Engaging Men in Gender Equity

Redefine Blog

Guest Post by Averett Robey, Prevention Education Specialist, HAVEN

This year marks (the end) of the first year of the Detroit Lions partnership with HAVEN to bring redefine, our young men’s leadership development program, to Oakland and Wayne Counties. As the school year closed earlier this season, I reflected upon all the schools, classrooms, educators, and dedicated and awesome students we had the opportunity to engage and meet. We were fortunate enough to celebrate these students’ dedication and commitment to ending violence in their communities in a big way. Together we celebrated the young men’s completion of the program with an event at Ford Field. It was an opportunity for them to meet former and current Lions players, get signed memorabilia, and go on a tour through the locker room and field. Not only was the event remarkable, but having an opportunity to hear students say “This is the best day ever,” “Thank you for bringing this to our school,” and “Can’t we be in the program next year?” was an awesome experience.

To anyone looking from the outside, they would most likely assume that hearing those statements was the best thing about the whole experience. However, to me it is not. You see, redefine is not only about building empathy and teaching young men about the epidemic of intimate partner and sexual violence. It is about working with young men to redefine what it means to be a man. To develop a definition that is not rooted in violence, domination, or control, but centers on respect, equity, and empathy. This is crucial for a couple of reasons. First, the current definition is taught, and then reinforced, to help build a foundation where violence is linked to masculinity. Sayings like “get up, and act like a man!” and “don’t let nobody disrespect you” are great examples of how we teach men and boys this toxic definition every day. All of these things work together to create the reality where 90+ of every 100 violent crimes are committed by men, 88.8% of homicide offenders from 1980-2008 were men, and where 99.8% of convicted rapists are men. These statistics do not mean that most men would commit these crimes, it is a small percentage of men that do, but what is important is how we work with the men and boys who would never perpetrate that violence to intervene and become change agents. This is important because violence affects everyone, people they love and care about; as well as, themselves. Its impact on men and boys is great. This toxic definition of masculinity, linked with stoicism, works in tandem to create a framework where less than 50% of boys and men with mental health issues seek help and every day in the U.S. 3 or more boys commit suicide.

For me the greatest part of our redefine program is working with young men to redefine masculinity, to establish working definitions that help create the change that we desperately need. Our program is an intentional push away from other prevention efforts that focuses on putting women on pedestals and “protecting” them, and instead centers on working alongside women and girls to eliminate intimate partner and sexual violence. This is key because it is only in equity that we can create sustainable systemic change. It is on all of us to come together to eliminate violence in our communities.

For more information on violent masculinity and its impact, access these hyperlinks.

To bring prevention programming to your school in Oakland County, Michigan in the coming year contact our Prevention Education Program at HAVEN.

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

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A Healing Space

Meditation Garden

HAVEN’s Meditation Garden

Guest post by Karen Wullaert DeKett, MA, LPC, DV/SA Therapist, HAVEN

HAVEN clients frequently come to us in crisis. They feel angry, scared, and sad. HAVEN is a place where they can come to feel safe and supported. It can be a sanctuary from the chaos that experiencing trauma creates.

Research has shown that meditation can be a critical component of well-being. Meditation increases positive emotions while reducing negative feelings like fear, anger, and sadness. Meditation also offers an individual the chance to reconnect with themselves. For survivors of domestic and sexual violence, meditation can be both healing and empowering. It can help them feel in control of their emotions and more connected to their bodies.

HAVEN has long encouraged our survivors to utilize meditation as one tool of healthy healing. When we were in our Bingham Farms office, we had a special room designated for meditation. Clients could come and use the room before or after their counseling sessions. The move to the HAVEN Community Center has allowed us to offer an additional healing space, the meditation garden.

I encourage my clients to use the meditation garden, as well as other quiet spaces, as part of their self-care practice. The meditation garden is a beautiful and restorative place where they can reflect and find center. It gives them a break from the pressures and stresses of their days. It helps them feel calm and connected to their thoughts and feelings.

For survivors of domestic and sexual trauma, the road to healing is long and challenging. Offering spaces like the meditation garden is one way that HAVEN helps support survivors along on their healing journeys.

 

 

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May our Paths Cross Again

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L. Brooks Patterson and Oakland County Commissioners honor Beth Morrison for her many  years of service at HAVEN. 

Somewhat unbelievable but here it is, my final days at HAVEN.  When my husband and I first began to discuss making our dream happen, returning to Tucson, the idea seemed so far away. Now, our home is nearly packed up, my office is looking rather bare, and the to do list is significantly shorter. These last two months have flown by so quickly.

When I reflect back on my time here, there are so many memorable moments. It is hard to capture what stands out the most but what I loved most about HAVEN is the relationships created. HAVEN gave me the opportunity to meet and connect with many wonderful individuals – staff, board members, volunteers, donors, supporters, and community leaders.  I have felt blessed a thousand times over by having such great support; vital support as we worked daily together to make the world a slightly safer place.

I have also been honored by standing witness to the stories of survivors, hearing their struggles and triumphs. Many of these stories I will forever carry with me, forever imprinted in my soul. Although my new position will not be domestic and sexual violence centric, I will remain a strong ally and advocate for survivors, fueled by standing witness for so many years to the injustice they encounter.

Over the past week, I had the simple daily task of adding water to our meditation garden fountain. Each day that I stood, garden hose in hand, a shelter resident sat quietly under the pagoda. She always greeted me but then went back to her reading, writing, or just simply sitting in this quiet and reflective space.  After a couple of days, she shared with me how full of gratitude she was for having this space, a  place where she could just be. We chatted for a bit about how we all need sacred space, personal space to be safe and be free. She shared how she had lost herself and how slowly, with HAVEN’s help, was slowly rediscovering who she was and who she wanted to be going forward.

And that is what HAVEN does – sometimes we just simply provide that safe space, that safe moment, that safe listening. We are facilitators of personal change and growth. And through the literally thousands of moments that I too had at HAVEN, I have grown beyond measure. My heart is full.

In closing of my final “Beth’s Blog”, I thank each of you for your support over my tenure at HAVEN. I, like you, look forward to following HAVEN’s next chapter and its success in advancing its mission. I know that good things lie in store for the organization and am excited for its future leader. I will remain, even if 2,000 miles away, one of HAVEN’s biggest ambassadors and supporters.

Best wishes to one and all, may our paths cross in the future.

Gratitude is a poem…..whispered from one heart to another.  Thank you.

 

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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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What does independence mean to you?

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Guest post by Meilani Wilder, HAVEN Intern

When people hear the word “independence,” often “The 4th of July” or “America” comes to mind. If we look at the definition of independence, Merriam-Webster simply breaks it down as, “freedom from outside control or support.” One might think that independence is a fundamental right for all, but for many, it is still a difficult right to gain, especially for those who suffer from abuse.

Victims of domestic violence can sometimes feel that they are prisoners of their situation. It can be difficult to imagine the abuse coming to an end and, often, the weight of the abuse can take a toll on a person’s mental and physical health. In an effort to maintain control, abusers may convince their victims that the abuse is their fault,  making it even harder to leave the situation.

That is why HAVEN is here; to help give domestic violence victims a voice where they can regain their rightful independence. We work daily to help provide an experience and environment where victims of domestic violence can identify as survivors while feeling supported and protected. We also work to give each person we serve the tools they need to regain their independence.

We offer a counseling program that includes one-on-one sessions as well as group therapy to help those that have experienced abuse on their journey of healing. Survivors often report after speaking with a HAVEN counselor; they feel that it was the first time they’ve shared their plight without feeling judged.

Counselors are specially trained to address the safety needs and concerns of domestic violence survivors. At HAVEN, the client determines her counseling goals in collaboration with the counselor. No diagnosis or labels are given because being victimized is not a mental health issue. All counseling programs at HAVEN are offered free of charge.

If you know someone who is suffering from domestic violence, offer her your ear and share information about HAVEN.  She may be feeling alone, scared or confused. Not knowing where to go or whom to ask for help can make a traumatic experience even scarier. By letting her know organizations like HAVEN are here to help, you can help her ease some of those feelings and start to focus on gaining back control of her life. Moving closer to independence.

For more information on our counseling program, click here. If you or someone you love is in need of immediate support, please call our 24-hour Crisis and Support Line at 877-922-1274.

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Our Children Learn Through Many

Some Superheros don't have capes...

As we get ready to embark on our cross country move to Arizona, we are keeping ourselves busy with nightly sorting, purging, and packing. This weekend, our son Colin came home to go through his items which we have continued to store at our home. The best part of this process, at least with him, is the constant walk down memory lane – photos, childhood books, toys, school papers, and many other treasures. At certain moments in the process, time stood still.

One reason that kept us in Michigan longer than our bargained 2-3 years (nearly 25 years ago), was the want to raise our only child near my rather large extended family. It was important to us to create space for our son to be exposed to and have the experience of being part of this greater family system. Aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents became and continue to be a significant part of Colin’s life, even today as he is clearly planted in adulthood.

Our children don’t learn how to be a responsible adult or a caring parent just through us, the parents. They learn it through their exposure to so many others in their lives – relatives, teachers, neighbors, friends, and the culture at large. As parents, we opted to stack the deck, and give Colin as many positive influences as possible.

In addition to learning how to fish from one of his uncles, he also learned the importance of education. In addition to learning how to drive a boat from another uncle, he learned the importance of having a strong work ethic. These are lessons his father and I also tried to impart, absolutely, but I’m sure the reinforcement from others made a difference.

Many children are raised without the presence of their father. Divorce, deployment, and abuse are possible reasons but also some women opt for single parenthood or in many families, two women are raising their children. There is no right or wrong configuration of parents, in my book. But having positive male influence is important. Thankfully there are many uncles, brothers, cousins, and friends who can fill that role. The role of modeling, for young boys and girls, that men can be caring, nurturing, loving, and kind.

At HAVEN we are fortunate to have men engaged with our services and programming. They share, by example, that equality works, that women and children matter, and that masculinity doesn’t mean power and harm.

To the men of HAVEN and to the incredible men in my life, thank you. Thanks for serving daily as a reminder of what can be right in the world. Thank you for standing by me, instead of in front of me. Thank you for teaching my son that he doesn’t have to be stuck in a stereotyped role of masculinity. Thank you for caring and for making a difference.

And to those that are Fathers – Happy Fathers Day!

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Bittersweet

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Bittersweet – defined by Webster’s as pleasure alloyed with pain. But today it is defined by me as a mix of sadness, tears, excitement, challenge, and change. After 13 years at HAVEN, my bittersweet moment of saying goodbye has come.

I will be leaving this incredible organization at the end of July and moving to my home away from home, Tucson, Arizona. I have accepted the position of CEO at another wonderful nonprofit organization in Tucson, Our Family Services. For years, it has been a dream of my husband and me to return to the beauty of the desert, and it is now time to make that dream a reality. With family ties to Arizona and great memories of having lived there a number of years ago, we are anxious to make our return.

My time at HAVEN is one filled with so much adventure, joy, success, friendship, growth, and service. This organization is special. The rich history of serving the community, the incredible staff and volunteers, the position of financial strength, and the partnership with so many other amazing organizations and agencies, makes it especially difficult to say goodbye.

But an organization, such as HAVEN, is bigger than one individual. I am confident that it will continue to grow, flourish, and remain a high quality program for years to come. Its new leader will have many challenges but with the continued dedication and support of the community, she will find the same support that I found.

Over the past decade, we have stabilized our financial picture, added an incredible depth and breadth of services due to our collaborations and partnerships, and built a beautiful space to do our work. These successes are due to the concentrated efforts of a dedicated board of directors, the expertise and passion of our staff, and the belief and trust of our funders and supporters. Clearly I am not the only person who knows just how special HAVEN is and will continue to be for years to come.

To the thousands of survivors that have been served by HAVEN during my tenure, I offer you my thanks. Thank you for allowing me to play a part, directly or indirectly, in your healing journey. In observing your courage and strength, you have challenged me to be a better person.

To the HAVEN staff, board, and volunteers, I thank you for your passion and dedication to a mission which often seems unsurmountable. But if there was ever a group of people who can achieve this giant challenge, it is you. The incredible culture at HAVEN is what kept me motivated to do my best and to weather a few storms along the way.

To the community of donors, funders, and supporters, I thank you for your faith and trust in my ability to be a good steward of your support and to lead HAVEN to go forth and do good. To think that an agency of our size can provide quality services and programming to nearly 20,000 individuals each year and to do so when 50% of our budget must be raised each and every year directly from our community is a bit crazy. Your belief in the importance of our work and your dedication to giving us the tools to do our work is what makes change happen.

Thank you for allowing me to have both the honor and the privilege to lead HAVEN. I can’t wait to see the greatness which happens next!

Image source: relatably.com

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