Tag Archives: domestic violence survivor

Collective Strength

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

With one in three Michigan families impacted by domestic violence, it can seem like a daunting task to bring it to an end. But, by working together we can make great strides through our collective strength in protecting those impacted by this crime.

This month is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. It’s a chance for everyone in the movement – victims, survivors, advocates, law enforcement, supporters and politicians – to unite in our work to end abuse. If you’re wondering how YOU can support this effort, here are some ideas:

  • Many of our supporters encourage their coworkers to wear purple and collect funds to donate in support of survivors. If your organization does this, please be sure to send us a picture or post on social media with the hashtags #LiveWithoutFear and #DVAM.

You can also:

  • Explore our website to learn about the issue.
  • Hold your friends accountable when they disrespect women and girls.
  • Engage others in discussions about violence against women.
  • Speak out against racist, sexist or homophobic jokes.
  • Learn how to take action if you witness a violent act against a friend or neighbor. While it can be a scary or awkward situation, the difference between not doing anything and doing something could mean the difference between life and death.
  • Applaud others who speak out against violence and oppression.
  • Reconsider spanking or hitting your children.
  • Open the dialogue with your children and teach them that respect is the minimum in a relationship and lead by example. Let them know what acceptable behavior is and what the limits are.

At HAVEN, our Counseling Program recognizes Domestic Violence Awareness Month by holding a Candlelight Vigil for survivors every year. Our goal is to bring survivors together to celebrate their inner strength, their connectedness, and their resilience. We want to honor our past and all of the survivors and supporters who have come before us. We also look forward to the future and creating a world free of violence and fear.

This year, residential and non-residential clients came together to celebrate their personal healing journeys and their collective strength. The evening started with a meditation focused on loving-kindness, encouraging each survivor to focus on her worthiness and strength.

Next, clients created a group art project. The foundation of the art piece was a tree in the Meditation Garden. The tree represented the movement to end domestic violence. The movement has deep roots, spanning generations. The tree represented all survivors and supporters, past, present, and future. Each person was given a cutout of a hand; it represented their “leaf” on the tree, their own unique healing journey. It’s their story in the larger narrative.

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After they finished creating their handprints, they were given the option of sharing with the group. They shared stories of courage and faith in the face of abuse and adversity. They shared what grounded them and what has helped them heal. They shared inspirational words, quotes, and poetry. After each person shared, the group offered applause and kind words.

Next, the survivors hung their handprints on the tree and gathered around the fire pit. Each woman took a candle and one-by-one, they lit each other’s candles. As they touched candles, they shared an affirmation or words of encouragement with one another. There was a moment of silence to honor all survivors of domestic violence.

I have so much gratitude for the women who came to this year’s vigil. It was inspiring to be in their presence, not just to hear their stories of hope and empowerment, but to see the compassion and warmth they shared with each other. Sometimes HAVEN’s mission seems so big to me. But on nights like the Candlelight Vigil, I am reminded of how powerful a small group can be and how much of an impact HAVEN has in the lives of survivors.

If you’d like to learn more about HAVEN, visit our website at www.haven-oakland.org.

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Susan and her Boots

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Guest post by Anne Sutton, MA, LPC, HAVEN 

The story of Susan, her children, and her boots demonstrate how HAVEN’S services can be woven intricately into the fabric of a family’s life. Susan’s story spans many years and between the many physical locations of HAVEN.

In the early 2000’s Susan was violently beaten and repeatedly kicked by her partner (who was wearing heavy work boots at the time).  The father of her young son attacked her at her place of work.  He jumped through a glass window to attack her. Susan and her children were taken to the old HAVEN Shelter once she was released from the hospital.   Susan’s perpetrator was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison for his crimes. Susan and her children stayed in the shelter and slowly began to rebuild their lives.

Susan herself writes of her time in the old shelter so poignantly:  “some people get college sorority sisters, I got sisters of surviving abuse. We got to tell our stories; we got to go to group therapy to listen to positive things we probably have never heard about ourselves. I received counseling from therapists who were not only kind but strong women who were role models.  We survived our abuse and lived to tell about it. Our souls may have been cracked, but we had a place to go where we were accepted.  If a family is a place where everyone’s feelings matter, then HAVEN is part of my family.”

Susan spent the next ten years away from HAVEN’S services. She and her children were safe, and her children grew into adulthood. Susan returned briefly to individual counseling as the perpetrator’s release date approached. HAVEN advocates helped her with legal safety issues, and she resumed individual counseling, this time at our Bingham Farms offices. In sessions, Susan reflected on her time at the shelter and the importance she placed, then and now, on wearing big heavy boots. Perhaps, donning the boots is a reflection of the assault she endured or a reflection of her personal strengths, or maybe a bit of both. She continued to wear her boots every day and to every session.

In late 2015, Susan returned to individual sessions with HAVEN, this time at our beautiful new location. Susan’s body had been significantly weakened by major health crises, but she was still wearing the old, heavy work boots that represented so much to her.  She now used a walker to move about in those boots. Susan was moved by the old shelter doors that are displayed in our lobby. Susan recognized them right away as the doors to the place of safety and caring she had stayed at so long ago.

 

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Susan proudly took a picture of herself and her boots in front of those beautiful doors.

As she expressed in her words: “I drifted my whole life not planting any roots because my boots were always ready to go, my bag always packed, looking for a safe spot from the latest trauma. My wish is that there is a small part of me that can stay there, as a survivor, in the old convent and a piece of me will be at HAVEN. Perhaps then my soul will have peace.”

If you or someone you know needs help, please call our 24-hour Crisis and Support Line at 877-922-1274. 

 

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