Category Archives: Call to action

Children are Resilient

Kids playing

Guest post by Rachel Decker, Development Director, HAVEN and Executive Director, HAVEN Foundation

I’ve been with HAVEN nearly 4 years now. Having little background in the issues of domestic and sexual violence, I’ve come to learn a thing or two or three or….well you get the point.

Thing 1 – Nearly three quarters of women who are abused by their partners have children.

It’s a stat I’ve come to know well and it’s a stat I often repeat to our donors because it tells a story – a story of not just victimization, but the ability to stop the cycle of violence before it passes to the next generation.

Children who witness violence in their home often blame themselves for the violence. If I had cleaned my room maybe daddy wouldn’t be so mad at mommy. They experience guilt for loving the abuser. How can I love my dad when he hits my mom? Boys often have an overwhelming sense of responsibility to protect the victim. Shouldn’t I fight back to protect my mother?

They live in a constant state of fear and anxiety. Never knowing what will trigger the next attack.

Thing 2 – Those emotions surface in various different ways. Older children begin wetting the bed because of anxiety and fear. Younger children don’t learn to respect their mother because their father is reinforcing her “worthlessness.” Children of all ages hit and they yell….at their mother, their siblings, their friends, anyone. Because hitting is the only way they’ve learned how to get someone’s attention.

And the list of issues goes on…emotional detachment, poor grades, trouble concentrating, cognitive and development delays, acting out, depression, cutting, drug use. But, of all the challenges faced by the children at HAVEN, the one I believe is perhaps the worst and the hardest to overcome, is learning that violence is not the answer. Without anyone modeling healthy relationships, sadly, boys grow up to be abusers and girls become victims. The cycle is repeated.

Thing 3 – Children are remarkably resilient. When they have adequate resources to simply be kids – playtime, field trips, art projects, and story time – they begin to heal from the violence that has unfortunately been a significant part of their young lives. And when given counseling, support and education, they are not only able to overcome the challenges; they learn how to NOT perpetuate the cycle of violence. Boys learn to be respectful, caring partners. Girls learn empowerment and self-worth. Everyone learns that love shouldn’t hurt.

More than just learning about the resiliency of the children of domestic violence, I’ve seen it firsthand. Children coming out of their shell while staying in our shelter; kids learning respect from our male mentors; students in our Redefine program learning what it truly means to be a man; our youth coordinator teaching kids not to hit; children excited about getting help with homework; and mothers learning better parenting skills.

But, perhaps most importantly, I hear from the survivors themselves – adults who grew up in homes plagued by violence, adults who tell stories of coming to HAVEN and feeling safe, adults who learned love shouldn’t hurt. Adults who stopped the cycle.

You can help stop the cycle by giving the kids in our shelter a chance to just be kids. Please consider supporting our Playground Initiative by making a donation here.  Want to be a kid yourself? Pick an item off of our summer activities list, grab your family and go have some fun.





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Feed. People.

Garden Project

Feed people. A few weeks ago, a planning meeting for the HAVEN Garden Project revolved around those two words – feed people. And for the past six years, that is what this incredible project has done; feed the people of HAVEN, to the tune of 2 tons of fresh produce each year.

When our small founders group comprised of Michigan Young Farmer Coalition members Ben Gluck and Alexis Bogdanova Hanna, and HAVEN Director of Business Operations Marianne Dwyer and I, sat down we knew we had accomplished much more than the nutritional value of the food consumed. Our simple idea from seven years ago had far exceeded increasing the amount of fresh fruit and vegetables available in the shelter. It had become a vital program within HAVEN, a program devoted to the holistic care, personal growth, and the sanctity of the garden space.

Our accomplishments over the past six years are many. In addition to the 12 tons of produce grown, we also have:

  • Educated hundreds of individuals about growing organic produce.
  • Taught multiple concepts of nutrition and health.
  • Created a space for quiet reflection and meditation.
  • Shown children, as well as adults, how real food is grown and harvested from the earth instead of a can.

The list goes on – the growing food led to conversations and training on budgeting, food preservation, land stewardship, mental and emotional health, and exercise. Who would have imagined that growing tomatoes, carrots, onions and more would add such depth to our programming?

A few summers ago, a woman residing in our shelter program was in the garden daily. In addition to using the produce to make some rather amazing meals, she often reflected on how she found her time in the garden to be soothing and she was able to use the quiet space to think and sort through her plans for the future.

The children in our residential program also have enjoyed the garden over the years, finding it a place of fun and learning. The children have had scavenger hunts, helped with planting and harvesting, food tasting contests, and learned to cook some great dishes. Imagine doing all of this while reaping the benefits of fresh air, exercise, and a beautiful setting. And imagine having this opportunity while healing from trauma and abuse.

At our new location, we are excited about the growth of our garden space. This year we are starting small with approximately 20 raised beds of vegetables and strawberries, but plans are in the works over the next several years to have an orchard and to expand to nearly an acre of growing space. We will soon add a children’s garden, gazebo for respite and educational sessions, additional berries, herb garden, and larger crops. The support of the Community Foundation of Southeastern Michigan is instrumental in literally allowing our garden to grow!

We have accomplished much and institutionalized the garden due to the dedicated volunteerism and financial support of the community. The vast majority of all the necessary garden labor is completed by volunteers and the expenses of the garden covered by donors. The work has truly become a labor of love for many. If you would like to join our efforts, we can always use some additional garden volunteers as well as financial contributions.

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Looking Back to March Forward


Guest post by: Nkenge Burkhead, Prevention Education Specialist, HAVEN

March is a month of many celebrations. The March celebration that is most dear to my heart is the observation of Women’s History Month. A time to acknowledge our fore-mothers who made noise, made progress, made room for change, and made herstory! When you celebrate the fortitude of a community of people you must also recognize the forces they are up against.

Sadly, one of the factors that give women a similar connective experience is the constant threat of sexual and physical violence. Women are disproportionately targeted (1 in 3 women) and have been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner. When over 33% of a single community report surviving intimate partner violence, and then we consider the number of women who are not in a position to report their experiences, we can assume that at some point in our lifetime we will either become a victim or know and love a woman who is a victim of gender-based violence.

This is an unavoidable plot in our story. Women are at risk of being preyed upon by abusers in dark alleys near our jobs, but also in well-lit hallways near our kid’s room. Intimate partner abuse (wife beating as it’s been called) wasn’t against the law in the United States until 1920. There were no legal consequences in place until the 1970’s, and The Violence Against Women Act was passed in 1994. The statistics are appalling. The response survivors have received from police, medical staff, and even friends and family are often injurious and insensitive.

It is a time to proclaim that yes women have been victimized, but that women have also been on the front lines for the progression of services and support concerning intimate partner violence. March is a time to celebrate Women’s History! We celebrate women and their contribution to raising awareness, providing support, and challenging social attitudes around violence against women.

This month we have been motivated by Oleta “Lee” Abrams, who co-founded the first rape crisis center in the U.S. In response to her daughter’s rape and lack of support from the doctor who treated her daughter after she was attacked. Oleta and two friends opened Bay Area Women Against Rape. This center is still open today.

We are encouraged by Erin Pizzey. Erin established the first domestic violence shelter in Europe more than 40 years ago (1970). She also wrote one of the first books on the topic “Scream Quietly or the Neighbors Will Hear” in 1974.

We are indebted to Maria Macias who was killed by her estranged husband when police failed to enforce her restraining order after 22 calls for help.

Today the U.S. has over 1,900 shelters or support programs for survivors. While the survivors continue to out-number the beds, there are 1,900 places with caring people who will listen and believe survivors. Those same people ask how we can systematically end this and remember the history and attempt to reshape the future for women.

How will you March forward into the rest of the 2016? Will you read more about accomplishments women have contributed? Will you donate to a local domestic violence shelter? Will you teach the boys and men in your life about consent?

If you or someone you know is a victim of intimate partner violence or experiencing power and control dynamic in their relationship that feel abusive or unsafe HAVEN is here to help and our crisis and support line is ALWAYS open for you: 877-922-1274.

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Only 1 in 16 Rapists…



I am somewhat of a news junkie but too much news, for me at least, is not healthy for my soul. In the past few weeks due to vacation, evening obligations, and the horrible political discord being covered by the media, I fell into a much needed media break. The other day, someone asked me my thoughts on the arrest of Ingham County Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings III for sexual assault and I was clueless.

Being an advocate to end sexual violence and having once lived in the Lansing area, I jumped online. The story of Mr. Dunnings on its own was horrific but I also found another headline. High profile former athlete Mateen Cleaves was also in the news for sexual assault charges and buried within his article was mention of another former MSU athlete, Branden Dawson, arrested for domestic violence. In just one day, three high profile individuals arrested.

Needless to say, arrests for violence against women happen daily across the US and here in Michigan, not all make the news. With the statistics, 1 in 4 women will be a victim of domestic violence and 1 in 5 women will be a victim of sexual assault, we know these crimes happen daily. But we also know that both domestic violence and especially sexual violence are two of the least reported forms of victimization. Although the incident rate is high, low reporting rates aid in keeping the media coverage rate low, hence these high profile cases stick out and grab us.

All perpetrators of violence should be held accountable, high profile or the average citizen. Based on statistics from the US Department of Justice, most rapists are not held accountable.

Jailed-rapists December 2014

Image credit: Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN). See reference information below.

The simple answer often becomes pushing victims to report an assault. But as a community, we have to be fully prepared for her report and frankly, we aren’t there yet. First, there are numerous reasons why rape is not reported – fear of further harm from the rapist (over 66% of rapists know their victim), retribution, loss of employment. But primarily, many rape victims do not report or seek help because they won’t be believed – believed by family, friends, police, and others.

So when we look at these high profile cases, we can salute the fact that the system worked. The laws on the books were enforced, investigators did their legwork, and now prosecutors will do their part. Yes, these individuals are innocent until proven guilty but we must not forget the survivors of the assaults as well. When the community, without full knowledge of what occurred, jump on the band wagon of blaming the victim, we continue to tell other victims to not speak up. Let’s lift up survivors of rape by standing with them, while we let the process work.

The above graphic scares me to no end – only 1 in 16 rapists will ever spend a day in jail. We must flip that statistic. We can only do so by starting at a place of believing and supporting survivors and insisting on social change. Work with us to place the burden of accountability on perpetrators of violence and not on those victimized. Click here to learn more.

  1. Justice Department, National Crime Victimization Survey: 2008-2012
  2. FBI, Uniform Crime Reports, Arrest Data: 2006-2010
  3. FBI, Uniform Crime Reports, Offenses Cleared Data: 2006-2010
  4. Department of Justice, Felony Defendents in Large Urban Counties: 2009
  5. Department of Justice, Felony Defendents in Large Urban Counties: 2009





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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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A Dose of Hope


Courage is the choice and willingness to face agony, pain, danger, uncertainty and intimidation – according to Wikipedia. At HAVEN we see courage each and every day and in the faces of every person we assist, whether adult or children. Those individuals who must face the fear, pain, hurt and trauma of victimization know first-hand what courage is all about, even though most would never recognize the courageous steps and acts they are taking.

Imagine the courage of speaking out against your abuser. The courage to face your rapist in court. The courage of moving you and your children into a shelter. The courage of telling your employer why you are late to work. The courage needed when your actions are being questioned or behaviors are being blamed by your family and friends. The courage to have a rape kit examination and tell how your body was violated to law enforcement, prosecutors, juries.

Each fall, HAVEN partners with the Detroit Lions Courage House Board of Directors, and holds an annual fundraising dinner. This partnership, now in its 23rd year, highlights in particular the courage of HAVEN’s youngest clients – the children who reside at our shelter. Children, who at no fault of their own, move into shelter to escape the violence being perpetrated by an adult against their mom and sometimes even themselves. Children, who often very silently, exhibit incredible courage.

The funds raised at the dinner, help support the programming provided to our young residents. Programming to help the children express their emotions, to share their feelings of fear and isolation. We work with the children to identify their strengths, to help them create a safety plan, to work with them on reestablishing a positive parent/child relationship with the non-abusive parent. And as important as everything else – we give the children a space to be a child, whether they are 2 years old or 15 years old, we want them to be themselves. We want them to laugh, run, giggle, play, think, explore, and learn. Children surrounded by domestic and sexual violence, learn to walk on egg shells. At HAVEN, we want that tension to reduce and let children return to the typical activities of kids.

Recently a group of Detroit Lions players and their wives came to HAVEN to play with the kids. Activities included, a wild game of dodge ball, jumping rope, and shooting baskets, to name just a few, all had the children smiling and laughing. For 90 minutes, they could forget they were in a shelter or in therapy, and just have FUN. And the smiles on their parents’ faces, as well as the Detroit Lions’, were just as big. It was actually hard to see who was having the most fun!

So on October 20th, nearly 500 community members including the Detroit Lions Family – players, wives, coaches, and front office, staff – will gather at Ford Field. We will recognize several community leaders and a current Lions player. But what we will really be doing is giving a large dose of hope to those we serve. A dose of hope that makes courage possible and egg shells evaporate.

If you would like to join us in our efforts, you can attend the Detroit Lions Courage House dinner, featuring ESPN’s Adam Schefter at Ford Field on October 20. Click here for more information. If you cannot attend the dinner, there are still many other ways you can bring hope to our children – you can donate your time OR resources. To learn more about HAVEN and our work, visit our website here.

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Calling All Football Fans!

FacebookNewsfeed470x394Guest post by: Kim Doverspike, Executive Director, High 5ive – The Drew Stanton Foundation

Are you ready for some football? For me, the answer has always been a definitive YES! My career in community outreach has been one that has revolved around football and professional football players. First with the Lions, and now as the director for Drew Stanton’s High 5ive Foundation. It has been a rewarding career and I have been able to forge many wonderful relationships with organizations doing great things in the community. One of those is HAVEN, with whom I am proud to say I have been working with for 25 years!

There are many reasons I enjoy working with HAVEN, including getting to know the dedicated people who work tirelessly to advocate for and empower survivors of domestic and sexual violence. The programs that HAVEN staff provides for people who suffer from these horrible crimes are nothing short of necessary and remarkable.

Needless to say, the current stories in the news regarding professional athletes as they relate to domestic violence are not positive. There is a great need for awareness, education, prevention and treatment for those victims of this violence as it relates to not only sports, but all areas of society. That is why you need to get involved! And there are many ways to get involved.

If you are a football fan, and ready for some football, the NFL season is upon us and HAVEN is hosting a Tailgate Party during the Lions vs. Vikings game on September 20th. I can’t think of a better way to start, or continue, your involvement in this burning issue.

Although the headlines regarding professional athletes tend to be negative and some of the situations and circumstances are unimaginable, I can attest from being in the business for 25 plus years that the majority of these athletes are doing great things in the community. And several of them will be attending this event and lending their support to HAVEN for this cause.

This particular event is geared towards engaging male allies as champions and supporters of HAVEN and it offers a fun and relaxed atmosphere where men and women can learn about HAVEN’s efforts to treat and prevent domestic violence and sexual assault.

Please consider becoming a part of the solution by supporting HAVEN. You can help by purchasing an event ticket, becoming a sponsor, donating an auction item or simply offering to assist in any way that might work for you. I can assure you, you will be glad you did.

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