Sexual Assault Awareness Month

April is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). The goal of SAAM is to raise public awareness about sexual violence and to educate communities.

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center released the following statistics:

  • Every 98 seconds someone in the United States is sexually assaulted
  • 1 in 5 women have been raped
  • 1 in 33 men have been raped

What is it about the world we live in that allows for sexual violence to exist and at an epidemic level?  Answer: Rape culture.

Rape culture is embedded in our society, and lives in our communities. Its pervasiveness reaches the shows and movies we watch, the music we listen to, where we socialize, on the streets, at school and where we work.

More often than not, it’s situations in which sexual assault, rape and general violence are ignored, trivialized, normalized or made into jokes. So how do we as a society perpetuate rape culture?  When 994 out of 1,000 perpetrators walk free, when someone is assaulted every 98 seconds, when entertainers and individuals joke about rape, when men feel entitled to verbally and physically assault women, when men who are victims are ridiculed and dismissed, when we don’t believe or support victims…. That is rape culture!!  

To truly commit to the eradication of sexual violence from our communities, we must address the root cause, and why it happens.  Community members can work to prevent sexual violence by establishing healthy and positive relationships that are based on respect, safety, and equality.  You can be a part of the solution by:

  • Being a role model for respectful behavior to those around you
  • Talking with your children about healthy sexual development and personal boundaries
  • Intervene and speak up when you see inappropriate behavior
  • Report suspected child abuse. Know what to do if you or someone you know suspects a child may be being abused
  • Educate yourself

JOIN OUR COMMUNITY on April 30th at 5:00 p.m. at Bay College – Fornetti Hall for a Candlelight Vigil and Appreciation Ceremony hosted by Caring House.

Together with us, you can demonstrate your support for those impacted by sexual violence as well as acknowledging those who strive to pursue justice for victims.

We will be showing our appreciation for our area’s law enforcement departments and special tributes will be paid to the following for their outstanding dedication:

  • Dickinson County Prosecuting Attorney Lisa Richards
  • Dickinson County Chief Assistance Prosecutor Kristin Kass
  • Kingsford Public Safety Officer Richard Wright
  • Kingsford Public Safety Officer Ryan Pericolosi, and
  • Niagara Police Officer Angie Moreau

Guest speakers will be the Honorable Judge Christopher Ninomiya and the Honorable Judge Thomas Slagle, with special music performed by local youth and a Healing Art Display.  Refreshments will be served.

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Domestic Violence Education at Bay De Noc College West Campus

A group of nursing students from Bay De Noc West has been doing a class project about domestic violence.  They are collecting donations for Caring House, they have given a presentation at the college along with advocate Marti Swisher, and they put together a short video about domestic violence.   This wonderful group of students has done a great job and we are very excited to have partnered with them.

If you would like to view the video it has been published on the Caring House Facebook page.

Domestic Violence Power & Control Wheel

It’s been awhile since this was originally posted so we thought we should bring it to the forefront of people’s awareness.

This wheel is used to understand the complicated dynamics of domestic violence and some of the forms it can take.  Domestic violence as you can see is not just physical.

To learn more about the Power and Control Wheel, visit the Home of the Duluth Model online.

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Human Trafficking

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We in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, live in small communities which we think of as fairly safe.  Most of us in no way think there is human trafficking going on in our communities.  We are wrong.  This is not a tragedy that’s happening in another country or state.  According to a 2015 quote by U.S. Senator Gary Peters, Human trafficking is “a growing problem in every county and community in Michigan”.  Michigan as a whole is one of the top five states in the country where trafficking is exploding.  Human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world.

The first ever reported case of human trafficking in Michigan was in a tiny town in the Upper Peninsula, director of the Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force Jane White said.  This past year saw a case of human trafficking prosecuted in Dickinson County.  Human traffickers are drawn to rural areas and small towns.  There is often a smaller police presence and isolated areas, and these criminals feel they have much less chance of getting caught.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, human trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery involving the illegal trade of people for exploitation or commercial gain. The most common form in the United States is commercial sex.

Indicators of Human Trafficking

Recognizing key indicators of human trafficking is the first step in identifying victims and can help save a life. Here are some common indicators to help recognize human trafficking:

  • Does the person appear disconnected from family, friends, community organizations, or houses of worship?
  • Has a child stopped attending school?
  • Has the person had a sudden or dramatic change in behavior?
  • Is a juvenile engaged in commercial sex acts?
  • Is the person disoriented or confused, or showing signs of mental or physical abuse?
  • Is the person accompanied by someone who insists on telling a story all the time…they are a student, they are a tourist, they are here on a visa and there are a lot of inconsistencies.
  • Does the person have bruises in various stages of healing?
  • Is the person fearful, timid, or submissive?
  • Does the person show signs of having been denied food, water, sleep, or medical care?
  • Is the person often in the company of someone to whom he or she defers? Or someone who seems to be in control of the situation, e.g., where they go or who they talk to?
  • Does the person appear to be coached on what to say?
  • Is the person living in unsuitable conditions?
  • Does the person lack access to personal identification documents?
  • Does the person lack personal possessions and appear not to have a stable living situation?
  • Does the person have freedom of movement? Can the person freely leave where they live? Are there unreasonable security measures?

Not all indicators listed above are present in every human trafficking situation, and the presence or absence of any of the indicators is not necessarily proof of human trafficking.  For your safety and the safety of possible victims, do not confront someone you suspect may be a human trafficker or a victim, report the information you have to the police.

Traffickers look for vulnerable people.  People who are emotionally or psychologically at risk, people who are economically at risk, and people who are isolated.  Trafficking victims can be any age, race, gender, or nationality. Trafficking victims can be men or women, young or old, American or from abroad, with or without legal status. Sometimes these criminals have specific victim requests by their clients…example, blond haired, blue eyed boy around 12 years old.  They use threats, force and false promises to lure their victims in.

Human trafficking is usually a hidden crime.  The victims don’t come forward because they are afraid of their traffickers or even law enforcement.  The trauma caused by the traffickers can be so great that many may not identify themselves as victims or ask for help, even in highly public settings.

 

Domestic Violence and Pets

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Facts About Animal Abuse & Domestic Violence

The American Humane Society in association with the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence reports:

Why it Matters

  • 71% of pet-owning women entering women’s shelters reported that their batterer had injured, maimed, killed or threatened family pets for revenge or to psychologically control victims; 32% reported their children had hurt or killed animals.
  • 68% of battered women reported violence towards their animals. 87% of these incidents occurred in the presence of the women, and 75% in the presence of the children, to psychologically control and coerce them.
  • 13% of intentional animal abuse cases involve domestic violence.
  • Between 25% and 40% of battered women are unable to escape abusive situations because they worry about what will happen to their pets or livestock should they leave.
  • Pets may suffer unexplained injuries, health problems, permanent disabilities at the hands of abusers, or disappear from home.
  • Abusers kill, harm, or threaten children’s pets to coerce them into sexual abuse or to force them to remain silent about abuse. Disturbed children kill or harm animals to emulate their parents’ conduct, to prevent the abuser from killing the pet, or to take out their aggressions on another victim.
  • In one study, 70% of animal abusers also had records for other crimes. Domestic violence victims whose animals were abused saw the animal cruelty as one more violent episode in a long history of indiscriminate violence aimed at them and their vulnerability.
  • Investigation of animal abuse is often the first point of social services intervention for a family in trouble.
  • For many battered women, pets are sources of comfort providing strong emotional support: 98% of Americans consider pets to be companions or members of the family.
  • Animal cruelty problems are people problems. When animals are abused, people are at risk.

Why do abusers batter pets?

  • To demonstrate power and control over the family
  • To isolate the victim and children
  • To enforce submission
  • To perpetuate an environment of fear
  • To prevent the victim from leaving or coerce her to return
  • To punish for leaving or showing independence

At this time some states have pet protective orders.  This is a step in the right direction in the effort to protect humans and pets from domestic violence.  The following is a chart of which states have those orders and which don’t at this current time.

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Congresswoman Katherine Clark (D-MA) and Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) introduced the Pets and Women Safety (PAWS) Act of 2015, bipartisan legislation to help the estimated one-third of domestic violence victims who prolong their abusive relationships out of concern for the wellbeing of their pets.

“Sadly, domestic violence is something one in every four women will experience at some point in their lives,” said Congresswoman Clark. “This isolating experience is made even worse for those who fear for the safety of their pet. Most pet lovers, including me, consider their beloved dog or cat a part of their family. No one should have to make the choice between leaving an abusive situation and ensuring their pet’s safety. ”

“Many states allow pets to be included in restraining orders, but what happens when a domestic violence victim must go live with family in another state where pets are not covered?” said Michael Markarian, chief program and policy officer of The Humane Society of the United States. “We must have a national policy that safeguards the pets of abuse victims, and recognizes that domestic violence impacts all members of the family—including the four-legged.”

STOP THE SILENCE —10/14/2014

Have you taken a ride past the First Covenant Church on H Street in Iron Mountain, MI?  Each cross you see displayed out in front represents one person from the Upper Peninsula who was killed in a Domestic Violence situation.  Who will the next cross represent?  Will it be your sister or brother?  Your neighbor?  A favorite teacher at the school?  Your doctor’s wife?  It could be anyone!  You can’t tell if someone is a victim by looking at them.  They look like me or you.  Wounds aren’t always visible.  Victims are very, very good at pretending everything is ok.

Are you aware of the Domestic Violence in this world?  Do you care?  Every football fan in the United States should know…watch the video of Ray Rice hitting his wife.  Listen to sports personnel talk about how hundreds of cases of Domestic Violence have been covered up.  We all think that good old guy we know couldn’t do such a thing,  why he’s a great guy and fun to be around  (unless he comes home to you each night).  Each and every one of us should be more aware.  Abusers get away with it because they can.  Nobody wants to get involved.  If you see something or hear something that you think may be abuse call the police, that’s the only way this will end.  Don’t keep SILENT!!!  We need everyone to make abusers accountable for their actions.

One way you can help is to come out to our annual  “Break the Silence, Stop the Violence” procession, if you are able.  We will meet at The Dickinson County Sheriff’s Department between noon & 12:15 on Tuesday October 14th.  This year we will be joined by the MI Bikers Helping Veterans Motorcycle group, followed by area law enforcement with sirens blaring, followed by cars honking their horns.  If you can drive or ride in a car and honk a horn you can join us.  The procession will proceed to Caring House where refreshments will be served.  We need YOU!!

Let’s make some changes and shake up this county, so we can shake up this state, so we can shake up our country and shake up the world.  Let’s make this world a safer place.

WHY DOESN’T SHE/HE JUST LEAVE?

Now isn’t that a tricky question? I mean, what sane person would continue to be with someone who abuses them?
If you have never been in an abusive relationship, this seems like the simple answer. But then again, shouldn’t the question be, “Why does the other person have the right to abuse?”
There are many reasons a person stays. They are as varied and complex as the people involved. Here are some of the reasons:
1. Love: The abuser is still the person the victim loves. The abuser has times when he/she is VERY charming. One victim stated “I kept thinking that this time when things were good, surely he would like our life together in this good time so much that he would not want to bring on the bad times again. He promised me he would change.” Maybe the abuser will change…at least that’s the victim’s hope.
2. Society/Religion : The victim feels she/he made a committment before God to this relationship. Or the abusive person appears so different to the outside world that the victim feels no one would believe the monster the abuser can be.
3. Isolation: Gradually, the abuser takes steps to keep the victim from other people. Maybe the victim can’t have anything to do with family or friends, isn’t allowed to work or attend activities, or can’t have telephone conversations. There have even been instances of victims being imprisoned in their own homes.
4. Fear: Fear of retaliation if he/she leaves. Threats may have been made against the victim, children, or the victim’s family and friends. Victims have a 75% greater risk of being murdered by their partner during or after they leave the relationship.
5. Financial Limitations: The victim may have limited financial resources…no job, low-paying work, fear of homelessness, etc.
6. Fear of Losing Children: The victim may have been led to believe she/he won’t be able to keep their children.
7. Pets: The victim may not be able to take a pet they love. She/he doesn’t want to leave the pet alone with the abuser, in fear of the pet then being abused.
8. Lack of Self Esteem People with self-esteem issues may feel they don’t have what it takes to make it on their own. They may feel they deserve what happens to them. They may have been told by the abuser that no one else would ever want them.

As you can see, the reasons are varied. It’s difficult for many people to leave the perceived safety of what they know for the unknown. Victims don’t need to be re-victimized by those who think they should just leave. We need to build each other up, not tear each other down.