The first of June has been a cause for celebration at HAVEN! Over 8 years ago, HAVEN began a quest with then State Representative Dave Woodward to secure a stable source of funding for our forensic nurse examiner program as well as other such programs around the state. Dave had been involved with the creation of HAVEN’s program, START (Safe Therapeutic Assault Response Team), and saw what a wonderful service it was providing to survivors of sexual assault. Dave was concerned that without a stable funding source, the program might not be able to survive and as a state representative came to learn about how such programs are not available across the State. So Dave, in collaboration with HAVEN and the Michigan Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, began to work on legislation to create a funding stream, via fees placed on convicted sex offenders.
Fast forward a few years and Dave passed the reins of this work on to Marie Donigan after she replaced him in the legislature. Marie then worked for several years to get this bill passed and signed by Governor Granholm. After the fund was created, qualified organization such as HAVEN had to competitively compete for this new grant funding source. I am thrilled to report that HAVEN was one of the 8 agencies in the state selected to receive funds! We will be using our $100,000 grant to modify our fee structure for our contractual nurses, to provide ongoing training for our certified nurse examiners, to recruit and train new nurses and to assist us in the operational costs of this program.
Our START program is a true gem to Oakland County. It is a service that no one wants to receive but is so critical to have available for those community members who have experienced a sexual assault. To be a strong and vibrant community, we need to have wonderful opportunities for art, recreation, education and employment but also need to have a solid infrastructure in place to care for our neighbors in time of need. START is one such program.
All of Oakland County should be proud of the 9 years that START has existed in the community. This program was created and designed by community leaders from multiple disciplines and today it continues to thrive and exist due to the financial support of so many – Oakland County Commissioners, Sheriff Michael Bouchard, City of Royal Oak, Dr. Mary Jo Malafa and St. Joseph Mercy Hospital, as well as numerous civic groups, churches and individuals. All truly represent the “heart of HAVEN” as the community embraces survivors of sexual assault and their path to healing while at the same time utilizing the forensic evidence and quality of START to hold assailants accountable.
To read about someone who used the START program, please click the jump.
Two years ago, a 15-year-old high school freshman, attended her first homecoming dance. What is normally a happy occasion ended in a violent date rape for Stephanie. Stephanie, initially decided to keep the assault a secret but an intuitive friend got Stephanie to open up and share her nightmare. This sharing ultimately ended up in a visit to HAVEN’s START program where Stephanie received a medical exam, forensic evidence collection, crisis counseling and support. Stephanie’s parents and best friend, who accompanied her, also received support and advice on how they can best support her during her recovery. Stephanie’s mom, herself a date rape survivor, was so appreciative of START. She shared with staff that when she too had been raped in high school no one believed or supported her and she had no where to turn. Instead she buried the assault for years and suffered for many years with depression and trauma. Thankfully Stephanie had a loving family and a quality program to turn to when she needed it the most, giving her a positive first step in moving toward healing and hope.