Dear Olivia

Valentine's Day

Dear Olivia,

I know you are only 8 years old but it is time to have a talk about Valentine’s Day. Even at the ripe age of 8, we have already sold you a bill of goods about February 14th. We have wrapped this day up into a giant package of love, love, and love.

It is my hope that your generation will get the day right. The focus of the day being about healthy caring relationships, especially the relationship you have with yourself. Your worth is not based on the size of a box of candy or the number of flowers in a bouquet. Your worth is not tied to a romantic relationship.

Remember this, love is beautiful and wonderful and it can also be confusing, frustrating, and disappointing but it is NEVER abusive and violent. Love is about give and take, not power and control. It is about mutual sacrifice and compromise, not fear and hurt. It is a balance of both individual’s needs, wants, and wishes.

Know that a healthy relationship allows you to be you, not some made up version where you exist to please someone else. And you, Olivia, are remarkable! You are smart, funny, caring, strong, determined, and just right.

Happy Valentine’s Day Olivia! May your day be filled with fun, your heart filled with joy, and your spirit filled with knowing that you are enough.

Aunt Beth

Why am I having this conversation with Olivia at age 8? Did you know that teen dating violence behaviors typically begin between the ages of 12 and 18 (2008, National Council on Crime and Delinquency)? And that 1 in 3 adolescents in the US is a victim of physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner a figure that exceeds rates of all other types of youth violence (2000 American Bar Association Juvenile Justice Center)?

It is never too early to have a conversation with our children about healthy relationships, body autonomy, and love. Boys and girls of all ages need to be armed with correct information and given the direct nod to talk about these critical topics. It is estimated that only 33% of teens who were in a violent relationship ever told anyone about it (2005 Liz Claiborne research). And nearly even more scary than that, 81% of parents believe that teen dating violence is not an issue or admit they don’t know if it is an issue (2004 Family Violence Prevention Fund).

The Olivia’s in our lives need to know that talking about violence is ok. They also need to know that they are worthy of love and respect – from everyone. We need to send these messages with great frequency and clarity. We are responsible for raising a generation where love doesn’t equal fear.

HAVEN offers age-appropriate Prevention Education programs for children and teens that cover many topics including, personal safety, gender respect and healthy relationship skills. Click here to request a speaker or to learn more. 



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Staying Safe Online

SONY DSCGuest post by: Averett Robey, Prevention Education Specialist, HAVEN

As a prevention education specialist I spend a lot of time talking to students and hearing their experiences, thoughts and feelings. Often those conversations remind me how texting and social media are integrated as a natural part of our daily lives. Upon looking deeper, that integration can be frightening when we are talking about intimate partner violence, sexual harassment, and stalking. The negative impact technology can have is great and for some people, it is even unrecognizable.

On average more than six million people in the United States are stalked each year. The Internet has only aided in increasing that number through the use of cyberstalking. Cyberstalking can be, but is not limited to, repeatedly sending threats or false accusations, making threatening or false posts on websites, stealing a person’s identity/data, or spying and monitoring a person’s computer and internet use.

When I got my first cell phone with unlimited texting it was so easy for me to text my friends and partner quite a bit throughout the day. Ten years later, with the development and popularity of platforms such as Four Square, Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Find My Friends, technology has gone to another level. It’s now very easy to know where a person is and what they are doing at any given moment —making stalking easier and protection harder.

The integration of cell phone use, social media, and the Internet have made being “connected” and behaviors like incessant texting and sharing your location on command the norm. It may seems like innocent interaction, however this normalization can be dangerous when it is accepted as part of a relationship, instead of as the controlling and often abusive tactic that it can be.

In college I had a friend who had been in an abusive relationship. She would often receive text messages from her then ex-partner saying something as simple as “where are you?” I can’t even recall the number of times I myself have either asked my friends or my partner that very question as I am trying to meet up with them. However, the impact of that question was much different for my friend. She knew that meant he had driven to her home, noticed her car was not there, and was now angry that he did not have access to her when he wanted.

When I talk to students about intimate partner violence and cyberstalking I explain that it is not what we say or intend but what kind of impact our action has. It is important to think about how behaviors like constant texting can be used to know where someone is and what they are doing, and how they are used in conjunction with other tactics to stalk, frighten, and gain and maintain power and control.

Many students I meet carry the misconception that a stranger usually perpetrates stalking. Yet, we know that in reality the stalker is someone the victim knows in three out of four stalking cases. I believe that social media and phones have only amplified the issue.

The reality is approximately 66% of stalking victims report some form of cyberstalking such as unwanted phone calls or messages. Technology has created new avenues for constant presence and control to exist, while providing easy, affordable access to peoples’ personal information and history. Simply using a snapchat filter can tell someone what city you’re in, or carrying your iPhone with you can give someone access to the locations you go to and how many hours you spend there. But it can be even more than knowledge. Unfortunately, many cyberstalking cases don’t stop behind the computer or phone, reports show that 70% of them escalate resulting in physical attacks and abductions.

Unfortunately, despite these statistics cyberstalking is often laughed off and not considered serious or fatal. Survivors who do report may be deemed “not credible” and their trauma is often minimized. Even though studies show, no matter how it’s conducted, stalking can have significant and lifelong effects, including: ongoing stress, anxiety, fear, nightmares, shock and disbelief, feelings of helplessness, hyper-vigilance, changes in eating, and sleeping difficulties. Some research even shows that the effects of cyberstalking and harassment can be more intense, in certain cases, due to the 24/7 accessibility the perpetrator has to the victim.

So how do we protect ourselves and our family from the crime of cyberstalking in a technological world? Here are a few important pointers to remember:

  • Learn about the presence and impact of cyberstalking in your community. Does your police department have a cyber crimes unit? Have there been any cases at your child’s school?
  • Model healthy relationship skills that are rooted in communication, shared responsibility, accountability, and respect. Be sure your child understands what type of behavior is unacceptable and keep open lines of communication with them.
  • Remind your children to never share passwords or other personal information online, like phone numbers, address or school name, not matter how “safe” the medium seems.
  • Teach your children to logout of their accounts when they are through with them and to not leave their devices unattended.
  • Read additional tips here.

January is National Stalking Awareness Month. If you think you or someone you know is a victim of stalking or cyberstalking, HAVEN can help. Call our 24-hour Crisis and Support Line at 877-922-1274.



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No Longer Secret





Our beautifully secure new home located in Pontiac just south of the Oakland County complex. 

As we change our calendars over to 2016, we are gifted an opportunity to have a fresh new beginning. For HAVEN, 2016 marks our 5th decade of supporting and empowering survivors of domestic and sexual violence. It’s also a new chapter in how we provide those services as we are finally in our new home—a home built out of the love and concern of our community.

When we began the planning of our new facility, over five years ago, one early decision was to no longer keep our location secret. Our belief, proven by best practices from around the country, was that we could address safety concerns via the building process, a benefit of building from the ground up. Many have questioned that decision, since for decades most domestic and sexual violence programs, including HAVEN, operated with somewhat of a veil of secrecy. Well, it is time to no longer be secret.

On the first day of offering services at the new building (click here for an article and pictures), a survivor of child sexual abuse, Shawn, arrived for a group session. In her own words, she shared:

“The new building is so powerful. It was a very unexpected and very powerful experience for me seeing the building for the first time. It is a real beacon of Hope. The building for me spoke, ‘Welcome home, we do not need to hide, we are not shameful of you and you need not be ashamed of yourself, this is where you can be loved while you learn to love yourself, you do not have to fight this battle alone anymore, you no longer have to sit in isolation with your demons, here you are validated, here your soul is supported, here is where you can heal and here is where we will show you how.’ “

What a response! Our design team, composed of professionals, HAVEN staff, and community volunteers, worked hard to design and build a building that would be efficient, and allow us to be good stewards of the funds and resources available. We envisioned a building that would support what I call “the magic that happens between the walls”, the work of healing and growth. I did not conceptualize, until reading the words from Shawn, that our building itself is part of that magic.

Shawn ended her note with the following,

“And my special thank you to you, because of you and everyone at HAVEN, we can begin to release our shame and hold our heads up high. You have gifted this to us from leading by example and believing in us to be seen and not hidden. I have spent a lifetime debilitated and crippled by shame. Shame is a silent killer and seeing that building last night actually made me proud to be a survivor.”

So as we toast the beginning of a New Year and a fresh new start, we ask that you consider making a big bold step in 2016.  Join us at HAVEN in making a difference. Our new facility has created additional opportunities for volunteerism and community engagement. Domestic and sexual violence is a community issue, one that is not to be veiled in silence. Join us in standing up for Shawn and all the other survivors in our community who are carrying the burden of their victimization all alone.

Click here to find out how you can get involved.



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Full and Thankful Hearts


Guest post by:
Rachel M. DeckerExecutive Director, HAVEN Foundation and Director of Development, HAVEN

It’s January. That means most of us are recouperating from a joyous (albeit stressful) time of year. Shopping for gifts, baking cookies, planning parties, visiting with friends and family were all-consuming activities those last few weeks of 2015. If you’re like me, the preparations sometimes felt a bit overwhelming. But the joy of watching a loved one open a gift, hearing a child talk about their trip to see Santa, or just enjoying a glass of wine with a friend all made the hustle and bustle well worth it!

But, as I sit here reflecting on my own holidays, I can’t help but think about the women, children and families we serve. Every day I see the physical and emotional toll that domestic and sexual violence takes on those experiencing it. But during the holidays already stressful situations can become even more worrisome. Mothers worry how they will provide their children with all of the happiness and cheer that the time of year is supposed to bring. How will she cook a holiday meal or bake cookies with her kids? Where will coats and mittens come from? What if she can’t afford presents? How will she explain that Santa couldn’t make it this year??

It brings tears to my eyes just imagining how that must feel. Fortunately, because of our extremly generous community – because of YOU – we were able to ensure that our families had as normal of a holiday season as possible.

Our Gift Giveaway program, which annually provides our clients with holiday gifts, was able to send 281 adults and 610 children home with gifts this year! Moms selected from helpful household items like coffee makers and towels and were also able to pick out something special for themselves. A new pair of pajamas, jewelry, and perfume can go a long way towards making someone feel special. And, most importantly to those moms, they received gifts for their kids. Necessities like coats and hats, and plenty of toys, books and board games were all found under the Christmas tree thanks to the over 160 individuals, companies, religious organizations and service groups who donated so generously!

In addition to the items, HAVEN also received over $355,000 from 570 donors just during the month of December. These funds not only ensure that the families staying in our residential program this time of year have a happy holiday, but the funds all help ensure that our services are available 365 days of the year.

Lastly, thanks to several of our community partners, our families were also treated to some very special holiday parties. The Detroit Lions hosted almost 100 women and children at Ford Field for a once in a lifetime experience, and Running Back Joique Bell took 35 kids on a special shopping trip. The Detroit Tigers hosted another 25 kids and their parents for dinner and shopping. And, several additional groups and individuals came to HAVEN to provide special holiday meals and activities for our families.

Whew! It’s been a wonderful whirlwind. And with 2016 ahead of us, I am refreshed knowing the hearts of the women and children we serve are full, thanks to you.


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We Work to Change Lives



Guest post by:
Rachel M. DeckerExecutive Director, HAVEN Foundation and Director of Development, HAVEN

As we reflect on this past year, we are thankful to have been able to serve survivors of domestic and sexual violence by providing:

  • Safe shelter for those living in fear.
  • Compassionate counseling with a focus on safety.
  • Comprehensive care and support to victims immediately following a sexual assault.
  • Skilled court advocates offering support for those moving through the legal system or in need of immediate crisis intervention after an assault.
  • Support and information via the Crisis and Support Line 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, 365 days per year.
  • Education to help create a culture where domestic and sexual violence do not exist.

Through these and our other programs ­— including help securing a personal protection order; support groups; and art and play therapy — we have helped countless survivors, like Lynn, create fresh beginnings and safer lives.

Every day we work to support survivors and throughout our 40-year history our efforts have changed the lives of our friends and neighbors. But, none of this important work would be possible without your critical financial support. And because our work is ongoing, we need your support to ensure that we are able to provide help and hope to those who so desperately need it. Click here to make your tax-deductible gift today.

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Minding My Manners


Guest post by:
Rachel M. DeckerExecutive Director, HAVEN Foundation and Director of Development, HAVEN

It wasn’t very long ago that I was handing out Halloween candy and while doing so,  I heard countless parents prompting their kids with “What do you say?” and “Be sure to say thank you.” Some of them had barely mastered the ability to walk but moms and dads were already working on the skill of showing gratitude.

It was, of course, adorable. But it also made me think. Thanks to my own parents who valued manners as well as my career spent in philanthropy, not a day goes by that I don’t use the phrase. And as we approach the time of year that calls for the giving of thanks. I wondered, is “thank you” really enough?

Last year almost 4,000 individuals, companies and foundations supported HAVEN. Four thousand kind, caring and compassionate donors who believed so strongly in our mission to treat and prevent domestic violence and sexual assault that they were moved to help. They wrote checks, they held donation drives, they attended events, they donated goods and services. And all of it contributed to so much more.

They changed lives. They saved lives.

A 5-year-old saying thank you when I hand her a candy bar is an appropriate response for her to express her appreciation. But when I’m speaking to donors, surely there must be a better way for me to convey my gratitude for the significant, life altering and possibly life-saving impact they are making. Is there a better way to tell those donors what their support means not just to HAVEN, but to the nearly 30,000 individuals we help?

Truth be told….I’ve been reflecting on it since Halloween and have yet to come up with anything. But what I can do, is share an experience about what your support meant to a domestic violence survivor named Ashley that we worked with recently.

“I never thought I’d need HAVEN services for myself. Even on the day of my first phone call, I didn’t realize how invaluable my relationship would become. With extreme patience, kindness, and understanding of exactly what I was experiencing, I spent over a year with HAVEN accessing safety and ultimately repairing myself. The HAVEN team was a literal lifesaver.”

So please know that this heartfelt “Thank you!” goes beyond good manners. Thank you for ensuring that our services are available to Ashley and others that need us. Thank you for helping us work to treat and prevent domestic and sexual violence. Thank you for your kindness and your compassion. Thank you for your generosity. Thank you for helping instill a sense of hope. Thank you for supporting a world free of violence.

Most importantly…thank you for saving lives.




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Together We Restore Lives


Guest blog by: Karen Wullaert DeKett, MA, LLPC, HAVEN Therapist

I am proud of the work that my colleagues and I do at HAVEN. I’ve seen firsthand how our interactions with survivors can be life-changing. I’ve heard countless times from clients that before talking to someone at HAVEN, they felt completely alone and hopeless.

The work HAVEN does to help survivors of domestic and sexual violence is important, but sometimes it feels like we are limited in what we can do. The needs of our clients often exceed the resources and options we can offer them as a single agency. In moments like these, I am grateful for the relationships we have with other community agencies. HAVEN is fortunate to have many community partners who recognize that domestic and sexual violence can create immense upheaval and chaos in an individual’s life. These partners are there for our clients when their needs are beyond the scope of our services.

One client that comes to mind is Janice. Janice was a 30-something mother of four who had recently broken up with an abusive partner. As is often the case, the abuse didn’t stop when the relationship ended. Janice’s ex-partner would frequently drive by her house, follow her when she and her children left, and park in various areas of her neighborhood. She would come home and her mailbox would be open or a garbage can would be knocked over. Although to an outsider these were seemingly small occurrences, to her they sent a powerful message; you are not safe.

It was clear that Janice needed to find new, safe housing. Janice was a fulltime student who had recently picked up a part-time job. She would not only need assistance finding safe, affordable housing; she would also need some financial assistance so she could afford new housing until she could get back on her feet. I referred Janice to Community Housing Network.

Community Housing Network listened to Janice and took her concerns and the needs of her and her family seriously. They helped her find a new home where they could feel safe and live without fear. They also helped her pay for her rent and utilities until she could afford it on her own.

HAVEN’s community partners are there for survivors when they need help filling in the gaps. From housing resources to legal assistance, from employment aid to food and clothing donations, our community partners support our clients on their journeys to independence and empowerment. I look forward to future without domestic and sexual violence. Until that day comes to fruition, I am grateful for all of the community agencies in Oakland County who support HAVEN’s mission and the survivors we serve. Thank you.

If you or someone you know needs help, we are available 24-hours per day, 7-days per week. Please call our free Crisis and Support Line at 877-922-1274 or visit for more information.  

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