Friday, June 5, 2020

Local groups a resource for survivors of sexual, domestic violence

March 1, 2018
The Rock reads "This flood = all the sexual assaults colleges are covering up 994/1,000 rapists walk free." on Feb. 22, 2018 at The Rock. The color teal was used to represent sexual assault awareness. (C.J. Weiss | The State News)
The Rock reads "This flood = all the sexual assaults colleges are covering up 994/1,000 rapists walk free." on Feb. 22, 2018 at The Rock. The color teal was used to represent sexual assault awareness. (C.J. Weiss | The State News) —

Multiple organizations in the Lansing area have seen increased awareness around sexual assault as a result of the scandals that have rocked MSU, and have offered assistance to survivors of violence.

One such organization — End Violent Encounters, or EVE, a nonprofit based in Lansing — provides counseling and advocacy services for survivors. EVE’s 24-hour crisis hotline, staffed by trained advocates, provides crisis intervention and support. 

EVE also provides temporary housing to women and children affected by relationship violence at its emergency shelter. All services provided by the organization are free.

Social media has provided the organization with new ways to conduct outreach into the community. Erin Roberts, the executive director of EVE, highlighted the usefulness of the EVE Facebook and Twitter accounts in spreading the word about the resources provided.

“Survivors come from all different walks of life, all different perspectives,” Roberts said. “Trying to get our information out in all the places where somebody may be looking for our services is complicated, but ... we try to make sure that we are available in all ways.”

More traditional avenues, like word-of-mouth and postings on doctors’ offices, are still vital to the organization’s success, Roberts said.

“Word-of-mouth is really a great method for us because people that come to us and receive our services are some of our best advocates,” Roberts said. “They feel supported, our services are all survivor-led and confidential and they come at no cost to the survivor.” 

The Firecracker Foundation, located in Holt, Michigan, focuses on providing services to children and teens who have survived sexual trauma. Some of these services include mental health therapy, therapeutic yoga and caretaker support groups for guardians of young survivors, according to Carolyn Abide, the foundation’s office manager.

These services are provided for free to families without medical insurance and those who are unable to afford copays, according to the foundation’s website.

Abide said the sensitive nature of sexual violence can often deter survivors — especially younger ones — from reaching out about their struggles. That makes it important for groups like the Firecracker Foundation to do as much outreach as they can to inform the community about the resources they provide.

“People are often not willing to disclose for various reasons, and because we work with youth, it can be difficult for them to know that there are resources available to them — especially if they haven’t told any adults in their life what’s going on,” Abide said. 

The Women’s Center of Greater Lansing, which provides counseling services and support groups to survivors, also refuses to accept insurance for their resources, according to executive director Cindie Alwood. This allows survivors to pay what they can afford — and if they can’t afford anything, they pay nothing.

These organizations often provide resources not directly related to sexual assault or violence, but rather can help survivors with other aspects of their lives as well. EVE partners with the Thrifty Sparrow Resale Shop and provides vouchers to eligible shelter residents and other clients for free clothing from the shop. 

The Women’s Center offers a job seekers’ support group, providing things like computer classes and resume assistance to women interested in beginning or changing careers. Yet the facilitators of this group are also trained on how to manage some of the issues that affect the job seekers — such as sexual assault, domestic violence or other types of trauma — so they can find employers who are willing to adapt to survivors’ specific needs.

“There are lots of organizations that help people with job seeking, but I think the approach that we take is very different and unique,” Alwood said.

Public response to the mishandling of sexual assault at MSU has led to more survivors seeking out the services these organizations provide, Abide said.

The crises at MSU have also exposed “how pervasive this problem is in our society,” Abide said. “We all need to be more aware of what we can do to support survivors.” 

Roberts said while she was pleased to see the issues at MSU bringing awareness to sexual violence, the responses of some in the community to immediately dismiss survivors’ claims were troubling.

“It is so hard for a victim to come forward and share some of the most intimate details about a crime that was committed against them, and then to have people question whether or not they are telling the truth is harmful,” Roberts said. “That’s a deterrent for others to seek justice.”

Survivors seeking assistance can contact any of these Lansing-area organizations:

End Violent Encounters: crisis line (517) 372-5572; office (517) 372-5976
Women’s Center of Greater Lansing: (517) 372-9163
The Firecracker Foundation:  (517) 742-7224
Capital Area Response Effort: (517) 272-7436
Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence:  (517) 347-7000
MSU Safe Place: (517) 355-1100 

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