A poem by Michael Nesbitt
I was hit with question after question as though he couldn’t wait,
I wanted to say “hold on could you give a minute to think”.
I understand that he was trying to do his job,
But I haven’t had any time to process and my head still had an intense throb.
I was sad, I was emotional… I could not get my words out,
Because of this, the investigator developed even more doubt.
Reporting to the police was already a worry of mine,
Because they always make you feel like you are wasting their time.
I was raped, why is he being so mean to me?
I am so vulnerable right now, can’t he see?
I came in here as a survivor, now I am being viewed as a suspect,
Am I remembering things correctly? I need a sec.
I was being extensively integrated, I felt like I was losing my mind,
He is making me feel like I was the one who committed the crime.
I was so worn down, I felt like I could not trust myself,
Nor did he, and I am sure not anyone else.
I fell in his trap, and was made to feel like I was making a false report,
He mentioned that my story was coming up a bit short.
I plead guilty to false reporting,
I should have listened to my intuition, it gave me a warning.
Months later my rapist was captured in a series of assaults,
I knew…I knew this wasn’t my fault.
The investigator made me believe I was lying,
This unfortunately happens to many survivors and they are sent home crying.
We go to law enforcement to seek help,
But many make us feel that we are better off dealing with it ourselves.
Why do they protect the perpetrator, they are the ones who did the crime?
In the end, we are the ones who end up doing the time.
This poem was inspired by an exceptional webinar that I watched called Raped, then Jailed: The Risks of Prosecution or Falsely Reporting Sexual Assault. The host of the webinar talked about how there are steps to prosecuting rape victims. First, investigators from the beginning assume that survivors are lying about the assault. They then interpret the survivor’s behaviors as signs of deception. Additionally, the investigators will switch to interrogation mode and will throw question after question toward survivors, not allowing them much time to think and provide an answer.
What is unfortunate is that survivors are unaware and not informed about their right to refuse answering a question, to terminate their interview, or to have an attorney present. Furthermore, there are many coercive tactics that detectives/investigators use to trick the victim in an attempt to make them admit that they are lying, when they are actually telling the truth. They may take advantage of the vulnerability of the survivor, especially if they are young. They might also isolate the survivor from anyone who is there to support them. Investigators may go as far as to lie to the survivor about evidence or testimony from the perpetrator and may ignore evidence that the survivor has provided. Included in the webinar was a woman who spoke about her assault and said that “eventually, they wear you down to where you don’t even trust yourself. You can’t trust your memory anymore”.
There was an interesting case that was discussed about an 18 year old who reported an assault where there was physical evidence showing that she was bound, gagged, and raped by a stranger who broke into her home. Just like many survivors, she was extensively interrogated and eventually submitted to the coercion and admitted to a false report in a written statement, although she was telling the truth. She plead guilty and was charged with a misdemeanor, fined $500, was sent to counseling for lying and placed on supervised probation. Sometime after, her rapist was captured in a series of sexual assaults and he was found guilty and sentenced. All law enforcement did was apologize to her and return her $500.
This webinar was very informative and is a reminder that there are so many issues within the criminal justice system. Many survivors are turned away because of how they are treated by law enforcement and they are believed to be a liar as soon as they walk through the door. They are coerced into saying that they made a false report and are then criminalized for a crime that was done to them. I recommend checking out the free webinar/ training which is provided through End Violence Against Women International (EVAWI). There definitely needs to be mandated extensive training and education for those who may encounter sexual assault survivors so that they can actually do their job properly and stop letting their bias do it for them.
About Michael Nesbitt
Michael Nesbitt is a First Responder Sexual Assault Advocate with WC-SAFE and has been in this position for over a year. His role as an advocate is very important to him and he feels that his purpose in life is to help better someone else’s, in whatever capacity that may be. He is currently pursuing his Master’s in Social Work at Wayne State University. In his free time, Michael enjoys traveling, photography, exercising, and spending quality time with friends and family.
If someone asked me what my favorite aspect of my job is at WC SAFE, I would have to say co-facilitating our art therapy group. My background is in art – I grew up loving art class in school, spending hours on the carpet at home drawing and coloring with my 100 box of crayons. My mother always encouraged me to create and I found art to always be a focal point in my life. Being a survivor of trauma, I unknowingly used it as a tool in my own healing journey. I would lose myself in art books and spending long hours at the surrounding art museums. When it came time for me to decide what degree to pursue in college that was easy – Art History. Okay. So yes, I am not the curator I had hoped to be after I graduated from college. However, I discovered another passion and way for me to use some aspects of my degree. Art Therapy.
Over the past 3 years we have done several different projects, here are some of our favorites:
- Vision Board (hopes, dreams, ideas, things that represent you)
- Stress away – putty (made with lavender essential oils to promote relaxation)
- Calming jars (the jars are filled with glitter -when shaken and placed on a table -watching the glitter slowly fall is meant to reduce anxiety and stress)
- Fabric portraits (fabric cut into shapes and arranged to create an image)
- Button artwork (Buttons arranged to create a 3D image)
- Tassel bead necklaces
- Painting pots for our WC SAFE Grow and Glow Garden
- Kintsugi – the art of breaking pots and repairing them
So, you might ask, what is Art Therapy?
Art Therapy – A form of expression that uses the creative process of making art to improve physical, mental and emotional well-being.
Art therapy can include a wide range of art materials and different processes. In our group we focus more on the process then necessarily completion. We allow clients to pick up where they left off on previous projects, depending on how they are inspired during the group session.
Some of the benefits of Art Therapy include:
- Alleviating stress
- Reducing depression
- Managing anxiety
- Improving communication skills
- Building self-esteem
- Positive distraction
- Encouraging creative exploration
- Improving self-management
Art Therapy is a great alternative to one on one counseling or as an additional tool. Clients who attend art therapy group often attend one on one counseling and it seems to provide a good balance. My favorite part of our group is the bonds our clients form with one another. We have had a dedicated group of clients coming to group now for about 2 years. They are always so happy to be spending time together: listening to music, talking about life and creating art. It’s healing for the soul! If you are a survivor and interested in learning more about our Art Therapy group, please call: 313-964-9701.
About Katie Smith
Katie Smith, Director of Communications has worked for WC SAFE for over nine years. She wears several different hats for the organization including managing marketing, social media, interns/volunteers, operations and events. Her favorite role is helping to co-facilitate the art therapy program. In her free time, she loves attending Pure Barre classes, gardening, reading, and long bike rides.
A really cathartic way of expressing feelings and relieving stress is through music therapy. Music therapy uses techniques such as listening to and creating music as well as self-reflection in order to improve one’s health and well-being. It is based on the results of research studies and clinical reviews. Goals of music therapy depend on the needs of the individual as well as the setting where the music therapy is taking place. When we immerse ourselves in music, we are allowed to express ourselves more easily and freely. Similarly, we can also use music to process difficult experiences and calm our anxieties. Moreover, music has the potential to play a pivotal role in emotional release.
The practice of music therapy can help survivors who experience anxiety, depression, and trauma to express underlying sources of pain. Musical experiences such as creating music, singing, and listening to old songs, can open a window to emotional awareness and expression. While passively listening to music can be cleansing, musical therapy is the most effective when you are actively engaged with the music.
Here are some common examples of musical therapy activities:
- Playing a musical instrument
- Singing old songs
- Learning music
- Improvising on music pieces
- Reflective Interventions
- Lyric discussion
- Using lyrics to identify intense feelings with either a music therapist or a group
- Musical imagery
- Having a therapist play music while you talk about whatever comes to you while you listen.
- Writing lyrics for existing music
Moreover, music therapy has a multitude of benefits such as:
- Improved communication skills
- Resolving issues
- Pain management
- Improved social function
- Motivation to get better
The beauty of music therapy is if you do not have access to a music therapist, it can still be practiced. Improvising and practicing music therapy on your own can be an enriching and rewarding experience.
Ms. Mykaiya is a dual enrolled college freshman at Oakland Early College. She is working on two degrees at OCC, one in science with an emphasis on biology and one in Art with an emphasis on Art history. In her spare time she works as an SI at school and likes to design clothes.
Mindfulness isn’t difficult. We just need to remember to do it.– Sharon Salzberg
What is mindfulness? Mindfulness is the quality or state of being aware of something. When we practice mindfulness, we are taking the opportunity to be in the present moment without distraction, judgement or criticism of oneself. Practicing mindfulness is important because often times in our day to day lives, we are constantly in movement – with our thoughts, bodies, routines. Taking time in the day to be mindful allows us to connect with ourselves on a deeper level. Almost like a reset button – which anyone can see the benefit in that.
Mindfulness most often includes techniques like:
- Deep Breathing
- Timing your breathing
- Focusing on your thought(s)
- Creative techniques – drawing or coloring something in detail (like a flower)
- Listening to music
- Focusing on an object that allows you to use most of the 5 senses (touch, sight, hearing smell and taste)
These techniques are all helpful tools for survivors of sexual assault to use in supporting their healing journey’s. Mindfulness allows negative thoughts and feelings to take a back seat by focusing on something positive during the practice. Whether that be an object, thought, image, or activity like creating art or yoga. The beauty of Mindfulness is that it can be practiced anytime and open to creative interpretation depending on the survivor’s preference.
Survivors of who regularly practice mindfulness are known to see improvements in their:
- Lower stress levels
- Better coping skills
- Increased ability in managing anxiety
- Better quality of physical and mental health
- Increase in self-esteem
- Better sleep
- Higher level of concentration
- Openness to creativity
- Development of healthier habits
The benefits of practicing mindfulness have several long-term benefits including changes in mood, higher levels of happiness and a greater sense of well-being. Several resources on mindfulness and how to begin practicing the techniques discussed in this blog can be found online. Here are a few websites that offer great insight.
About Katie Smith
Katie Smith, Director of Communications has worked for WC SAFE for over nine years. She wears several different hats for the organization including managing marketing, social media, interns/volunteers, operations and events. Her favorite role is helping to co-facilitate the art therapy program. In her free time, she loves attending Pure Barre classes, gardening, reading, and long bike rides.
Human trafficking, often discussed as modern-day slavery, is a massive global industry. The International Labor Organization estimates that $150 billion is generated annually through the forced labor of 21 million people–other estimates are as high as 40 million people. These numbers include both sex and labor trafficking. While sex trafficking tends to get more attention, and our focus at WC SAFE is sexual assault, labor trafficking does often involve sexual assault as a means of control. I include these numbers to emphasize that all forms of trafficking are profit-generating businesses. Further, what makes a person vulnerable to sex trafficking and labor trafficking are similar, and that is especially true as we navigate a global pandemic.
The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 defines trafficking as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for a commercial sex act, labor, or services through the use of force fraud or coercion. In the case of sex trafficking a minor, force, fraud, and coercion do not need to be present–any minor performing a commercial sex act is considered a trafficking victim (22USC§7102). Trafficking experiences vary greatly, as there’s no one way that trafficking happens. However, all traffickers do actively seek out and exploit vulnerable people.
Often when discussing vulnerabilities to trafficking, the focus is on the individual. There certainly are person-level elements that can make one more vulnerable, like being young or some mental health diagnoses. However, one’s circumstances and community play an even bigger role. Poverty and lack of job opportunities, childhood trauma and abuse, limited social supports and resources–these all make a person more vulnerable to traffickers and are widespread across our communities.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 and the circumstances around it are creating even more vulnerabilities for folks, and research suggests that disease outbreaks can increase rates of trafficking. This isn’t altogether surprising, as outbreaks are associated with a breakdown of law and order, competition for resources, and diminished economic opportunities. Further, disease outbreaks cause death, disrupting families and sometimes leaving children orphaned. As Sharron reminded us, now is the time to be looking out for those in our communities who are vulnerable. Now is the time for trafficking prevention. For more information on human trafficking visit the Polaris Project website. If you think you or someone you know is being trafficked, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888 or text “BeFree” 233733.
ILO says forced labour generates annual profits of US$ 150 billion. (2014, May 20). Retrieved from ilo.org.
Worsnop, C. Z. (2019). The Disease Outbreak-Human Trafficking Connection: A Missed Opportunity. Health Security, 17(3), 181–192. doi: 10.1089/hs.2018.0134
Meredith is our Human Trafficking Trafficking Specialist. She earned her Masters in Social Work from the University of Michigan and has her limited license in social work to practice in Michigan. Meredith’s work is founded in critical intersectionality and focused on addressing the issues womxn face in all of their complexity and urgency.
Throughout America, many Muslim communities persist in stigmatizing all discussion of sex-related subjects. Even though sexual assault and abuse are widespread, conversations about it are rare – and the pressure for victims and their families to “keep it a secret” helps perpetuate abuse. Because of this, survivors are less likely to report to authorities, take legal action, or even confide in a family member or an Imam. This does nothing to protect members of our community from being sexually assaulted – it only aids the cycle of abuse and protects abusers.
Whether we like to admit it or not, rape culture is pertinent in the Muslim community. Not because Islam allows it (because it definitely does not), but because some Muslims echo false negative sentiments that shift the blame onto victims and deem survivors as “damaged goods”, “impure”, or “unchaste”. Although this tactic is completely invalid both religiously and socially, it is eﬀective in suppressing the number of survivors who come forward by scaring them into silence. Not believing a survivor, blaming them for the assault, interrogating them, or siding with the abuser has a lifelong impact on a survivor’s ability to heal. As Muslims, we’re taught to practice kindness, compassion, and justice. Mistreating those who come forward after they’ve been assaulted is against all Islamic principles.
If someone is confiding in you about their assault, it’s obvious that there is already some level of love and trust in your relationship. Honor that trust and:
- Practice active listening and let the person know that you believe them.
- Ask non-specific open-ended questions that allow the survivor to take control of the narrative.
- Practice confidentiality. Even small details that you think are non-identifying can compromise the survivor’s identity and potentially put them at greater risk.
- Meet the survivor where they are and give control back to them. Connect them to organizations like Wayne County SAFE and respect their agency to make the best decisions for themselves.
If we want to truly support Muslim survivors as a collective, we need our religious scholars to break the silence. This begins by dedicating Friday sermons to this cause, inviting a guest speaker from a local sexual assault program like Wayne County SAFE, displaying translated information posters and other materials, and establishing a policy that has a clear statement of intolerance for sexual violence. We need to start having conversations about consent, boundaries, the difference between shame and modesty, and we need to host bystander intervention trainings. Not only would this aﬃrm to survivors that they are believed and supported – but it also lets abusers know that they are not invincible. And yes, perpetrators go to the Mosque – sometimes they are even Quran teachers and Imams.
Dana is a Sexual Assault Initiative Specialist at Wayne County SAFE, where she works with survivors of the backlogged rape kits in Detroit and serves as an advocate and counselor. She is also currently serving as a Millennial Advisor for the Governor’s Michigan Women’s Commission, a Director on the Board of the League of Women Voters Dearborn/Dearborn Hts, and the Founder and Chair of the Dearborn Heights City Commission on Women and Girls. She balances her work with her love for hiking, reading, and being a specialty coffee fanatic!
Considering the chaotic time we are currently in, it can be easy to be overwhelmed by the news and social media; however, it is important that we all take care of ourselves mentally and physically during this trying time. Stop and check in with yourself, and ask “How did I sleep?” “Am I eating right?” “Am I staying active?” “Am I doing something I enjoy?”
While it is recommended that we all act responsibly during this “Stay home, stay safe” order and practice social distancing, we should still make time to get out and get some fresh air. Here are some suggestions for self-care activities:
- Going for a peaceful walk – Even if it’s just for five minutes, walking is a great way to calm down if you begin to feel anxious or overwhelmed.
- Practice mindfulness – Find a quiet room in your home and use guided meditation/mindfulness apps such as Headspace, Stop, Breathe & Think, Abide, or YouTube to help clear your mind.
- Use a creative outlet – Whether it’s indulging in a preexisting hobby or finding a new one, activities like painting, journaling, playing an instrument, or writing music can be relaxing and fun ways to engage actively. Cooking, baking, knitting, and embroidering are also nice options as they are fulfilling, and you can share the tasks and products with the people you love!
- Find a community of people that you trust – During this difficult time, building a support network is important to sustain connections. There are many virtual platforms and supports available, such as Wayne County SAFE. When looking online, it is important to find one that suits you and your needs.
Taking these extra steps to prioritize yourself plays a large part in your coping and healing process. You are not alone and there are people that care about you and want to help! If you are a survivor of sexual violence in need of resources or someone to talk to, please do not hesitate to call our main office line at 313-964-9701 (Monday – Friday 9am – 5pm). Our crisis pager is also available for those seeking information about medical exams: 313-430-8000 (24 hours).
Ms. Mykaiya is a dual enrolled college freshman at Oakland Early College. She is working on two degrees at OCC, one in science with an emphasis on biology and one in Art with an emphasis on Art history. In her spare time she works as an SI at school and likes to design clothes.
As many of us sit comfortably at home wishing we could be out and about, there are also those who are terrified to be home. It is unsafe and they may have nowhere else to go. Please pay attention to those who are most vulnerable during these complex times. Intolerance as a result of the way a person feels about an individual’s gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, age, religion and/or ethnicity often contributes to individuals being more susceptible to violence.
As always, WCSAFE promotes and encourages healthy boundaries and supporting those in your social circles.
- Pay attention to the children in your life and those around them. If a child does not want to hug, touch, kiss or sit with someone, listen to them. Children are smarter and more intuitive than we give them credit for. Ask questions and understand the reason for the child’s discomfort.
- Pay extra attention to our elders and those with disabilities. In addition to being more susceptible to the COVID-19 virus, they are also sometimes targets for abuse, especially when loved ones are not around as frequently to offer support and protection.
- Be considerate of the LGBTQ community, especially youth. In addition to the high numbers of experiences of discrimination and violence there may be many who feel they have nowhere to go for assistance. options for resources may be even more limited and challenging to access.
Sexual assault is about power and control and those who are not able to speak up for themselves are the most vulnerable populations. As a community we can support each other despite our differences. We can listen without judgement and offer resources so that assistance can be extended. This is a very difficult time for everyone but even more difficult for those who may have been in compromising situations beforehand. Now is the time to show compassion and think with our hearts.
– Sharron Fincher, Access Coordinator – WC SAFE
Sharron is a native Detroiter and graduate of Detroit Public Schools. She attended Wayne State University’s school of social work and has been involved in the community for over 20 years. She has gained a theoretical care, as well as practical competency in case management. Sharron has worked with marginalized populations including LGBTQ, children with special needs and people of color in her professional life as well as through community service work and activism. Sharron is currently involved in many projects within the community. She is the Access Coordinator at WC SAFE where she works closely with marginalized populations who have experienced sexual assault and trauma. She is the Supreme President of Alpha Psi Kappa fraternity, Incorporated and sits on the Board of Directors for the Ruth Ellis where she is the Chairperson of the Programs Committee. Sharron is also a member of the Detroit Police Department Chief’s LGBT Advisory Board. In addition to these projects she occasionally writes for blogs and newspapers throughout metro Detroit, hosts a Podcast called The Cat’s Meow and is the creator and director for the documentary WoMan.
ATTENTION CLIENTS & COMMUNITY PARTNERS OF WCSAFE
Following Governor Whitmer’s Executive Order to “Stay at Home, Stay Safe”, WCSAFE will be extending the closure of our administrative office through April 13, 2020.
We are acutely aware that during these times of isolation, survivors may be at an increased risk for violence and it is imperative we provide them with as much support as we safely can. This is an incredibly difficult challenge as we must also consider the health and welfare of staff and survivors alike, and how we can balance providing critical support while also observing global recommendations.
WCSAFE CURRENT EMERGENCY ACTION PLAN IS AS FOLLOWS:
- Critical services including medical forensic and crisis intervention will continue at all 5 of our clinic sites. Survivors in need of medical forensic care may continue to contact us directly at 313-430-8000 ~ 24hours a day.
- Survivors who wish not to be seen in a hospital clinic site (and who do NOT require medical care/evaluation for flu-like symptoms), will be given the option to be seen for their exam in one of our private clinic locations.
- Due to the Governor’s Order of Stay Home, Stay Safe, our administrative building (The Block, 2727 2nd Ave, Detroit, MI 48201) has been closed to the general public and therefore we are no longer able to accept walk-ins. Please check out our website: www.wcsafe.org
- Our main business line remains open, Monday – Friday, from 9am – 5pm. We continue to be available to assist clients with crisis support, counseling and personal advocacy needs. Calls will be answered by one of our WCSAFE staff and dispatched to counselors/advocates who will be working remotely from home. Our business line # is 313-964-9701
- We will continue to provide in-person legal advocacy, such as court accompaniment, assistance with filing a police report or assistance with PPO’s as the local courts will allow. Please contact our business line and ask to speak to an advocate for assistance in determining what procedures courts/precincts are following.
- We are actively exploring options to offer telehealth and mobile advocacy services and will be providing updates as these services become available.
This plan will be evaluated on April 13, 2020. All updates will be provided at that time.
By Ashley Eovaldi
Sexual assault is something that is sadly very prevalent in our society today. As a student at Wayne State University I have met all different types of people each having their own unique story and experiences. Unfortunately, many of the people who I have met in my life are survivors of sexual assault.
Although this is a hard topic to talk about, there are three women who have shared their stories with me. Even more importantly, they share the steps they are taking to overcome the challenges they are faced with and different things they do to help make themselves feel better.
Over a year ago I was sexually assaulted at a New Year’s party. I was surrounded by a few friends but mainly strangers and I was, unfortunately, assaulted by someone who I was trying to be friendly with, through a mutual friend. Even though it has been over a year since it occurred, I can remember the moment clearly as if it had happened a minute ago. There are things that are hard to explain about the trauma, some of its so subtle that I probably don’t notice it on a day to day basis. Things that I was already cautious and fearful about, like walking home alone or meeting new men for the first time, are now more stress inducing and scary. Not to mention the mental gymnastics the trauma puts me through on certain nights when I relive the night of my assault. On the days where I’m able to fight off these feelings, there are a few things that help, but first it is important to realize that everyone heals and copes with sexual assault differently, and even more important to realize that you are not alone in this. Going on line and seeing other women sharing their stories, particularly recently with the #MeToo movement taking place, is one thing that gives me hope that if others have overcome this, I can as well. I’ve seen so many pieces of artwork, so many poems, so many songs that encompass how I feel and the struggles that I face that it helps show me that I am not the only one who has ever felt like this or experienced assault.
I have come to the accept and respect the fact that I am allowed to be angry.
I am allowed to come out of my trauma being a little scarped up and tattered. Healing isn’t always easy or filled with support and happiness. I am allowed to come out of this being, well, a different person, but the sexual assault does not define me as a person.
My assault happened about six years ago and sadly it was caused by someone who I knew and was close with, my boyfriend at that time. When this event took place I was fifteen years old and I did not fully understand and comprehend what had happened to me. I was fighting thoughts of confusion for about a week because I was attacked by someone who said they loved me and cared about me. I was very uneducated at the time and I didn’t know if it would even be considered assault because we were dating. After the relationship ended I did not trust anyone; meeting new people was a challenge and would cause me to become very anxious. I would never walk or go anywhere by myself, I constantly had the thought, “if someone who said they love me and was close to me could do it, what was stopping other people.”
There were so many things about me that had changed and the way I went about my day and all the different thoughts that constantly went through my head. I would wake up in the middle of the night with nightmares reliving what had happened and every time I would see him or someone who resembled him I would immediately run away and hide, or even the way certain people would touch me, even very close friends would cause me to remember what happened. Some of the changes were very subtle while others were not, it was something that affected me every day until the day I decided to do something about it.
It was difficult in the beginning to overcome what had happened and accept it. One of the first steps I had taken was meeting new friends when I started college. I started sitting next to people instead of in the back of the class or a few seats away from people. When I started doing this I was more likely to talk to people and make friends with them, and I ended up making a few friends. Once I started with this small step, it became easier for me to talk to people. I was not as scared anymore because the guy friends that I started to befriend made me realize that there are so many good people in the world. I had been so focused on the fact that one person hurt me I assumed that everyone was going to. After getting through my first year of college, I was excited to start my sophomore year and that was the year I decided to go to a program at Wayne State University called Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). This was one of the hardest things I had ever done because it was very difficult to talk about what happened and I had never talked about it before with anyone. Although it was one of the hardest things I had ever done, it was one of the best things for me.
I am not alone in this and I am so much more than what I have experienced.
Going to therapy and talking to someone I realized that what happened was not my fault and that I had to stop blaming myself for what happened. When I came to that realization it changed the way I looked at everything and helped me overcome may of the struggles I was still having. I also accepted what happened to me, for a long time I lived in denial and did everything I could to push it away and fight it. Once I stopped fighting it, it made talking about it easier and resolved any internal conflicts that I had. Although I have accepted what happened to me and went to therapy for it, I still notice myself being more careful when I’m walking around campus by myself and I am very aware of my surroundings. What happened is something that I am always going to live with and it has become a part of me, I am not going to forget it but that doesn’t mean I can’t use my experience in a positive way. The experience changed me as a person, it made me stronger, wiser, braver, and so much more. It has allowed me to connect to others who have experienced assault.
About a year ago I was dealing with a pretty intense breakup. Me and him were on decent terms and we agreed that we should keep some distance between us. That however turned into him showing up on my campus every day. I seemed like he was always in my face like he was stalking me or something. One night my friend had a hotel party and since we are all mutual friends he was there as well. The night progressed and we had a few drinks. Everyone was dancing and laughing and having a good time. The next thing that I remember, I was pushing and kicking him off me in front of everybody. I felt violated. I felt disrespected by him and everybody else. It probably took me about a year to get over what happened, gain closure, and regain my peace. I gained closure and regained my peace through writing.
Writing helped me understand the way I was feeling and that what happened was not my fault.
Although what happened to these survivors is awful, they found different ways to work through what has happened to them. Each survivor utilized a different method from therapy, to writing to reading others stories and looking at artwork. Everyone handles trauma differently and sometimes it may take a few years before someone decides to take action and that is okay. There is no clock that says you have to be ready to overcome your trauma, it is something you have to do on your own time. Although sexual assault is sadly very prevalent in our society today, there are different ways that survivors are working to overcome the trauma they have endured. As knowledge and treatment of sexual assault becomes more common, survivors gain more and more tools to recover, cope with, and move on from their trauma.
Teaching Men That Their Voices Are Important Too
By: Michael Nesbitt
It’s unfortunate to know that the women in my life, and many other women around the world, live in a society where they have to constantly worry about what they are wearing, what they are doing, who they spend time with, how late they stay out, how much makeup they wear and how nice they can be to boys and/or men in order to avoid violence or sexual assault. As Kathryn Stamoulis points out, as a society we are constantly teaching girls methods to avoid getting raped while failing to also teach boys not to rape. Violence against women is an important issue that needs to be focused on and an issue that stems from disrespect for women. Mary Stathopoulos explains that a strong belief in gender stereotypes and a weak belief in gender equality are key determinants in the perpetuation of violence and sexual assault. She explains that rather than trying to reduce sexual assault, we should focus on creating gender equality and correct men on their hostile attitudes toward women.
One reason some men hold these hostile attitudes toward women is that men are socialized and taught that a man has to exhibit specific behaviors to be viewed by society as a “real man”. Our society has strong gender stereotypes that puts men and women in two separate categories. Men are supposed to be strong, dominant, independent, emotionless, the breadwinner, and the decision maker. This is a strong disadvantage for men. Being taught to act like a “real man” not only forces men to follow behaviors and attitudes that they may not agree with or reflects their true beliefs, but they also avoid talking about and understanding the truth behind gender-based violence or gender inequality because they may feel that being conscious of the issue somehow takes away from their status as a man. On the other hand, women are socialized to be submissive, dependent, the caretaker, the cook, the cleaner and the people pleaser. In sum, these traits are viewed as weaker traits, characteristics that are opposite of the socially constructed definition of masculinity. Men need to understand and be comfortable with the fact that gender inequality is an important issue and has an effect on other men perpetuating violence and/or sexual assault towards women.
It is vital that we start teaching our young boys and men about respecting women and educate them about sexual assault prevention. We need to have open and honest dialogue about sexism, male privilege, and violence against women so they can recognize their role in its perpetuation and take steps to make change. Men need to provide young boys with healthy definitions of masculinity and teach them they can still be masculine while also displaying respect and sensitivity. This is especially important since many children understand their roles in society through media. In songs, music videos, television shows, magazines and even video games, women are constantly disrespected and if they aren’t being taught differently, they will perpetuate what they see. It’s also important that they realize that their voices can be used to teach others not to perpetuate violence or sexual assault. Kathryn Stamoulis explains a study where researchers observed the behaviors of bystanders when they witnessed a man belittle and mistreat a woman in their presence. They observed that most of the bystanders did not speak up and 80% of them felt uncomfortable seeing the woman being mistreated. They individually felt that they were the only one uncomfortable and, therefore, were too scared to say anything. Being an example and speaking out against violence towards women can help other men see and understand that they can use their voices too and that there’s nothing wrong with doing so.
Christine Rudolph listed 7 ways that men can join the #MeToo movement and use their voices to shed light on sexual assault and violence against women. There are five out of the seven that I feel are very important.
- Men should be aware of the society we live in. She explains that there is apparent gender bias and gender inequality in our society and that’s something that men should be aware of.
- Men need to hold other men accountable for their behavior. If a man sees disrespect or harassment towards women, they need to know that it’s okay to use their voices and say things like “that’s not okay” or “don’t do that”.
- Men should read pieces from feminist writers. This is important because it allows men to gain an understanding of the world from the perspective of a woman.
- Men should boost women’s voices. That means to tell people about articles, speeches and books by women and “spread the word”.
- Men need to treat women as people. This means that it’s important for men to treat women as their equal and for them not to use language or behaviors that demean or belittle women.
In conclusion, men are vital components to the eradication of sexual and other forms of violence against women. Without the active participation of men, the movement will continue to be viewed as having little impact on others not affected directly by violence, as a “woman’s issue.” It’s time for men to speak out and stand up for survivors everywhere!
Why are Sexual Assaults on College Campuses Treated Differently?
By: Gina Telega
With strong feminist positions taking a forefront and activism like the #MeToo movement, the topic of sexual assault is getting more attention than it has in previous decades. Even with these steps in the right direction, information regarding sexual assault is still being swept under the rug. According to the NSVRC (National Sexual Violence Resource Center), one in five women and one in seventy-one men will be raped at some point in their lives. Additionally, NSVRC also states that 20-25% of college women and 15% of college men are victims of forced sex during their time in college(NSVRC). Although these numbers are close when comparing students to non-students, the discrepancy comes in regard to the number of these crimes being reported. Overall, 63% of sexual assaults are not reported to police, being the most underreported crime (NSVRC). Shifting specifically to women in college, only 20% of female student victims aged 18-24 report incidents to law enforcement (RAINN). (When including men, this statistic jumps to 90%) (NSVRC). This shows a clear 17-27% difference in the amount of reported sexual assaults between students and non-students.
This begs the question of why campus sexual assaults are responded to differently than non-campus ones.
Some will turn to the environment of college as an explanation. College campuses encapsulate hazardous settings for potential sexual victimization – students are exposed to intensified peer pressure, partying, heavy drug and alcohol use leading to impairment, increased opportunity for social interactions with strangers and acquaintances, concentrated housing, and even a difference is acceptable norms (Garland, 2016). These circumstances are certainly true, but as mentioned earlier, the amount of rape and sexual assault among the general population in comparison to college students is actually around the same. The issue arises when it comes to reporting these crimes. For the one out of five female students who do report the crimes, most never see a courtroom or prosecution. The cases end at campus safety reports and never make it to the criminal justice system. However, there are two compelling reasons for why it should be turned over to the criminal justice system rather than campus authorities (Cohen, 2015). First, enforcers of criminal law are more susceptible to pressure for advocacy, rather than college administrators who are divided between doing the right thing and protecting their University’s reputation. Secondly, it has been demonstrated that colleges are simply not equipped or competent to adjudicate and prevent sexual violence (Cohen, 2015).
So, what is being done about this discourse between safety and public reputation? In 2000, the Campus Sex Crimes Prevention Act required that any registered sex offender involved with the campus must disclose that information to the University. Additionally, it also specifies that academic institutions are obligated to produce a statement to inform the campus community – how to retrieve information concerning sex offenders (Campbell, 2006). While this Act is great in theory, it is much less useful in practice. First, with the system failing to hold perpetrators accountable for fear of “ruining their lives”, they are not registered on the list.. Secondly, many universities prioritize the reputation of the institution over the safety of students. This translates to encouraging survivors, whether it be subtly or overtly, not to report or make the details of the case public. As I entered my fifth and final year at the University of Michigan – Dearborn, I was unaware this information was at my disposal. But, this information is also not entirely useful. When looking for such information, a University will direct you to the State list of registered sex offenders. This is not any new information, the general public has access to this, and this information does nothing to inform a student about the fellow classmates around them.
Believe it or not, we are moving in the right direction. In May of 2014, 55 colleges were under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights for their mishandling of sexual violence cases (Board, 2017). Three years later, as of July of 2017, there were 343 such cases under investigation (Board, 2017).
It is hard to not feel helpless when these issues are so much bigger than the individual, but there are things that can be done. When it comes to who is committing these crimes, students need to understand that it is likely to be a classmate or peer. Classmates committed 44% of attempted rapes, 42% of attempted sexual contacts with force, 37% of threats of penetration without force, and 36% of completed rapes (Garland, 2016). However, in the same study, students who were surveyed felt that it was more important to be notified about instructors and professors who are sex offenders than any other type of person.
Students should also be more informed about this topic, starting with having access to a statewide list of perpetrators. I was never informed in a way that brought this information to my attention. The results of the Garland study also shows that notification through a university website was viewed with greater importance than any other method. I have to disagree with this, given my University took this route and I was unaware it existed. I would recommend at least a campus-wide email to bring attention to the fact that the information is there. Students of the Garland study also indicated that they were most favorable about gaining access to the offense type committed and a picture of the offender. Depending on the person, this information may or may not be listed on the Statewide list. Most importantly, higher education institutions should work alongside the criminal justice system when it comes to these reported crimes. Of course this system also has its fair share of flaws, but that is no justification to believe campus authorities are more equipped for the problem. Instead, create a set of rules to work with the criminal justice system (Cohen, 2015) and provide support and advice to survivors about reporting crimes to the police and medical personnel. Also, suspend students who are charged with violent crimes, and possibly expel upon a conviction. Lastly, provide or recommend counseling to the survivors afterwards. Only about one in six college-aged female survivors receive assistance from a victim services agency (RAINN). This is where Wayne County SAFE can help tremendously – providing those affected by sexual assault with immediate and ongoing comprehensive services, at no cost that encourage survivor healing and empowerment, promotes public awareness, and leads to social change. Wayne County SAFE also provides a safe, quiet, confidential environment with specially trained Forensic Examiners in order to provide medical examinations and forensic evidence collection for rape surviviors. You are not alone, and you have a voice that deserves to be heard.
Board, E. (2017, July 16). Campus rape? Call the police. Retrieved from http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/editorials/ct-edit-campus-devos-sexual-assault-0716-jm-20170714-story.html
Campbell, E. (2006, April 07). Disclosure of Education Records Concerning Registered Sex Offenders. Retrieved from https://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/hottopics/ht10-24-02.html
Garland, B., Calfano, B., & Wodahl, E. (2016). College Student Perceptions of Notification About Sex Offenders on Campus. Criminal Justice Policy Review, 29(3), 240-257. doi:10.1177/0887403416651670
About Gina Telega
Hello! My name is Gina Telega, and I am a senior at the University of Michigan—Dearborn. I am currently an intern with Wayne County SAFE and I will graduate with my Bachelor of Arts with a double major of Criminal Justice and Behavioral Sciences April 2019. I want to use my degree to help change the narrative in all aspects of the Criminal Justice System. With WC SAFE, I hope to have a part in helping those who are survivors of sexual assault by giving them better means to recover. Later, I want to create a resource for people who are being released from prison to give them a better chance to be a productive member of society, to hopefully reduce the recidivism rate and the overall mass incarceration rate.
Welcome to Hollywood – Shedding the Casting Couch Culture
By: April Slusser
Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, Woody Allen, Roger Ailes, Casey Affleck, Roman Polanski, Charlie Sheen, Mike Tyson, Alfred Hitchcock, Sean Penn, Marlon Brando, Sean Connery, Bill Murray.
The general population may not be aware of what this group of men have in common: collectively, they’ve all been accused of sexual assault and/or harassment, and surprisingly most of them have come out of it relatively unscathed.
If you were to ask any random man on the street what his thoughts were regarding sexual assault and sexual harassment were, chances are he’d vocalize his disdain for it. Or at least you may like to think that’s the reaction. In a study done in 2015 by the University of North Dakota, out of a group of 73 straight male students, one in three reported that they would force a woman to have sex if they knew they could get away with it. According to the report, 31 percent of the men surveyed said they would force a woman to have sex “if nobody would ever know and there wouldn’t be any consequences.”
Now, 73 subjects is hardly indicative of the entire population of men, however we can’t ignore the 31% of the respondents who stated they would rape someone if they had the opportunity and if they knew they could get away with it. The study stated,
“Specifically, when survey items describe behaviors (i.e., ‘‘Have you ever coerced somebody to intercourse by holding them down?’’) instead of simply label them (i.e., ‘‘Have you ever raped somebody?’’), more men will admit to sexually coercive behaviors in the past and more women will self-report past victimization (Koss 1998). Given that rape is defined as intercourse by use of force or threat of force against a victim’s wishes, this discrepancy suggests that at least some men who rape do not seem to classify their behaviors as such.”
Layman’s terms? A majority of males surveyed not only fail to understand what constitutes sexual assault, but would commit it if guaranteed impunity. Failing to realize their own ignorance perpetrates the violence and misunderstanding of sexual assault as a whole.
In a Master’s thesis presented to the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga in 2009, Courtney Crittenden referred to the idea that survivors of sexual violence and harassment are commonly blamed for the harm they supposedly cause to a perpetrator’s career by the implication that claims are easy to file but difficult to defend. Beliefs that sexual harassment claims can mean the end of the alleged harasser’s career while having no impact on the alleged victim are harmful because they indicate that sexual harassment is potentially more traumatic for the offender than the victim and greatly minimize the harm and trauma felt by the victim. These ideas are harmful because they negate the difficulty and resistance most women face when filing claims of sexual harassment.
Regarding current events, most notably the news regarding Harvey Weinstein’s multiple and horrifying transgressions against at least dozens of women, various communities treat sexual assault not only as something unpleasant but also as wholly unavoidable. The phrase, “Welcome to Hollywood” comes to mind. This evokes images of the stereotypical “Casting Couch” culture that Hollywood perpetuates, young women falling victim to studioheads, directors, agents who abuse their power in an attempt to exchange auditions, roles, and notoriety for sexual favors. Harvey Weinstein in particular and his apparent intimidation tactics, coercion, and in some cases even rape of actresses and employees is just the latest perpetrator in a long history of women in the industry being abused, bullied and exploited by powerful men.
The Washington Post quoted Ben Affleck in a recent article regarding Weinstein’s behavior, with Affleck having this to say,
“This is completely unacceptable, and I find myself asking what I can do to make sure this doesn’t happen to others, we need to do better at protecting our sisters, friends, co-workers and daughters. We must support those who come forward, condemn this type of behavior when we see it and help ensure there are more women in positions of power.”
The same Washington Post article quoted three women who have been assaulted or harassed by the actor, including actress Hilarie Burton, Annamarie Tendler, wife of comedian John Mulaney, and entertainment news anchor Anne-Marie Losique.
I bring up Ben Affleck because while he may speak out against the abuse and exploitation of women publicly, him and longtime friend and business partner Matt Damon have been accused several times over of overlooking Weinstein’s behavior, as well as tolerating the abuse, they’ve been known to make jokes about it and understate how severe the problem actually was. It seems as though while the majority of men are quick to denounce the actions of others, quite a few of these men may perpetuate and tolerate the same behavior they condemn; whether it be intentional or not.
As of now, there are 47 women on record stating that they experienced Weinstein’s unwanted advances and toxic behavior firsthand, and of those 47, Rose McGowan has become the most outspoken. Just a few short weeks ago, The New York Times reported that McGowan had received a $100,000 payment from Weinstein in 1997; the settlement included a confidentiality agreement prohibiting her from discussing the incident, which allegedly occurred in a hotel room at the Sundance Film Festival. McGowan posted a series of tweets confronting the hypocrisy of other male power players in the film industry and addressing the other instances of various sexual abuse making and emphasizing the point that Weinstein is not the only abuser, that sexual abuse is rampant in Hollywood and that men need to hold each other accountable. She has since been subjected to a temporary Twitter ban,Twitter alleging she violated community and privacy standards which prompted a #womenboycotttwitter movement when it was felt by McGowan and her followers that Twitter was attempting to silence victims.
This prompted another online movement, the trending topic of “#metoo” on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, among other outlets. USA Today reported that actress Alyssa Milano helped #MeToo go viral with a tweet asking women who have been harassed or assaulted to reply or tweet “me too” to “give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” However, the #metoo movement didn’t start out as a response to the Harvey Weinstein. It originally started about 10 years ago by activist Tarana Burke, specifically to help young women of color from low wealth communities who have been sexually abused, assaulted, exploited or harassed.
In response, the men of Twitter decided to use the hashtag, “How I Will Change” as an effort to identify and recognize the harmful behavior that men unknowingly tolerate and perpetuate. One tweet in particular, posted by Benjamin Law (@mrbenjaminlaw) struck me. The tweet stated, “#HowIWillChange: Recognise I don’t need to be a perpetrator to be a bad guy. Questioning harassment, not doing anything about it—all as bad.”
Briefly browsing the topic on Twitter does a lot to restore some of my faith in humanity as well as men. It proves that men are complicit in the exploitation and subjugation of women sometimes without even realizing it; and identifying what behaviors perpetuate this culture will go a long way in improving the climate for survivors to come forward but also opening up a dialogue criticizing and rectifying seemingly passive sexist behavior. The issue faced by many survivors is the consistent underestimation of the severity of their traumas and disregard for their need for recovery, and societies response to that as a whole is to call into question the survivors integrity, whereas the survivor is a liar until proven honest.
Society as a whole may denounce sexual assault generally, but it also often underscores how truly traumatizing it can be for the survivor, as well as failing to truly establish a safe place for survivors after an attack has occurred. It’s viewed as and argued by some that the possibility of a false accusation is somehow more detrimental than the harasser facing severe consequences for his actions.
About April Slusser
April Slusser is currently a Communications Major at University of Michigan-Dearborn. She’s been with WC SAFE since January of 2017 and is passionate about social activism and justice.
Intimate Partner Violence
In honor of Domestic Violence Awareness month, WCSAFE wants to acknowledge the lives and experiences of those survivors who have been victimized at the hands of an intimate partner.
It takes strength to endure. Survive.
We want you to know that it is not your fault.
We believe you. We support you.
You are not alone.
We are here to help.
Intimate Partner Sexual Violence, or otherwise known as IPSV, can be defined as any unwanted sexual contact or activity by an intimate partner with the purpose of controlling an individual through fear, threats or violence. IPSV is the most common type of sexual violence and a common component of domestic violence, yet it is rarely discussed. In fact, most cases go unreported and service provider responses often ignore survivor’s experiences of sexual violence and/or are otherwise inadequate.
Did you Know?
- More than half (51.1%) of female victims of rape reported being raped by an intimate partner.
- Approximately 2/3 of domestic violence victims have also been sexually assaulted by their abuser.
Sexual violence is often coupled with other abusive behaviors that a batterer uses to exert power and gain control over their partner. The power and control wheel, originated in Duluth, Minnesota, is one of the most powerful tools used by advocates to illustrate this and how the threat/use of both physical and sexual violence (see outer rim of wheel) can reinforce the other tactics (inner spokes of the wheel) used by the perpetrator to achieve their goal (center of wheel).
Like other forms of sexual violence, it’s difficult to know the extent of IPSV. As with all forms of sexual violence, survivors are often reluctant to disclose experiences or may otherwise not recognize their experiences as sexual assault, and may not identify as victims. While sexual violence frequently occurs in abusive relationships, sexual violence within the context of an intimate relationship carries a unique impact because it rests at the intersection of both forms of violence. It’s necessary to understand intimate partner rape as a problem distinct from domestic abuse because, for many survivors who are battered and raped, the sexual violence itself is particularly devastating and is often unaddressed by service providers.
One survivor, Linda illustrates her experience with intimate partner violence this way:
“And they say marital rape is not as bad as stranger rape. I don’t know. I have never been raped by a stranger. But I think being raped by your husband in your own home must be worse in some ways. At least if you’re attacked by a perfect stranger it is not so personal. Your husband is the person whom you should be able to turn to for comfort, who should protect you. ”
Linda is not alone. Below are just some of the issues common to IPSV victims/survivors:
- Longer-lasting trauma: There’s a common notion that IPSV doesn’t have as bad an impact as sexual assault by a stranger. In fact, research reveals that the trauma can be longer lasting. Significant reasons for this are lack of recognition and ability to share the pain.
- Higher levels of physical injury: If we accept that generally, most rapes are not physically violent, those that do involve injury are likely to be partner rapes.
- The incidence of multiple rape: Although IPSV can be one-off, survivors of IPSV suffer the highest frequency of multiple rape.
- Higher levels of anal and oral rape: Partner perpetrators commonly use these forms of assault to humiliate, punish and take ‘full’ ownership of their partners.
- Advice to “put up with” rape: Marital rape victims are a group singularly prone to being advised by church, family or friends that they should be grateful that the rapist is a good father, and that it’s their duty to submit.
- Financial dependency on the rapist: Survivors with children who are permitted no money or employment of their own may feel that there is no escape.
- Safety issues: The IPSV survivor may need a place of refuge, court-orders and assistance with legal/custody matters.
- Difficulty defining the act/s as sexual assault: Survivors are socialized to see rape as involving non-consensual sex between two strangers. Additionally, there may be reluctance to define a partner she loves as a “rapist.”
- Psychological Effects: Survivors experiencing IPSV often carry a variety of psychological effects including depression, suicide, PTSD, anxiety, fear, self-blame, low self-esteem, and guilt. Additionally, survivors of IPSV may experience intense self-blame, shame, and confusion. Survivors of IPSV may experience confusion that is rooted in their inability to trust their own judgment, the sense of betrayal they feel at their partner, or societal beliefs that repeatedly deny her experience as one of sexual violence.
Intimate partner sexual violence (or IPSV) must also be considered from a cultural lens. Survivors from minority and underserved communities may experience more complex issues as intersections of race, class, and gender all influence the survivors experiences with the violence, which includes their engagement with systems, service providers and most importantly, their individual healing process.
In order to remove the stigma around IPSV and create opportunities for survivors to heal, we must continue acknowledging the impact sexual violence has on the lives of survivors and create opportunities for survivors to share their experiences while working to remove the stigma, shame, and seclusion that perpetuates their silence.
If you or someone you know is a survivor of IPSV, contact the advocates at WCSAFE for assistance and information on available services.
Considering the Differences: Intimate Partner Sexual Violence in Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Discourse. Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs, Connections Spring/Summer Edition, 2008.
Real Rape, Real Pain: Help for Women Sexually Assaulted by Male Partners. Hybrid, Melbourne, 2006.
License to Rape: Sexual Abuse of Wives, The Free Press, New York, 1985.
Sexual Assault Among Intimates: Frequency, Consequence, and Treatments, NIJ, 2005.
“Little Brown Girl”
By: LaQuetta Travis
Little Brown Girl no one knows the pain you’ll go through as you grow
Little brown girl no one dares speak of your sorrow, your plight so they stand boldly, they mock and they stare
could it be that no one cares?
Little brown girl I’d tell you now if I knew it would help somehow little brown girl if you only knew the misery, the torture, awaiting you.
Little brown girl I weep for you born a woman and a hated hue.
Little brown girl little brown girl heed my warning I know what I’m saying I’ve been where you’re going
Little brown girl here’s the simple truth you were born in a world that simply hates you no other words, no other explanation the color of your skin is your condemnation.
Little brown girl I pray for you to rise above how the world views you to beat the odds and eat the chips that they all stacked against you.
Little brown girl I’m your biggest fan I see your strength the weights under which you stand.
Little brown girl fire in her heart the world set against you from the very start.
Little brown girl even the brown boy isn’t loyal. He will love you then leave you. To struggle and toil. And don’t get it twisted even if he stays he will add to your troubles not keeping them at bay.
Little brown girl, little brown girl the salt of the earth thrown into the tire straight from the hearth.
Little Brown Girl I’m pleading with you don’t give now you have too much to do.
Little brown girl so much to accomplish once you are done they’ll all be astonished.
Little brown girl something to be admired instead of oppressed you should be desired.
Little brown girl in a perfect world there’d be no reason for your tears to unfurl.
Little brown girl stand through the pain stand through murk, the mire, the world’s disdain.
Little brown girl stand through those tears for one day soon you’ll be the very thing they fear.
Little brown girl I salute you go ahead with your bad self and show them what you can do. Little brown girl, little brown girl, Little brown girl.
This is a free and open support group for females ages 13-21 years old. The following topics will be explored:
- Self care
- Social Media
- Self Esteem
- And More!
Weekly on Wednesday’s from October 4, 2017 – November 22, 2017 Time: 4:00 p.m.– 5:30 p.m. Location: Lincoln Behavioral Services 9329 Telegraph Rd, Redford MI 48239 Snacks will be provided !!! For more information call 313-937-9500 or 313-964-9701
Visit wcsafe.org to view the full event flyer.
An Advocates Inspiration
By: Kristyn Weinert, LLMSW
WC Safe First Responder Sexual Assault Advocate
We are all born with a unique opportunity to be given a choice to determine our fate and destiny in life. Some say it’s a passion, others it’s a calling; however to me it’s both and what I call inspiration to be a voice for others. As Theodore Roosevelt stated, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are”. For me, this profound and resonating statement describes my life’s purpose to stand for the well-being, equality and justice of others to ultimately make a positive impact and improve the lives of others. By taking such a stand, my actions allow an individual to develop a safer, more secure, healthier and more stable foundation that would assist that individual to move forward in life. A little bit of kindness can change a whole day, year, or life.
We get so caught up in what you’re supposed to do; you miss out on what you’re meant to. Being an advocate is to provide individuals and families with compassionate care, support, and empathy and being the voice to those who temporarily lost theirs. We are agents of change working to improve the lives of others by advocating for a diverse population. We are heroes and our superpower is empathy. We promote social justice so everyone can get an equal and fair change. We empower clients with strengths within the community and build upon them to make a positive impact. Standing up for the rights of others and working towards obtaining needed resources, providing coping skills and self-care techniques. I provide every individual I encounter with tools to help ignite their inspiration.
Every day is a constant reminder of a new day and I look forward to what awaits me. I search for what inspires me to becoming the best version of myself. My inspiration is a collaboration of clients, co-worker, other disciplines, friends, family and nature. A wise woman; my mother, once told me that you never have to search for inspiration. Inspiration is a blank painting canvas and all that we need is around us every single day. If we quiet our minds for a brief moment we can see, hear, touch, taste and smell that inspiration. Just like each and every single individual inspiration is unique, limitless, has no boundaries nor is judgmental. It comes in all unique forms, shapes, sizes, sounds, and colors. Just take a deep breath, open your eyes, take the first step and extend your arm out to embrace that inspiration no matter what it is. Let no one stand in your way to accomplish whatever you set your mind to. You are in control of your destiny and happiness. You will face several obstacles that will challenge you, but stay focused on the goal or dream that you set for yourself. Remember to smile and be gracious; even when things may not be going as you planned, but the way it is intended. Some of life’s unexplained detours end up creating a more fulfilling journey that was meant for you alone. All you need to do is take a leap of faith and be kind to yourself. Breathe, one step forward and know that you are never alone. I’m with you always.
I would like to take a moment to personally say thank you to all those individuals I have met in my life; co-workers, professors, family and friends for inspiring me with your stories, struggles and success. Your trust in me will continue to burn the endless inspirational torch inside of me to be my best version of myself, be an inspiration to those I encounter and together we can continue to make a difference, provide hope and inspire others, including our families, communities, and world with love, hope, and faith. When society is judgmental. Inspiration is free.
Food for thought: Here are some questions to get you started.
- Who inspires you or who do you inspire?
- What inspires you?
- Where do you find your inspiration?
- When do you seek, look, or find inspiration?
- Why do you look for or give inspiration?
- How do you give or receive inspiration?
About Kristyn Weinert
Kristyn Weinert, LLMSW, First Responder Sexual Assault Advocate, who completed her Bachelors and Masters in Social Work from Wayne State University in Detroit and has her limited license in Social Work to practice in Michigan. Kristyn has been selected by Wayne State University Social Work Dean to be the student committee student advisor during her three years in the Social Work Program. Kristyn was awarded by the National Association of Social Workers in 2015– Michigan Chapter Student of the Year for Wayne State University for leadership, academic success, community involvement, and contribution to the positive image of the social work profession. While obtaining her BSW & MSW, Ms. Weinert interned with Residential Hospice and Harbor Oaks Hospital. She has experience working with adults and families in a clinical and medical setting. Her clinical interests include in working with mental illness, grief, and loss, anxiety, PTSD and depression as it relates to trauma.
At Wayne County SAFE, Ms. Weinert is a First Responder Sexual Assault Advocate and provides advocacy and counseling to youth 12 and older as well as secondary support to non-offending family members. Ms. Weinert is inspired and passionate in helping assist youth, adults, vulnerable, oppressed and underserved populations, and is always mindful in working with a diverse cross-cultural society. She utilizes a therapeutic setting by creating an atmosphere of trust, mutual respect and effective communication. She has an interest in utilizing CBT-DBT, Grief and Loss, and Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, guided imagery and meditation.
An Interview with WC SAFE Board Secretary Scott Stewart
How were you first introduced to WC SAFE and how did you first get involved?
I was first introduced to WC SAFE by actually searching the NEW (Nonprofit Enterprise at Work) Board Member postings, which I was incredibly lucky to spot! I reached out to the Board members due to their need for both public relations and marketing assistance and thought I could help. I initially was involved on the Fund Development Committee, helping to plan our two large events and to improve WC SAFE’s brand in the community.
Why do you continue to be involved in WC SAFE?
The incredible passion that WC SAFE’s staff has and the impact that WC SAFE has in the community is remarkable. Being able to grow the organization by continuing to improve operations, funding, and branding allows me to feel comfortable knowing this service is available for all those in need throughout Wayne County.
What are your goals for WC SAFE as the Board Secretary?
My overall goal is to improve efficiency and operations of the Board of Directors so that we can have a greater impact and improve support for WC SAFE’s dedicated staff members. I want to be able to grow the organization to the next level with improved organization.
Share any story about WC SAFE that has impacted you?
WC SAFE started as a small task force and has quickly grown into one of the most silent but most heavily impacted organization in Wayne County. I’ve never seen more dedicated and passionate staff, ones who are willing to give as much time as possible to help victims through these traumatic experiences – being their advocate so they can lead successful and happy lives with relief. This is the only organization providing this type of service in Wayne County and I wish this type of organization existed everywhere.
Outside of WC SAFE, what are your interests?
What other interests? 😛 Mostly, I love giving back to my community and teaching others about the power of social change. I love traveling and exploring the differences in culture in areas both nationally and globally.
About Scott Stewart
Scott Stewart is the Marketing and Development Manager at Oakland Integrated Healthcare Network (OIHN), a community health center in Pontiac, Michigan, and serves at the Secretary on WC SAFE’s Board of Directors. Scott has over five years of dedicated experience in working with nonprofits and social issues focused on children’s health, human rights, homelessness, education, and domestic and sexual violence. His passions involve advocating for those who are silenced, improving communities through grassroots engagement, and solving the complex intersection of social issues. Scott holds a BAA in Integrative Public Relations from Central Michigan University and goes to Wayne State University for his Master’s in Public Administration.
Examining Rape in Art History
By: Katie Michael
So here is the story of Medusa. If you took mythology in high school, then you probably learned that Medusa was a hideous woman with snakes on her head that turned men to stone. After hundreds of attempts by warriors and men of Greece to kill Medusa and steal her head (for its ability to be used as a weapon to turn onlookers to stone), Perseus finally beheads Medusa. After using it as a weapon, he gave it to the goddess Athena to adhere to her shield. So there is your cliff notes version…..There are different versions of the Medusa myth but this seems to be the most widely accepted. For most of us, our high school mythology class did not touch on how Medusa became a hideous woman with snakes on her head. According to several scholars, Medusa was once a beautiful priestess in the goddess Athena’s temple. In fact, she was the goddess of war’s favorite. Medusa had to swear to an eternal vow of chastity and be recognized as a symbol of purity. Along comes the god of the sea – Poseidon who rapes Medusa in Athena’s temple – the Parthenon. In doing this Medusa is no longer eligible to serve the goddess or legitimately marry. These laws or rules as you would call them also symbolize that women in ancient Greece were considered property. Athena, hearing of the incident, punished Medusa by banishing her to an island, turning her hair into snakes, and making her facial features so unattractive that it turned anyone looking at her to stone. She is isolated and banished from all society. She is silenced and punished. She is blamed.
So you’re probably asking what was Poseidon’s punishment? None. As a powerful male god – one of the most powerful, it is expected of him to take what he wants. This is not the only story depicting sexual violence in Greek mythology. Looking at other stories, there is a common theme of male gods raping women. Hades – god of the underworld raped the goddess of spring Persephone and fed her pomegranate to force her to spend 6 months of the year in the underworld. Zeus (which we have several accounts of his assaults on women) came to Danae in the form of a shower of gold and assaulted her. Often times these male gods would take on the form of a beautiful animal, for instance, a swan (Zeus taking on this form to rape Leda), and other times in the form of wind (Boreas the North wind assaulting Orithyia).
Rape has been a central theme in art history since ancient Greek times. Art depicting rape and war was often the focal point and popular subject in Greek, Roman, and post-renaissance western European art. In fact, it was such a sought after theme that the term “heroic rape” was applied to these narratives. The hero(s) of the story claim victory over land and in turn also claim their opponents: women. These scenes of rape take on an almost romantic view and mask the truly heinous crime committed. Often times when viewing these works you would not recognize that rape was the central theme unless you read the story behind it. There are several other pieces of art throughout history we could study that focus on themes of sexual violence. Victim blaming is the central outcome of these stories in Greek mythology. These acts are never seen as unacceptable. In fact, the gods committing sexual violence against women is glorified and seen as their divine right.
These same themes are part of rape culture in today’s society. We can take the story of Medusa and apply it to several current cases pertaining to sexual assault. Every time a survivor is asked, “Why was your dress so short?” or “Why did you leave the party with him?”… Every time a case goes to trial and the perpetrator is let go… or when a rape kit is left on a shelf and not tested, rape culture is perpetuated and reinforced. These survivors, too, are isolated and silenced. When we view the images and art of Greek Gods, we see strength and wisdom but fail to acknowledge the history and sexual violence behind these mythological stories and artworks. Women, whether goddesses or not, have to fear sexual violence and then are often blamed. Although we see these being depicted in art and in current media, we as a society need to stop blaming survivors and start providing them with the support they need.
About Katie Michael
K￼atie Michael holds a bachelor in art history and a bachelor in communications from the University of Toledo. She is currently the Community Relations Coordinator for the WC SAFE program. In this role, Katie often wears several different hats; visioning and coordinating the annual VOICES art show, event planning, fund development, marketing, office administration and community outreach. She helps co-facilitate the volunteer program and the art therapy group – which has been a great source of joy in her position. Katie is passionate about the arts and believes them to be a great healing tool for trauma survivors.
The Skin I’m In
By: Sharron Fincher, Guest Author
When asked to write this blog post I was a little apprehensive. My apprehension was more about what I should talk about versus not having anything to talk about. Over the past few weeks, I have had many conversations as well as experiences about a common topic. This will be a reflection of those experiences which not only affect me but many others like me.
One thing that has remained constant in my life is the challenges I face because of the skin I’m in. I would like to take a deeper look and really think about whether my experiences are challenges or moments of empowerment. Before I compare the two I would like to talk about my actual experiences.
I have always been looked at as different and for a while, I thought that was because I was uncomfortable with myself. I was uncomfortable because I was not living the life that I desired to live. I was not embracing my sexuality. The reason was the fear of loss and disappointing those I loved. After years of guilt, loss, self-evaluation, and learning about and forgiving myself, I was finally able to embrace and love my true being. Now, I do so unapologetically and surround myself with those who love me and appreciate me for the person that I am. The road to get to that point is a long and hard road but once you get there you definitely appreciate your journey.
Now that I’m here and very secure in my skin, I have time to slow down and pay attention to things that I failed to notice before. When I describe myself, I say that I am a sister, mother, aunt, and friend. I am caring, giving, compassionate, kind, gentle and fair. I am African-American; I like to give back to the community, be involved in the community and work with victims of violence and children. I love to cook, listen to music, admire art, smoke cigars, travel and plan. I am finally comfortable in my own skin. This has allowed me to represent myself in a way that is totally comfortable to me. In addition to all the previously mentioned things, I am also a masculine appearing lesbian. I am a lesbian who chooses to wear men’s clothing.
Many embrace me because they have taken the time to get to know me, but there are few who have an issue with me based solely on my outward appearance, without even having a conversation. I have no problem with people choosing not to deal with me but it becomes an issue when verbal harassment and physical threats occur. I often wonder what about me causes so much anger and rage from people who I’ve never met before. What about me causes one to become so belligerent and hateful without even having a conversation with me? As part of my process of self-discovery, I’ve come to the realization that everyone’s problem with me has nothing to do with me and everything to do with them.
Growing up in a house with a homophobic parent, I’ve heard terrible things and because of the way it made me feel I chose to distance myself. I’ve heard on countless occasions when speaking to parents of homosexual and or bisexual children that they (the parents) worry about the challenges their child may face because of their sexual preference and/or identity. The truth is that in several cases parents cause more harm than others in the world. Losing the support and love of a parent can be one of the most detrimental events that could happen to a person, especially one who is already combatting a world that is usually unaccepting of them. We all want the best for our children but there comes a time when we must trust that what we taught our children will be implemented in their lives. Rather than punish them for not being exactly who we want them to be it would be better to support the people they are. That means to love and support them as well as allow them to be comfortable in their skin. It is their life after all. Besides, I’m sure very few of us turned out to be exactly who our parents wanted us to be.
I realize that I may face adversity for the rest of my life but because of my growth and my experiences I am able to be a voice for those who are not able to speak up for themselves. I was previously asked the question: “Is your experiences challenges or moments of empowerment?” I believe the answer to the question is that it is both. My challenges have turned into moments of empowerment. Life is not about the problems we face but the ways in which we grow from them. I would not be who I am without my life’s challenges and even though things may be difficult at times I am stronger and wiser. Today, I wouldn’t change anything because in a world where disrespect and self-doubt is common, I have learned to love me and surround myself with those who feel the same and for this I am strong. More importantly, I am grateful and humble.
About Author Sharron Fincher
Sharron Fincher was born and raised in Detroit. She is a graduate of Detroit Public Schools and attended Wayne State University’s Social Work program. Sharron continues to strive for diversity and inclusion is the city of Detroit. She is a community activist and leader in propelling the LGBTQ community forward. She is a member of the Detroit Police Department LGBTQ Action Team. Sharron is the Program Facilitator for the Woman2Woman program at LGBT Detroit. She is also the National Executive Director of Alpha Psi Kappa Fraternity, Incorporated. Her favorite quote is “Every Saint has a past and every Sinner has a future.” She believes that it is very important to enjoy life and try to change a life for the better as often as possible. Equality and dignity are quintessential to Sharron’s life’s mission to end oppression and fight against injustice.
Volunteer Feature: Emilija Kraii
Sexual assault is by far one of the most pervasive acts of violence in society. It is also an area of work that is difficult for those servicing survivors. Programs like Wayne County SAFE rely heavily on the community to provide quality and timely support for survivors of sexual violence. For example, volunteers contribute their time and skills to advocate for survivors of sexual violence. There is no doubt that Wayne County SAFE relies heavily on volunteers to provide outreach to the community, 24-hour crisis intervention, and other forms of support to survivors.
Emilija Kraii, featured in this post, is by far one of our most dedicated volunteers. Serving as a First Responder, she is empathetic, caring and compassionate when working with survivors. We are honored to have her as part of our family! Learn more about Emilija below!
Q: What led you to volunteer at Wayne County SAFE?
A: I, like many other people, was outraged at the discovery of the untested rape kits in Detroit. I’d seen how devastating sexual assault can be to a survivor and their immediate loved ones and couldn’t reconcile this with the low priority status given to the crime. WC SAFE’s mission perfectly aligned with my concerns.
Q: What do you like/love about volunteering at Wayne County SAFE?
A: As a first responder, I feel great satisfaction knowing that survivors of sexual assault are being treated with respect and affection in their moment of crisis. This volunteer work fills me with a sense of purpose and the organization is so welcoming that I continually feel appreciated and part of the family.
Q: Tell us more about your background.
A: I received a Master’s degree in social work from Wayne State University in 2011 and my field placement was in Southwest Detroit working with school aged children. I also worked at the Center for Urban Studies with the resident grant writer. I have been a stay at home mother of two wonderful girls for the last ten years and feel it is now time to put my social work degree to good use.
Q: Why is this work important to you?
A: I feel that this work is necessary and unfortunately a great need. Sexual assault is far too common and its harmful effects ripple out from the survivor into the wider community. Aiding in the healing is important work and very fulfilling for me.
Q: Outside of this work?
A: I have fallen in love with the work, staff, and volunteers at WC SAFE and will most certainly be applying for employment here if an opening comes along. Volunteering here for almost two years has given me a glimpse into the lives of survivors in crisis–I would feel privileged to play a greater part in their healing as well as work on ways to tackle sexual assault on a more macro scale through legislation and community organizing. My career goals underlie my goals as a mother: to be a role model for my girls, help create a better environment for them in which they can grow up confident and strong and teach them that social problems are not intractable when dedicated people work together to eradicate them.
“Hello? Can You Help Me?”: Creating Safe Spaces for Male Survivors of Sexual Assault
It was 2011, shortly after I became an advocate for WC SAFE. I came into the office one morning, anticipating a full day. As I turned on my computer, logged into my email and began to pull up the day’s calendar, the phone rings. It’s 9:02 am. “Hello, thank you for calling Wayne County SAFE, this is Amy. How can I help you?” “Hello?”- A firm, but inquisitive voice responds. “I’m not sure if you can help me or not. I was given your name by my substance abuse counselor, Mr. Martin. He wasn’t sure if you could help, but he told me to call anyway. Um, I’m looking for someone to help me. I went through something with my family member a while back and never got help for it. I ended up using drugs and went out on the streets and well, that’s how I got here. I don’t know what else to say. I’ve never make a call like this before. I feel kinda dumb for asking. Is there someone there who can help me?”
His name was Tony (name protected for anonymity). I can still hear the inflection in his voice. I can only describe it as a commanding confidence wrapped in uncertainty. He went on to explain that after being homeless and on the streets for the past 10 years, at 51 years old, he made a decision to get help and entered into a local facility for substance abuse treatment. Throughout his treatment stay, Tony uncovered some deep emotional scars. For the first time in almost 40 years, he felt trusting enough to disclose to his counselor that much of his pain and substance use/dependence was influenced by the unaddressed sexual abuse he experienced as an adolescent and young adult. Like many adolescent sexual assault survivors, Tony’s mother and father did not believe him when he first told. In fact, he was punished for his disclosure and later sent to live with a distant relative, where more abuse took place. The lack of support from his mother and father after his disclosure haunted him. It caused him to question everything he knew to be true of his experience. “Maybe it really didn’t happen. Maybe it wasn’t that bad. I didn’t fight him off. Maybe it was my fault. Maybe I DID like it.” Tony wrestled with his thoughts, feelings, and reactions. He didn’t have anyone in his life to tell him these were normal, common responses. At a very young age, as he had learned to do with so many other things, Tony learned to bury this part of his life, resolving that he would NEVER speak of his experience again.
Throughout my phone call with Tony, he described many instances where he felt isolated and alone. He never sought help for the abuse out of fear that (1) he wouldn’t be believed, (2) he would be labeled and judged, AND/OR (3) he would be turned away. The prompt for him calling today was the fact that in one week, he would successfully complete his 6-month treatment program. But before he could transition into independent living, he would have to stay with his abuser temporarily, until his home was ready. Although Tony had begun to face his abuse in therapy, he had no idea how to face his abuser in real life. He had nowhere else to go and no one else to turn to. He described feeling like a little boy again – stripped of his power, choices and his former defenses.
Call it coincidence or call it an alignment of the universe, but in the months immediately following Tony’s call, I met three additional adult male sexual assault survivors. Each of them had different experiences, but a common occurrence: there were no safe spaces for men to disclose and get help.
At this time, I had been an advocate for survivors of domestic and sexual violence for almost 9 years. It’s safe to say that within those 9 years, I had a fairly extensive background of working with survivors from a wide range of experiences. In my 9 years as a sexual abuse counselor, however, I can count the number of men I served on one hand. Four male survivors to be exact. FOUR. By this time in my career, I had served HUNDREDS (if not THOUSANDS) of survivors and only four of them were male? How can that be? I had 4 male survivors (that I know of) in my immediate family!
I began seeing each of these survivors for individual counseling. Although I didn’t know the right thing to do at the time, I knew that I believed them. I knew that I could also listen and validate their experiences. I will always deeply honor and admire the transparency of Tony and his fellow survivors. In their sessions, they disclosed generations of abuse and silence; concerns about sexuality, masculinity, and pride; regrets about not being able to defend themselves against their abusers; and shame around how their bodies responded to unwanted touch.
My phone call with Tony and subsequent counselor/client relationship with him and other male clients served as the catalyst for our commitment to improving services and outreach to men and boys. We began exploring local, state and national resources for male survivors. We located experienced clinicians who had worked with male survivors and arranged for internal training for not only myself but our staff and volunteers as well. We’ve organized Sexual Assault Awareness month activities with male survivors as our focus and are one of the only stand-alone sexual assault programs in the state that have hired both a male SANE nurse and male Sexual Assault Advocate.
Our hope and intention is to shift the culture from one that stigmatizes men and boys who seek help to one that normalizes and honors them for it. On a systems level, that’s an ambitious goal, but on an individual level (personal, local, organizational), it is achievable. While we still have much work ahead of us, WC SAFE is committed to creating safe spaces for men in our community. It starts with us. One phone call at a time. One survivor at a time.
For every male survivor who wonders “Can you help me?” WC SAFE’s response is “Yes. Yes, we can.” Every time.
Resources for Men:
WCSAFE.org (Wayne County SAFE Advocacy and Counseling Services)
About Author, Amy Dowd
Amy Dowd is a licensed MSW and currently, the Director of Advocacy Services for Wayne County SAFE (Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner) Program in Detroit. Amy has over 15 years of experience as an advocate for both domestic violence and sexual assault survivors. In addition to her direct service and leadership experience, Amy has a passion for education and outreach. Amy has collaborated with several local colleges and universities including University of Michigan, Wayne State University, and Eastern Michigan University in an effort to increase awareness and student engagement on campus. Amy has been invited as a guest lecturer with Eastern Michigan University and University of Michigan’s volunteer program lecturing on topics related to gender based violence, in addition to women and substance abuse issues. Amy has been an advising member to several ground breaking projects in the city of Detroit, including the National Institute of Justice Rape Kit Action Research Project and the Wayne County Sexual Assault Kit Task Force. She is a trainer for the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards in the area of non-stranger sexual assault investigations and has presented both locally and nationally on issues related to sexual assault, trauma, and best practices.
Amy Dowd is a graduate of Eastern Michigan University where she obtained both a Bachelor’s of Science degree and a Master’s degree in Social Work with concentrations in mental health and chemical dependency. She has been a licensed practitioner in the State of Michigan for 6 years.
Advocacy Through the Eyes of a Survivor
By: Benita Robinson, Crisis Coordinator
A moment in time…. Where everything stands still. Your life is forever altered, sometimes without you realizing it. Sometimes without you knowing if you will make it to the see the end. I will undoubtedly never forget the day, about 10 years ago, I was sexually assaulted and nearly died at the hands of a former intimate partner. It changed the way I thought and moved about the world. It changed the way I viewed people, including myself. I did not have a support system to provide emotional safety and support. No one told me what my options were. I was ashamed, embarrassed, angry, and blamed myself…. I felt alone and coped by burying it. It was a life-changing experience that informs my work as an advocate at Wayne County SAFE for other survivors of sexual assault.
I did not realize it at the time, but my experience was far from an anomaly or unique circumstance. The personal was and is political. Countless people’s lives are colored by sexual violence every day. Advocates from Wayne County SAFE and other organizations that support survivors of sexual violence see it repeatedly when working with survivors of sexual assault. Survivors share feelings of fear, embarrassment, detachment, shame, depression and anger. They are often blamed by others and ostracized by the community. They question their purpose and their lives…. Why an act so horrendous could happen to them. For these reasons, many survivors do not feel supported and do not disclose.
Unfortunately, we see and hear the statistics all the time. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men will experience an attempted or completed sexual assault in their lifetimes. 63% of these are never reported to the police. These numbers are even more startling when we consider other intersecting identities such as race, age, sexuality, and gender identity. There are people in our community suffering in silence, some for years and years. They are our friends, family, and neighbors. They sit beside us during service and frequent the same businesses we do. They work and go to school with us. The fact is, whether you realize it or not, there is someone you know that has been victimized by this epidemic.
As we raise awareness around the sexual violence that plagues our society, we should also challenge our own ways of thinking, experiences and how they inform our work and lives. We must continue to ask ourselves: What can we do in our own lives and communities to create a supportive environment for survivors and hostile one for perpetrators? Last month many events, trainings and rallies were held for Sexual Assault Awareness Month, but we must remember it is much more than a time to raise awareness around sexual assault. It is also a time of reflection and revitalization. We must view healing and advocacy through the lens of survivors, even if some of us have not experienced sexual violence firsthand. As a woman of color, survivor and advocate the phrase coined by Founder and Director of Sasha Center Dr. Kalimah Johnson is even more relevant, “Healing is Possible.” Survivors are already resilient but with the support of the community, survivors can experience holistic healing. This month, as we do every day of the year, we honor the diverse survivors of sexual violence Wayne County SAFE serves for their strength and inspiration. From you, we draw our motivation and are revitalized. Because of you, we will continue to fight to ensure your voices are valued and heard.
About Author Benita Robinson
Benita Robinson is a proud graduate of the University of Michigan-Dearborn. She is a passionate activist for equal rights and access to opportunities for underserved populations in metro Detroit, specifically around issues such as sexual and domestic violence, racial inequality, equal pay, feminism, prison reform and leadership development. She is currently the Crisis Coordinator for Wayne County Sexual Assault Forensic Examiners Program in Detroit, Michigan. In this role, she oversees the First Responder program and specializes in ensuring quality provision of crisis intervention and advocacy services to survivors of sexual assault. Benita also does outreach and community awareness events/trainings. She is also on the advisory board for the University of Michigan-Dearborn’s Women and Gender Studies program and a member of the Michigan Theory Group at Macomb Correctional Facility.
WC SAFE ED Kimberly Hurst discussing resources for sexual assault survivors on the Fatima Salman show on 910 am Superstation.
Wayne County Safe’s Kim Hurst gives Guy Gordon an update on Detroit’s Rape Kits
Organizations that collect evidence for rape kits and offer crisis counseling to victims of domestic and sexual violence are bracing for the possibility of deep funding cuts under President Donald Trump’s federal budget plan.
The leaders of three of Michigan’s largest victim-advocacy organizations — Wayne County SAFE, Turning Point and HAVEN — say they’re scrambling to figure out how they’ll continue to offer the same services if federal grant funds through the Office on Violence Against Women and the Office on Women’s Health end up on the chopping block.
The White House has outlined reductions of $15.1 billion from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the Office on Women’s Health, and $1.8 billion from the U.S. Department of Justice, which runs the Office on Violence Against Women and its 25 grant programs. But it’s unclear which programs will be eliminated or tightened under Trump’s 2018 “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make American Great Again”, said Wyn Hornbuckle, deputy director of the Office of Public Affairs for the Department of Justice.
What is clear, however, is that losing that federal grant funding would be catastrophic to organizations like Turning Point, said CEO Sue Coats. The domestic violence shelter does forensic medical exams after sexual assaults, collects every rape kit in Macomb County, supports victims, provides court advocates who testify in court on behalf of victims and offers counseling, education and a 24-hour help line.
“It would be extremely devastating to our program, and all the work that Turning Point has done in creating and strengthening a safety net for survivors of domestic and sexual violence,” said Coats. “About 65% of our budget is federal funds.” If this part of the federal budget is slashed, Coats said, “the message is that it’s not a priority anymore. It’s taken many years to make it a priority and to get the momentum that many of us across the state as well as the nation have done to improve our community’s response to people who report these crimes and seek help.”
More than $1 million of Wayne County SAFE’s $1.8-million annual budget — 55% — comes from these vulnerable federal grants, and another 33% from state grants, said Kimberly Hurst, founder and executive director of the program, which counsels and does a forensic exam for every rape victim in Wayne County, collects evidence for every rape kit, and was instrumental in handling the more than 11,300 rape kits that were found in a Detroit warehouse in 2009.
“We’re the busiest program in the state by far. … Any survivor of any kind of sexual violence, whether it’s child abuse, incest, sex trafficking, what have you, we’ll provide services” for all of Wayne County, she said. “Now our challenge is to diversify our funding, especially in light of some of the budget cuts that are being proposed at the federal level, which may directly impact our dollars.
“We’re mobilizing as a community, as a movement, as a state to get it out there about how these budget cuts will affect programs and affect victims of crime,” Hurst said. “We just had all this outrage about unsubmitted (rape) kits and unfunded programs, and you’re telling me you’re going to take money away from all these programs?”
About 600 of those original kits remain untested, said Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy. “We are raising the funds for that and not only just for the testing, but for the investigation and prosecution; we will be submitting the rest to be tested,” said Worthy, who called Wayne County SAFE vital to the work of processing those kits, notifying and counseling victims as well as testifying on cases as they were prosecuted.
“There is no way we would be where we are with our project without them,” she said. “It would be impossible. It would be a nightmare.”
Amna Osman, president and CEO of HAVEN, said the Pontiac-based organization is a one-stop shop for victims of domestic violence, sexual abuse and assault in Oakland County. It provides services to 20,000 people annually through the its 24-hour crisis help line. It also offers a shelter, which houses up to 60 people at a time, advocacy, legal support, violence prevention and education efforts.
HAVEN stands to lose 38% of its $3.4-million budget if those federal grant dollars disappear, and is strategizing for potential cuts.
“It’s really important that people know domestic violence and sexual assault is happening in our communities,'” Osman said. “It’s impacting 1 in 3 Michigan households. It’s really important that we build awareness of those issues, and support agencies like HAVEN to be able to continue to provide services in a comprehensive way to survivors.
“There’s a lot of trauma, and I think the important thing is having to relive that trauma over and over again has really negative consequences to the individuals. So It’s really important that they’re able to receive those services, whether it’s support in the courtroom, or being able to receive counseling, being able to come to our residential program that are providing safety to them.”
All three agencies provide their services free to survivors. The question is whether that would be able to continue under heavy cuts to the federal budget.
Nicole Navas, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Justice, said more details about the president’s budget plan should be coming later this spring.
Advocates are concerned the Trump administration will use a budget outline from the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank from which Paul Winfree, one of Trump’s top economic advisers, rose.The foundation issued a similarly named 2018 budget proposal, the “Blueprint for Balance” plan, which suggests eliminating federal Violence Against Women Act grants.
Until more details are released, Wayne County SAFE, HAVEN and Turning Point are trying to rally support through fund-raisers, and are encouraging people to call lawmakers to make it clear that they support federal funding for the work they do.
“We’re taking part in some national discussions around how can we mobilize as a movement and be educated and understand what does all this really mean, to not panic, but take action,” said Hurst. “Part of what we’re attempting to do, at least in our community, is to reach out to our representatives, to our senators to let them know that this is who we are. … and share our story, share survivors’ stories, and let them know what our community would look like if we weren’t here.
“Really, it’s on them to make decisions that are going to benefit their constituents, their family, their friends, their daughters, their sons. This is not an issue that’s far away for anybody.”
Contact Kristen Jordan Shamus: 313-222-5997 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @kristenshamus.
How to be heard
To express your views, you can reach out to U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow by calling 202-224-4822 or sending her a message through her website: https://www.stabenow.senate.gov/contact. To reach U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, call 202-224-6221 or send him a message through his website: https://www.peters.senate.gov/contact/email-gary.
To find contact information for your representative in the U.S. House, go to http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/ and enter your zip code.
How to donate
- HAVEN: You can donate by calling 248-322-3703 or online at www.haven-oakland.org. You an also support HAVEN by purchasing tickets or a sponsorship for its Hero Gala, which is set for 6:30 p.m. May 5 at the Troy Marriott, 20 W. Big Beaver, Troy.
- Turning Point: You can donate by going to Turning Point’s website, www.turningpointmacomb.org or by sending donations to Turning Point Inc., P.O. Box 1123, Mt. Clemens, 48046. You can also support Turning Point by purchasing tickets to LunaFest, a film festival established in 2000, shining the spotlight on the work of female filmmakers. The event is set for 7-10 p.m. April 27 at the Macomb Emerald Theatre, 31. N Walnut Street, Mt. Clemens.
- Wayne County SAFE: You can donate by online by going to Wayne County SAFE’s website, wcsafe.kindful.com. You can also support the organization by attending its fourth annual VOICES Art Exhibition, which is to showcase sexual assault survivors and their artistic expression of healing through music, dance, paint, sketch, and other visual media. The event is set for 6-9 p.m. April 14 at Holding House, 3546 Michigan Ave., Detroit.
How to get help
If you or someone you know is being abused or the victim of sexual assault, there is help:
- In Detroit, the YWCA Interim House is a domestic and sexual violence shelter that provides safe refuge along with food, clothing, advocacy and counseling to victims of abuse. Its 24-hour crisis line is 313-861-5300. For more details, go to: http://bit.ly/1TCBH4A
- In Macomb County, Turning Point offers a 24-hour help hotline at 586-463-6990. The agency also offers an emergency shelter for victims and their children, counseling, advocacy, safety planning and more. Details: turningpointmacomb.org.
- In Oakland County, HAVEN offers a 24-hour toll-free crisis line at 877-922-1274, along with live chatting on its website, www.haven-oakland.org. The agency also offers emergency shelter for victims and their children, counseling, advocacy, safety planning and more.
- In western Wayne County and Downriver, First Step has a 24-hour help hotline at 734-722-6800 or 888-453-5900. The agency also offers emergency short-term housing for victims, counseling, support, safety planning, advocacy and more. Learn more at: www.firststep-mi.org.
- In Wayne County, victims of sexual assault can call Wayne County SAFE’s crisis pager. Advocates are available 24 hours a day to provide crisis intervention and support at its clinic sites. A forensic examiner and advocate work together to provide rape kit testing, offer support, information, resources and referrals to survivors and their families. Learn more at: http://wcsafe.org.
- In Ann Arbor, Safe House Center offers a 24-hour crisis line at 734-995-5444. The agency also offers emergency shelter, counseling, support, safety planning, advocacy and more. Learn more at: www.safehousecenter.org.
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline also has a toll-free 24-hour crisis line: 800-799-7233.
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy speaks openly about being sexually assaulted while she attended college at Notre Dame. Mandi Wright/Detroit Free Press Mandi Wright/Detroit Free Press
Thousands of boxes of evidence sat untested in a Detroit Police Department storage unit for years as the rapists whose DNA was inside roamed free.
More than 11,300 were left there, some untested for decades, while the assaults kept happening, while more people became victims. Some of the perpetrators were serial rapists, and went on to attack as many as 10 or 15 more times.
The kits were discovered in 2009, and since then, there has been an ongoing effort to raise the money needed to process each kit, investigate the cases and bring the perpetrators to justice.
Seven years later, about 600 of those rape kits remain untested, said Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy. But among the kits that have been through the testing process, 784 serial sexual offenders were discovered in 40 states.
Active investigations are under way for 334 of the suspects and at least 1,042 others are awaiting investigation. Seventy-eight people have been convicted so far.
It’s been slow and tedious work, said Kimberly Hurst, the founder and executive director of Wayne County Safe, which does the forensic exams of sexual assault victims in Wayne County and collects the evidence for rape kits.
“It is frustrating that it has taken this long,” Hurst said, explaining that once Wayne County Safe collects the evidence, the kits are sealed and then sent off to a lab for processing. If a DNA match is found, police and prosecutors work to bring that person to justice. Wayne County Safe often works with the victims with counseling and support, and often testifies on the evidence in court.
“Nothing is quick, and nothing is instant,” Hurst said. “This brought about a culture change, and anything that shifts the culture takes time. This has been revolutionary for all the agencies involved.”
The discovery of Detroit’s untested kits sparked a national discussion of the problem, and cities around America went looking to see whether they, too, had untested kits. As many as 400,000 were found nationally in cities as far away as Las Vegas and Dallas and as nearby as Toledo, according to Enough SAID, which was formed in 2015 as an independent collaboration among the Michigan Women’s Foundation, the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office and the Detroit Crime Commission to help resolve this issue in Detroit.
One reason it has taken so long to process all these rape kits is money, Worthy said. It costs about $1,500 to process each rape kit. In 2014, the Detroit Crime Commission negotiated a lower per-kit testing rate, reducing the cost to $490. But additional funding is needed to investigate and prosecute cases as well.
Enough SAID is helping to address the need for money to process these rape kits and see them prosecuted, as is the African-American 490 Challenge. To donate to the cause or learn more about Enough SAID and the African American 490 Challenge, go to www.aa490challenge.org/index.html or www.miwf.org/enough-said.
The process of collecting a rape kit—that is, gathering evidence of a violent assault from a person’s body shortly after the crime was committed—is an impossibly sensitive one. But Julie Groat is an expert. She is a forensic nurse and program director at Wayne County SAFE, a nonprofit that was founded in 2006 to focus exclusively on providing care to sexual assault survivors.
Its first decade has been a dramatic one. In 2009, 11,341 untested rape kits were found in a Detroit police warehouse, leading to a long and still-ongoing battle for justice. A Michigan law enacted in 2014 now mandates a timeline for moving the kit from health care provider to various levels of law enforcement—three months from start to finish. It also requires that health care providers notify victims of their right to receive information about their own kits.
This process begins at the front door of SAFE. At their clinic in Taylor, Michigan—one of five in the Detroit area—Groat walked me through the process, beginning from the moment when there’s a knock on the door.
Can you talk about when the patient first arrives?
We greet everybody. I always have our young patients introduce me to whoever they bring. It empowers them. I introduce myself and then I say, “Well, who did you bring?” I may already know—I’ve got the reporting on who mom and dad are—but I want them to tell me. It also lets the parents know that [their child] is in control.
We then excuse ourselves from the family and ask the patient to come to the back room, where we go through the medical history and the incident. You only write what the patient tells you, even if you know more about what’s going on. Everybody processes differently; she may forget some things that happen. I’m not going to pick and choose.
I’m also not going to rush the patient. She’s going to go at her own pace. If she needs a break, she needs a break. I know parents sometimes want [their child] to have these exams. Well, it’s up to the patient. It’s a very invasive procedure. We don’t want to re-victimize anybody by making them go through something that they don’t want to go through. Power and control has already been taken away; you want to give that back to them.
What happens when you’re treating patients?
We’re focusing on how the information pertains to our diagnosis and treatment. We’re not investigative. Knowing what color of car was driven is more for the police.
We do a head-to-toe assessment. We do a detailed genital exam with a colposcope, [a device that allows us to] magnify and take pictures of the genital area. We do hair combings. We collect underwear or whatever clothing they’re wearing. We collect swabs as we go. Based on the patient history, we know where to swab, but we go beyond that. Even if it was a vaginal assault, we still get anal swabs, because gravity will pull [fluids] into that area.
Listening is the most important thing we do. Many years ago, there was a serial rapist, and during one of the patients’ histories, she said that there was licking of the breast; so we swabbed the breasts of the victims. We wouldn’t have done it otherwise. The DNA we found there was only gathered because we listened to the patient.
We offer the STD and pregnancy prophylaxis as a standard component of care. We follow-up with our social work staff. I explain to my patients, you may not be ready today, you may not be ready tomorrow, maybe not next week or in a month, or even a year. But the services here are always free and we encourage you to take advantage of them.