new facility will be visible to the public (versus being in a secret location like we have traditionally been), it will not only make it easier for people to find help, it will also serve as a visible reminder of the pervasive problem of violence in our community.

Most important, the new HAVEN will allow us to help families in our own backyard. In Michigan, one out of three homes experiences intimate partner violence firsthand. In Oakland County alone, more than 150,000 households have experienced violence. Furthermore, 40% of women in Michigan, 16 years of age and older, have experienced some form of sexual violence.

It’s time to stop the numbers from growing. Everyone deserves to live without fear. 
Click here to donate or contact Rachel Decker,
 Director of Development & Capital Campaign at 248-322-3703 or to find out how you can help.

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An open letter to Miss USA 2014

Dear Miss Sanchez:

First congratulations on your win this past weekend. After many years of working toward this moment, I’m sure you are proud of your accomplishment.

Although I did not watch the show nor am I supporter of beauty pageants, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by the final question that contestants were asked. The question was, “Recently, Time magazine revealed that 19% of U.S. undergraduate women are victims of sexual assault in college. Why has such a horrific epidemic been swept under the rug so long, and what can colleges do to combat this?”

Sexual assault on college campuses is a serious topic that needs much exposure and discussion. I am no expert on the Miss USA competition but I would suspect that the demographic watching it is made up of quite a few young girls and mothers. So for the Miss USA organizers to select this question, I was hopeful when I heard about it and thought how it would be a golden opportunity to educate viewers.

But sadly, I was disappointed in your answer:
“I believe that some colleges may potentially be afraid of having a bad reputation and that would be a reason it’s swept under the rug, because they don’t want it to come out in public. But I think more awareness is very important so women can learn how to protect themselves. Myself, as a fourth degree black belt (in Tae Kwon Do), I learned from a young age that you need to be confident and be able to defend yourself. And I think that’s something we need to implement for a lot of women.”

I wholeheartedly agree that college officials would like to sweep this problem under the rug, who wants to admit that they are unable to keep their students safe? And I also agree that the crime of sexual violence needs much more awareness and discussion.  But, it is troubling that the conversation often moves to what women need to do: “learn how to protect themselves” and to act in self-defense.

Yes, self-defense, such as Tae Kwon Do, can be a useful skill if one is attacked. But it is not the answer to sexual violence on campus or off campus for that matter. What colleges need to focus on is creating an environment where violence against women is not tolerated and where perpetrators of such violence are held fully accountable. Addressing rape culture on campus, reviewing policies and procedures, educating students about rape culture and consent, and taking corrective action on how colleges adjudicate rape cases is what colleges need to do to combat the violence.

I encourage you, as part of your reign as Miss USA that you consider making sexual assault one of your platforms.  You have an opportunity to speak with young girls and adults around the country with your new title.  But I encourage you to please become informed about the crime of sexual violence, about rape culture, bystander education, and about the efforts underway. HAVEN is one such organization that would be happy to educate and support you in the effort.

This post was originally featured on the Huffington Post Impact blog. 

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Let the Celebrating Begin!

Finally, the highlighted and circled dates on my calendar are almost here!

I can’t think of a better way to enjoy the final days of spring than with our “Raise the Roof” Gala fundraising event (or Gala Afterglow) and the groundbreaking for our new facility.

Tomorrow, I will put on my best cocktail attire and my dancing shoes to join HAVEN supporters to “Raise the Roof” at HAVEN’s inaugural Gala event. I look forward to the festivities, including a special performance by NUCLASSICA and my belly has already started to rumble just thinking about the delicious food. I also anticipate watching a little friendly auction competition as guests vie for the fabulous vacation package on the beach or that once-in-a-lifetime chance to throw out the first pitch at a Tigers game.

This signature event, co-chaired by Nina Campbell and Lara Fetsco Phillip, also serves as a reminder that domestic violence and sexual assault do not discriminate. People of any race, gender, religion, age or financial status have experienced these crimes. Since 1975, HAVEN has reached out to those in need of support to lend a helpful hand.

Now, as many of you may have read, in 2014 we look to expand those services under one brand new roof. With the community’s support, our Plant the Seeds of Hope campaign to grow a stronger HAVEN is about to become a reality. It’s only fitting that we honor HAVEN’s nearly 40 years of history by kicking off the next chapter and celebrating the construction of our new facility and new way of serving survivors.

The countdown has officially begun until the day we put the shovel in the dirt on June 18. Once the new facility is complete, gone will be the days that HAVEN and the prevalent issues of domestic and sexual violence will be masked from the public. We will be out in the open providing even greater awareness about sexual assault and domestic violence in the community. And, most importantly our new model – the Family Justice Center – will provide an easier process in helping survivors get the help and access to resources they need.

Through the years as the President and CEO of HAVEN, I have worked closely with staff as we’ve grown and changed. From rehabbing the Residential Program to adding services to serve the deaf community, every day I witness the fruits of their labor. So, I am pleased that as HAVEN moves forward to add another mark in history, we are able to celebrate it right!

I hope to see you there!

For tickets or information about the Gala event click here or contact Carrie Copeland at 248-322-3706 or

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