Tag Archives: violence against women

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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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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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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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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Together We Can ‘Take Back the Night’

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Guest post by: Averett Robey, Prevention Education Specialist, HAVEN

When having conversations about sexual violence and consent, in the community and with youth, it can be difficult to talk about the prevalence of sexual violence in our world. Often they will tell me that they know it is easy to secure a conviction, and a lot of times the survivor just does it to get money and sympathy. The unfortunate reality that I share with them is that 98% of rapists will never spend a day in jail, and the attention survivors receive is in no way supportive or caring. The statistics are astounding. According to the CDC, one in five women and one in seventy-one men experience rape or attempted rape in their lifetime. However, what we know about those statistics is that most sexual assaults go unreported. They go unreported because we create an environment that glorifies and portrays sexual violence as inevitable and a fact of life. Then we shame and blame people when they are assaulted, making it difficult for survivors to heal and go through the legal process.

One of the many avenues created to enact change around this reality are the global events known as Take Back the Night. It is unclear as to when the first official Take Back the Night took place, but some assert that it began with meetings of tribunal councils in Europe to discuss the safety of women as they walked down the street. The revolution eventually spread to San Francisco in 1973 as people took to the streets to protest pornography. In the US, the first “Take Back the Night” marches occurred as a response to the murder of Susan Alexander Speeth who was killed while walking home alone in Philadelphia in 1975 . Take Back the Night was born out of the need to address and prevent the violence women were experiencing traveling on the streets at night. Today, the enduring revolution stands as a movement to support survivors and eliminate all forms of sexual violence.

Take Back the Night is a way for communities to come together and speak out against sexual violence, support survivors, share their stories, and promote awareness. It is a way for us to create a culture that starts by believing survivors, one that does not tolerate sexual violence and holds perpetrators accountable for their actions.

Join the movement to eliminate sexual violence. Attend our annual Take Back the Night event Saturday, April 30th from 1-4:30 pm at Five15 in Royal Oak because together we can take back the night.

For more information, contact our Prevention Education Department at arobey@haven-oakland.org or visit our website here.

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Looking Back to March Forward

Rosie

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…

 

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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.

References
  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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