I’m Back and I’m Ready!

After having spent the past two months on a sabbatical away from HAVEN, I feel recharged, refreshed and ready to go! It is amazing how time away from your daily routine, can give you a new perspective on so many things, both personal and professional. I spent time conducting uninterrupted academic study at Stanford University, as well as researching and reading. It was incredible and invaluable. After many years of working so intensely, having two months off was a true gift.

Probably the one aspect of work that I missed the most was being a part of a team, being part of something greater than myself. I’m not so sure that I am cut out to be an independent contractor or single employee. I missed the discussions, give and take, discord, comradery, humor, and passion that comes with being part of a team. And especially part of the team at HAVEN – they are one special group of people!

On the flipside, it is because of this great team that I was able to go off on my two-month adventure without worrying about what was happening at my HAVEN home. This group afforded me the luxury of time away without worry or interruption, which I know makes me the envy of many of my colleagues. Having the pressures of operating a 24/7 program taken off my shoulders was again a gift – one that will keep on giving.

So today, I am ready to dive in and the next few months at HAVEN promise to be exciting. Here’s a snapshot of what we have to look forward to as we start to wind down 2014:

  • Literally seeing the earth move! With the paperwork of our New Market Tax Award wrapping up, the earthwork at our future home is underway. I cannot wait to start to see the building take shape in the coming weeks. You can also keep track of the progress of #BuildHAVEN by connecting with us on Facebook and subscribing to our E-Newsletter.
  • Many enjoyable fundraising events – yes, raising money can be fun! On October 12th we will hold our Second Annual Tailgate Event at the Birmingham Country Club and on October 28th our 21st Annual Courage House event with the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. As the Detroit Lions’ season is underway, with new leadership and enthusiasm, we are excited to partner with the Lions at both of these special events. I hope you will plan to join us at one of these FUNdraiser events!
  • National Domestic Violence Awareness month in October. Although breast cancer awareness is also very critical to women’s health, October is much more than pink. With domestic violence currently in the national spotlight, we hope that you can help us in raising awareness of this CRIME in your community – including taking and sharing our #HAVENPledge (stay tuned for details). Do you know that based on national statistics and state information that we can estimate that at least 150,000 homes in Oakland County are impacted by domestic violence? Someone on your street, at your office, attending your children’s school, working at your local grocery store, is suffering right now and living in fear.
  • A panel for parents (date to be announced) on raising boys to be non-violent is in the works. As the mom of a son, now a young adult, I am excited about this conversation. It is easy to forget when we look at the Ray Rice’s of the world, that they were once a young toddler, a preteen and a teenager. It is important that we all look at how we can help shape young men to become adults who respect and value women as their equals, can respect those who are different, and who don’t buy into misogyny. I hope you will be able to join us to learn more from a diverse panel of parents and professionals. Even those of us who are no longer actively raising children will benefit from this presentation. As the proverb goes, “it takes a village to raise a child,” so even when our own children are grown or if you don’t have children, there’s still work to be done.
  • Our Prevention Education team is ramping up to share their knowledge in schools after summer vacation. I can’t wait to hear their stories of what they are experiencing in their work with area school children. Unfortunately they are operating barebones after losing significant funding for prevention activities. Please consider supporting these efforts by making a donation.
  • The summer weather really made our garden grow! I am anxious to participate in our final fall harvest and revel in results of how much produce we were able to grow and share with those individuals and families we serve.

I hope that your summer was a relaxing and restful, that you had the opportunity to spend time with family, eat a s’more or two, and are now cherishing the return to a more normal routine. I also hope that you are ready to roll up your sleeves along with me and dig in to make a difference in the community – let’s work together to bring awareness to others and support to those in need. Everyone deserves to have a life without fear. It is great to be back!

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Ray Rice was Once a Little Boy

Before the NFL spotlight and the success, Ray Rice was just a little guy. A sponge ready to learn. Ready to be loved.

What messages did this young boy receive? Was he told to be a man? Was he shown that being a man meant using force to get his needs met? Was he surrounded by male role models that demonstrated respect and equality for the women in his life? Was he told that boys don’t cry? Were incidents of physical aggression explained away by “boys will be boys”?

Ray Rice was once a preteen, presumably playing youth sports. Was he surrounded by coaches that mimicked him if he “ran like a girl”? Was he part of a system where male teams and players were celebrated as heroes and demi-gods? Was he given a free pass for bad behavior due to his status? Did anyone talk to him about the sexist depictions of women that are commonplace in TV, music, movies and video games? Was he taught to respect his female peers? Did the males around him model respectful and healthy relationships?

Ray Rice was once a teenager. Did his teachers, coaches, and family members have high expectations for the non-athlete side of his life? Did he use his male athlete privilege for the good of others? Were girls seen as an athletic conquest and a reward for his athletic success on the playing field? Was he in a locker room that objectified women and girls? Was he or his fellow athletes held accountable for their off field behavior? Did he still carry that free pass, given earlier in life, that “boys will be boys”?

Ray Rice was once a college student. Did his status as a college football player give him a road free of accountability? Did his coaches and trainers convey the messages to suck it up, be a man, victory is everything? Did anyone ever sit him down and talk with him about healthy relationship, gender equality and gender respect? Was his locker room environment filled with sexism and misogyny?

Ray Rice is now, after many years of privilege being held accountable for his abusive behavior towards a woman. He is now being told that such abuse is not acceptable at work (football) and in life. Initially, he was given a near “free pass” with his two-game suspension. It seemed that the Baltimore Ravens and the NFL wanted to ignore or forget the part that happened behind closed doors, albeit an elevator door. But now with the world watching the video of him actually hitting his fiancé, they are on fire.

Imagine now if Ray Rice, as that cute little toddler, was surrounded by people, male and female, who gave him clear instructions and information on how to be a person (regardless of gender). A person who as he grows through life, respects those different than he is, that values women as equals, that uses his privilege for good, that would walk away from conflict, that doesn’t buy into the belief that “boys will be boys.”

The country and media are now playing Monday morning quarterback with this story and placing a lot of blame on the NFL for how the violence was initially handled. And rightly so, the NFL as an employer, should be held accountable. But I wonder, at the same time, how many of these same folks are holding their own employees accountable? Or how many of us are sitting down with our young boys – budding athletes, artists, scientists, doctors, spiritual leaders and having a conversation with them about how what happens behind doors matters – every single time – it matters.

What are you telling your little boy, your preteen, your teen, your college student, your young adult?

This blog was also featured on the Huffington Post Impact Blog

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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 www.mcgregorfund.org 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 rdecker@haven-oakland.org to find out how you can help.

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