Lansing lacking in giving domestic abuse victims a place to sleep

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By Ella Kovacs
Listen Up Lansing Staff Reporter

Domestic violence and relationship abuse happens all over the world, the United States, and Michigan. In big cities like Lansing, where there are many people in a concentrated area, it is vital for victims and survivors to have access–preferably easy access–to resources that will help and support them.

For many women, the first resource they would think of is the police. But victims also need a place to sleep.

Ruth Sternaman, a counselor at the Women’s Center of Greater Lansing, said that in the Lansing area, housing assistance for victims could be improved as well as child protective services.

There is one shelter in Lansing specifically for victims of domestic abuse and violence. EVE’s House provides free and confidential resources to survivors, according to Kimberly Kaiser, EVE’s House Community Relations Coordinator. Some of these resources include counseling, a team of advocates to help with legal matters, and free childcare during support groups. They also run the Personal Protection Office for Ingham County, which provides Personal Protection Orders for victims.

EVE’s House is a very multi-dimensional resource for victims and survivors, but “we meet people every day who don’t know who we are,” said Kaiser.

Being the only shelter for victims of this cause in the entire city of Lansing, and holding only 35 people, seems lacking.

According to www.mlive.com, “In 2014 the federal government put Michigan’s number at 12,227,” that number being number of homeless. The National Coalition for the Homeless said that “Approximately 63% of homeless women have Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 8.55.07 AMexperienced domestic violence in their adult lives.” That puts the number at about 7,703 homeless that are possibly in that situation because of domestic violence. With a city as big as Lansing, not to mention it being the state Capitol, one shelter with 35 beds just isn’t enough.

“I think that they’re essential,” said Chantelle Cleary, the Title IX Coordinator at the University at Albany-SUNY about having these sort of resources in cities.

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A display of interactive brochures on EVE’s House website. Courtesy of http://www.eveinc.org/resources.html

But as for how readily available they are, “it depends on the community,” said Cleary.

Sternaman talked about how many women are afraid to bring up their struggles or abuse because the system seems to re-traumatize them, blame the victim, and make some things very difficult, such as getting their own children back, even if it was not the woman’s fault they were taken.

This stigma that it is the woman’s fault, or that she possibly brought on the abuse herself, is very dangerous because it perpetuates victim blaming and makes it very hard for a woman to step up and get help for herself.

“It shouldn’t be stigmatized to have serious consequences after being seriously mistreated,” said Frank Ochberg, clinical professor of psychiatry at Michigan State University.

Another resource is CARE, standing for Capital Area Response Effort is “a post response advocacy group,” according to Abigail Grill, an intern at CARE. She said they work with the police to assist victims of domestic abuse, and to provide resources and support.

Grill also talked about making sure victims are okay by visiting their homes, visiting at another safe place, or contacting by phone. They can even help drive victims to court.

“We provide ongoing advocacy,” said Grill. They provide support for as long as the victim needs it.

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