Governor Whitmer yet to make any changes affecting domestic violence

Second Hand Rose resale shop in Mt. Clemens. Photo by Arianna Endicott

On Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s website, she highlights that during her time as Ingham County Prosecutor, she was in charge of creating a Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault investigative unit. Since Whitmer’s election, there have been no changes to policies affecting organizations that help survivors, or to laws that prosecute abusers.

SafeHouse Center is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in Ann Arbor that provides services to people seeking help after domestic or sexual violence. They run a 24-hour Help Line, which can be reached at (734) 995-5444. Their annual report states that in 2017, they helped roughly 5,000 people, provided 8,000 bed nights and received 2,165 calls. They also added an LGBTQ support group in 2017.

“Our program is quite comprehensive,” said Executive Director for SafeHouse Barbara Neiss-May. “We support survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. Probably what we’re best known for is shelter, but we also offer counseling, support groups, legal advocacy, education programs, PTO application assistance, we have a 24/7 helpline, we have a teen voice program where we go into schools with peer educators to talk about teen dating violence and healthy relationships [and] we encourage survivors if they’re looking for additional services to talk to us because we may be able to work something out.”

Neiss-May remains hopeful that laws and funding will change after Whitmer’s election.

“I know that there’s a lot of discussion, and they’ve just really just started the budget process,” Neiss-May said. “I believe that things will change under her leadership, but I haven’t seen anything concretely. I think more legislators are proposing laws more so than we have seen in the past, because I think they’re now in an environment where they’ll be better received.”

Turning Point is located in Mt. Clemens, and operates a thrift store, Second Hand Rose, to fundraise for the organization in addition to the grants and donations they receive. Their 24-hour crisis line can be reached at (586) 463-6990. According to their annual report, in 2017 they received 9,161 calls, provided survivors with 2,349 safety plans and provided shelter to 561 women and children.
A sign outside of Second Hand Rose that lists unacceptable donations. Photo by Arianna Endicott

“Turning Point is a domestic and sexual violence agency, and we have multiple different prevention and intervention programs to work preventing domestic and sexual violence, and then to meet survivors’ needs, depending on what those are,” said Sara Dobbyn, Trainer Intern Coordinator for Turning Point. “We get multiple different types of grants, and then we do fundraising efforts, and then we also get generous community donations.”

Dobbyn said that their numbers have “overall been pretty consistent” in their annual reports.

Paige Beasley, M.S.A., works as an Intake Supervisor for Coordinated Assessment Model (CAM) in Detroit, which works to find solutions for homelessness, regardless of the situation people are in. They also refer those seeking shelter from violent situations to the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) Interim House.

“My organization focuses on community development, and within my organization, my department focuses on homeless intervention specifically,” said Beasley. “My agency is the lead agency for Coordinated Entry into homeless services in Detroit, Hamtramck and Highland Park. My program’s role is to implement those services, and we are the front door to homeless services. It is our job to provide access to consumers, assess, prioritize and refer for homeless services.”

Beasley said they are “underfunded and under-invested in.” She also said that media coverage may have an impact on encouraging women to speak out.

“Since my start of working within the homeless system, women with families have always been and remain a big consumer focus,” said Beasley. “I think any platform that allows someone to be their authentic self and express the truth will invite others to share. I think the #MeToo movement provided victims a platform to share their truth in this way.”

Neiss-May agreed, and said the #MeToo movement was not the first to encourage women to come forward.

“I think that there are many touch points in our society that encourage people to seek help,” said Neiss-May. “The earliest touch point I would say that I had in my career was the OJ Simpson trial; that certainly encouraged a lot of people to start speaking out. Since then, there have been multiple times where there was something prominent in the news that happened and more survivors started reaching out to get help and support.”

Whitmer was inaugurated as Michigan Governor Jan. 1, 2019 after winning the November 2018 election. She has previously spoken out about women’s issues, and even passed laws to improve other aspects of inequality, such as equal pay.

Survivors seeking help can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline 24-hours a day at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or find local help and online resources.

Check out a timeline of important domestic violence events here.

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