Summer Dreams

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Summer for most children means freedom. Freedom from school, early bedtimes, shoes, and geographic boundaries. My summer memories are filled with bike rides, swimming, helping mom in the garden, and playing with my brother. I’m sure I still had chores to do and books to read but what I remember most is being free. I was a kid being a kid.

Children who witness domestic violence aren’t afforded that same freedom. Life with an abuser puts them on guard, waiting for the next act of violence, and working in some way to prevent it from ever occurring. One friend of mine recalls a summer spent mostly outdoors as her father would lock his kids outside to fend for themselves for the entire day while their mother worked, sometimes even still in their pajamas and with no breakfast. Another friend shared how they were never allowed outdoors or to be away from their father, no hanging out with friends or attending parties. The one emotion that both of these friends had in common – fear. Fear of what could or would happen next.

Now that the first day of summer has passed, schools have closed for summer break and families are starting to settle into their new routines. Many children have started their summer day camps, sports camps, play dates, and swim lessons. At HAVEN, today and throughout the summer months, children from our community will find themselves living in shelter, a safe harbor from the violence they have been witnessing. And although I’m sure many of these kids are grateful they are away from the violence, I am equally sure that not a single one wants to be living in a shelter. Imagine, that first day back to school in the fall and answering the traditional “What did you do on your summer vacation?”

At HAVEN we work, year round, to give the children and teens residing with us, a sense of normalcy and a time to just be a kid. In the summer months, our team, creates opportunities much like a summer camp – outings, play, getting wet, horsing around, reading and crafts. We still work with the children on their concerns of safety and their exposure to trauma but we also want them to be kids. We work on changing the dynamic of their feeling responsibility for mom’s safety and for caring for younger siblings. We want them to learn to be in charge of their own emotions and to discover healthy outlets for feelings such as anger. We give them the opportunity to dig in the dirt in our garden, learn where food comes from, to create something from their own hands, to witness success and achievement.

We also work to help the parent to regain their role as parent and for the child to stay the child. Many abused parents have had their parenting role undermined by their abuser. Their children often don’t respond to their attempts at discipline and instead continue to act out. Some, especially boys, will step in to the role of the abuser, working to control their mother and continuing to undermine their authority. Our staff work to support mom and to create opportunities for there to be times to practice these new roles within the family unit while still in shelter, creating a safe place for practice and necessary support.

Years ago, I heard something I will never forget. A supporter of HAVEN was volunteering in her child’s classroom at school. The kids were out on the playground and she was asked to pass out some completed artwork, placing them on the children’s desks. When she was nearly done, she came to two pieces of art without names on them. She asked the teacher if she could identify who the artist was so she could complete her task. The teacher took the drawings, looked at them, and said something to the effect of “oh those kids are from HAVEN it doesn’t matter, you can throw them out, they didn’t put their name on them.” The supporter was appalled and let the teacher know that the kids, did in fact, matter and she went about locating those student artists.

All kids matter. So as we take our summer vacations, drive our kids to their summer day care program, eat s’mores and ice cream, lets take a moment to consider that not all children have this same privilege. You can help nurture and lift up the children in our community in ways big and small by supporting our work through donations, volunteerism, knowledge, and understanding. Helping a child live a life without fear – sounds like a summer well-spent.

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We are Honored…

HAVEN President and CEO, Beth Morrison with HAVEN Chairperson, Carol Winnard Brumm and Vice Chair, Sue Perlin.

HAVEN President and CEO, Beth Morrison with HAVEN Chairperson, Carol Winnard Brumm and Vice Chair, Sue Perlin.

For 40 years, our organization has strived to do what is right, what is best for survivors. We have worked to stay on top of best practices. We listen to survivor’s stories and needs to inform and guide our work. We read, we explore, we search, we learn, we grow, we challenge, and we think. Staying still and sticking with the status quo has never been good enough. We recognize that social justice work is hard and never ending so we stay committed to the challenge.

On Thursday, we received the Richard F. Huegli Award for Program Excellence from the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan. This award annually recognizes a nonprofit organization in southeast Michigan that has a history of achieving excellence in human services programming. It celebrates Mr. Huegli’s legacy of vision, high standards for programming excellence and belief in human potential.

Like a parent watching their child graduate with honors, we are bursting with pride. This award not only symbolizes our work in the past year but it reflects the efforts of our 40 year history. A compilation of many successes and continual growth. And like the child who is graduating, it isn’t the end of the road. We have not arrived at the end of our work or success, it simply becomes a next step. Until domestic and sexual violence is eliminated, HAVEN will be here, working as hard as ever to see our vision come to fruition.

To us, program excellence means evolving our practices to meet the needs of survivors today and to address the ever changing landscape of social justice. Much has changed in the past 40 years. What worked in 1975 doesn’t necessarily apply in 2015. A great example of that change is in the realm of prevention education. In the last 10 years we have moved from a risk reduction tertiary approach (how not to get raped) to a primary approach (how to stop rape from happening). For those of us who have worked in this field for a long time, this is exciting! This type of best practice approach addresses the root causes of the violence and propels us closer to its elimination.

It is because of the support of the community, we can do this best practice work. In the example of primary prevention, it is solely due to community support, as we have no government funds for our prevention work. Our prevention education programming is funded 100% from the community partners such as the Detroit Lions, GM Foundation, Cooper Standard, as well as individual donors.

We are incredibly honored to not only accept the Richard F. Huegli Award for Program Excellence but to share the glory with those that support us. It is because of the efforts of many that we will one day be able to say that zero women are affected by domestic and sexual violence.

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Fathers Can Be Feminists Too

Some Superheros don't have capes...

One of the myths that often surrounds working in the field of intimate partner violence is that those doing the work hate men. To some that might sound a bit extreme, because it is, but it is nonetheless something that we hear rather frequently. But as the saying goes, the myth is far from the truth.

Myself and others that I work with, now as well as in the past, are feminists. And feminism, in its simplest of definitions, is a belief in and practice of equality. So in fact, we have no hate toward men. We are however against the violence, misogyny, and oppression of women and other marginalized people; we are believers in love.

So on Father’s Day, we at HAVEN will celebrate those men in our lives and in our community who lift others up, who work beside us to remove barriers, and who treat and respect women as equals. Many of us are fortunate to have had strong loving men in our past – fathers, partners, mentors, coaches, teachers, brothers, uncles, and friends. These men have given us their understanding, acceptance, love, freedom, and equality. Men, who through their behavior demonstrate daily that they too are feminists, even if they might be reluctant to label themselves as such.

I am one of these fortunate and grateful women. During my life I have had a number of men who accepted me for me, who cheered on my success and motivated me to move through my failures. They have given me a safe place to let go and be emotional and free. I have had men beside me to help push open what seemed like a closed door but still respecting me enough for me to do the final push versus taking on the stereotyped role of rescuer. And they have also been open to me being their caretaker and problem solver as well.

So for these men – my father, brothers, grandfather, partner, teachers, and friends – I say thank you. On this Father’s Day, I honor the contributions that you have made in my life and the lives of others. I thank you for challenging me, honoring me, and loving me – no matter what. To my son, nephews, colleagues, and friends, thank you for taking the path of love, respect, and equality.

Unfortunately, like so many other women, I have also had the reality of experiencing the flip side. Men who wanted to rescue me, control me, belittle my success, threaten me, and hold power over me. I have experienced sexual harassment in the work place, inequality in pay, being shut out of opportunities, and abusive tactics. But with a history of positive actions of the other  aforementioned men, I have been able to defiantly stand up for myself, see the inequality or misogyny, and move on.

Sadly I know that many other women and children have not had the same positive male role models. We see it daily in our work. At HAVEN we strive to give them the opportunity to experience, via our male staff and volunteers, acceptance and equality in behavior and relationships.

And for the men in my life today – who continue to not just respect me but respect all women – I not only thank you but I also challenge you.  Your challenge is to become yet a stronger voice and make an active visible stand. I ask that you call out other men, and women, who oppress and cause harm. I challenge you to become positive role models for young boys and men by demonstrating non-violence, making your stand known in the voting booth, and by continuing to learn and practice bystander intervention. By doing so, you are making the world a safer, more accountable, and equitable place.

“I call on all men and boys everywhere to join us. Violence against women and girls will not be eradicated until all of us – men and boys – refuse to tolerate it.” Ban Ki-Moon, UN General.

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Their Impact is Great

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Having a best friend is invaluable, someone to have in your corner – to share the ups and downs of life, to imagine the future, to motivate change, to grieve losses, and to celebrate successes.

Like an individual, HAVEN is fortunate to have a flock of BFF’s – folks who share, who give, who make a difference in the life of our organization and therefore the lives of community members. Today, in conjunction with National Best Friend Day, we salute some of our best friends.

Carole Winnard Brumm – Carole has been a volunteer at HAVEN for more than 10 years, serving as a committee member and chair of our annual Gala and then joining the HAVEN Board of Directors. Carole is now serving as our Board Chair, as well as providing leadership and guidance on a number of committees and participating in many of our activities. As a best friend, she demonstrates her dedication to the organization as a true ambassador, securing the support of others and pushing up her sleeves for the good of the cause.

Kelly Mays volunteers in our Survivor’s Speaker Bureau. She is particularly passionate about her advocacy work because it has been a source of healing and inspiration for her. She hopes to inspire other survivors to find their voice and tell their story. Kelly is a slam poet and uses her poetry as a vehicle to raise awareness on domestic violence. She describes her daughters as the greatest poems ever written!

Ed Cassel has served as a Crisis and Support Line volunteer since May 2013. His supervisor states, “Ed truly cares about the people he works with on the phone, expressing empathy for them and their situation.” In addition to volunteering weekly at HAVEN, Ed continues to serve as a volunteer working with hospitalized children.

Bhushan Nagarajan has been volunteering with the children residing at our Residential Program for the past three years. A recent college graduate, he felt compelled to volunteer and “give something back to this society.” The children, young and old alike, gather around him with happy smiles!

Jody Chessman has served as a volunteer at HAVEN in many capacities since January 2011. She lends a hand wherever help is needed. Jody has played with and watched children while their parent is receiving counseling, she serves at the reception desk, helps at fundraisers, and volunteers at our special events. All this while also volunteering at area hospitals helping new babies and parents adjust to parenthood!

From corporate leaders, to college students, to retirees, to your next door neighbor – HAVEN has the good fortunate to literally list these wonderful supporters and hundreds others as our BFF. Their contributions are many and their impact is great. We can’t imagine our work without them! Thank you.

Click here to learn more about volunteering at HAVEN. 

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Inappropriate Touching is Still Child Sexual Abuse

#LiveWithouFear

When I was 9 or 10-years-old I was molested by the 14-year-old son of family friends. It happened just once and I knew immediately that I didn’t want it to happen and that I needed to tell. Keep in mind, in the 60’s, child molestation was not talked about and I had no frame of reference for what had just happened. I just knew it was wrong.

I told my mom and she reassured me that telling her was the right thing to do and she would make sure it never happened again. And it didn’t. I have no idea what transpired but I assume my mom told my dad and they confronted the other family.  Although our families remained friends, I was never left alone with “Sam” and when our families were together he stayed far from me.

On and off for years, I wondered if Sam ever molested any other girls after me. Did he get help? Real professional help? Was he held accountable in any way for molesting me? Lots of unanswered questions decades later.

When the high-profiled Josh Duggar molestation case came out into the open, I like probably thousands of others, reflected back to my own experience. Although the circumstances were vastly different, there are similarities. Two Christian families linked via our church, no law enforcement involvement, no apparent professional help, and I am assuming, once the incidents were brought to light, no one gave the victims a voice. I imagine, that the victims of the Duggar family freaked out just like I did when our molesters became fathers. Was he going to harm his daughter? Do I speak up, all these years later? Would speaking up make a difference, prevent any future harm?

Although my parents protected me and my life went on rather unmarked, I realize that I never had a voice in what happened.  I told one person, she protected me, and that was it. At the time maybe that was all that I needed. Now, I want a say. I want to know about his accountability. I want to know if he changed. I want to have a sense of closure.  But on the flipside, I am not yet prepared to open old wounds and to confront my abuser, nor to create pain for my still living parents. One day I might decide differently but I know that is my decision to make, and I know that I have the right to answers. Do Duggar’s victims feel as if they have that same choice and right?

What outrages me is that I suspect that they do not. They appear to have been silenced in the past, during a supposedly more enlightened time than the 60’s. If facts are true, Duggar was shuffled off for a few months, and then returned to live with his victims. And I can almost hear his parents, instructing their daughters to dress more modestly around him and not no anything provocative so not to arouse him – therefore putting the blame and burden on the girls.  A few weeks ago, while flipping through channels, I watched about 15 minutes of their TLC show, with Michelle Duggar explaining the importance of modest dress, how immodesty causes stress and impurity in boys and men.

It may be too late, with statute of limitations, for these victims to have a criminal process and unfortunately I don’t understand what civil options they may have available to them today. But let’s give these young women an opportunity to have a true, un-coached voice other than to share that they “forgive Josh” and that what he did was “very mild compared to what happens to some young women.” Let them get answers to their questions, let them know they are not to blame, let them know that we have their back – even when the involved parents continue to express their minimization of events and their grief over their son’s despair. They do not owe us their story but they have a right to have their story heard if they wish. And they have a right to be spared any further blame or sweeping Josh Duggar’s blame under the rug.

This blog post is also featured on Huffington Post Impact.

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It’s Only a Hill…

You have an opportunity for permanent recognition.

Plant the Seeds of Hope Recognition Wall

It’s only a hill. One mile at a time. It’s only a hill. One mile at a time. It’s only…

As I lumbered up Tienken Road in Rochester, this mantra was critical in my ability to complete my first, as well as, subsequent Brooksie Way Half Marathon races. Thinking about the smiling, supportive and familiar faces waiting for me at the finish line also helped keep me focused.

Raising the funds needed to create HAVEN’s new home has had a similar feel, one donor and one dollar at time. And now we have reached our “hill”, the final stretch of funds to raise. Having raised $4.65 million to-date, we are down to our final push for $350,000. And just like my need to have my family cheer me on during my final couple of miles, we need you to help push us forward to the finish line.

We are excited to launch our Plant the Seeds of Hope Recognition Wall, a place for community members to demonstrate support for our mission to eliminate domestic and sexual violence. In addition to raising needed funds, this wall will be a symbol of strength and support for the thousands of survivors HAVEN will serve each year.

I recall a woman in our counseling program once telling me that she felt as if the entire community was supporting her, not just HAVEN, when she realized how many individuals and community organitizations made contributions to support our services. She had always felt alone, ashamed and embarrassed but because of the efforts of so many, she said she would never feel alone again.

Our Recognition Wall will allow many to feel empowered, while it is prominently featured in our multi-purpose room and viewed not only by the survivors we serve but by other members of our community. What a wonderful visual depiction of how many people back this important work!

So as we near the finish line, please take action and join others to create momentum for us during this critical time. You may even consider enlisting family members or friends to share a leaf with you or secure one of their own. Each and every leaf on the wall, no matter the actual value, will be invaluable in helping others Live Without Fear.

And remember, as the quote by Margaret Meade that will sit atop the wall reminds us, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”

Click here to see available donation levels, leaf colors or to reserve your leaf.

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It’s OK if You Don’t Know What to Say

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Guest post by: Cara Lynch, LMSW, Therapist, HAVEN
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently published an enormous study called the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey[1], which found that about 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men in the United States have been raped at some point in their lives[2]. When the researchers looked at sexual victimization other than rape, those numbers jumped to 1 in 2 women and 1 in 5 men[3]. What these numbers mean to me is that not only is sexual trauma still tragically commonplace in our society, but that even if it hasn’t happened to you, the chances of you knowing a survivor are great. It is with that reality in mind that I want to address ways you can support the sexual assault survivors in your life.

  • Believe them. Full stop. It is not your job to investigate or to play devil’s advocate. “Innocent until proven guilty” applies (in theory) to our justice system, not us as friends, family members, and loved ones.
  • Do not judge. There is no wrong or right way to respond to sexual assault and that is just as important for you as a loved one to know as it is for the survivor to know. However she or he reacted at the time and afterwards is OK. This includes common responses such as freezing during the assault, not fighting back or saying “No”, interacting with the assailant afterwards, keeping quiet about the assault, and not wanting to report it to police.
  • Listen more than talk and avoid asking questions about what happened – they are often more about our own curiosity than about supporting survivors. Remember that the conversation, the experience, is not about you.
  • Communicate empathy, not pity. Survivors are often very worried that people will treat them differently if they knew about what happened. Reassure the survivor that knowing about the assault does not change how you see or feel about her or him. For an excellent primer on empathy, take two and a half minutes of your day to watch this cartoon.
  • It is ok if you don’t know what to say. In fact, saying that you don’t know what to say is OK. Some other good suggestions are “I’m sorry this happened to you” and “It’s not your fault” and “I’m so glad you told me.” Remember that you do not need to fix anything and you cannot make this better. Simply being there, listening without judgment is often more than enough.
  • One question that is great to ask is this – “Is there anything I can do right now to help?” A variation on that could be, “Is there anything you need right now?” Questions like these help us avoid making assumptions about what survivors need or want from us. It also keeps us from inadvertently telling them what to do, which is almost never helpful.
  • Be patient. I wrote in an earlier post about healing from sexual assault that there is no deadline, no timetable for healing. Try not to pressure them into “getting back to normal” and definitely avoid statements such as “It’s time to move on” and “It’s in the past, you should be over it already.” Along the way, survivors will have good days and bad days; just give them time.
  • Take care of yourself. I said earlier to remember that this is not about you. However, it is perfectly normal to have your own feelings about what has happened to this person that you care about and love, particularly feelings of anger, hurt, and helplessness. Do not task the survivor with helping you through those feelings, but also try not to ignore or avoid them. Just as you are trying to support your loved one through this, seek support for yourself, too. HAVEN offers free counseling for both survivors AND their partners or family members.

[1] The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey 
[2] The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey Executive Summary
[3] NISVS Infographic

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