Have you ever needed a safe place to escape from someone who was trying to hurt you or your children?
Hopefully you can answer with a confident “no.” The sad reality, however, is that many in our community can’t. According to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS), nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the US. In one year, that is more than 10 million men and women affected by abuse. What’s even more upsetting is 90% of the time, children are eyewitnesses to this type of violence. Domestic, sexual, stalking and dating violence happen much more often than you might think. Those residing in Marquette and Alger counties are very fortunate to have the easily accessible Women’s Center to provide protection and resources if they find themselves in these terrifying predicaments.
The Women Center’s Harbor House is a safety shelter for adults and children fleeing from violence. It is also a place where staff and volunteers can help implement safety plans and assist in organizing personal protection orders, if necessary. The Harbor House offers counseling, support groups, and childcare. It also provides transportation for those attending counseling, seeking employment, or attending court hearings. The Women’s Center helps residents find employment and affordable housing. By uplifting and supporting mothers, it also gives hope to the children of broken families.
Sudden new living situations can be an exceptionally hard adjustment for youth. The Women’s Center focuses on providing an inviting setting to make the transition as comfortable as possible. Every year, the Marquette Breakfast Rotary supports the youth program by providing money supporting fun activities for the children such as play room furniture, art supplies, sporting equipment, and more. Even with an inviting space, those evading intimate violence usually need more material support. They typically arrive with only the clothes on their backs, and the children have had to leave their favorite blankets or stuffed animals behind. That’s where the PakRatz Resale shop comes in! PakRatz Resale is a space where clothing and home goods donations are accepted from the public, then distributed to those who find themselves in need before the remainder is made available for sale to the public, helping to sustain services. If you’re looking to donate, one of the shop’s biggest necessities right now is quality children’s clothing.
The Women’s Center provides a Sexual Assault Response Program which is an on-call emergency response program available 24/7.
This program provides counseling, support groups, and educational information to any woman or child who has survived sexual assault. The staff and volunteers will accompany survivors to the hospital and to interviews with the law enforcement officers on-scene. The Women’s Center’s staff and volunteers have been trained to provide exceptional care and support. This is a much-needed service for adults, but also especially beneficial for children. Sadly, current numbers indicate one in three girls and one in seven boys will be sexually assaulted by the time they reach eighteen (Department of Justice).
Just in the last fiscal year, the Women’s Center’s staff and volunteers helped nearly three thousand people escape domestic and/or sexual violence in the Marquette and Alger communities. The Center is so thorough it even has a program in place to help survivors keep their pets out of harm’s way–the Sasawin Project. Since 1973, the Women’s Center staff and volunteers have been committed to helping not only women affected by abuse, but also the children. According to the Journal of Family Psychology, more than 15 million children witness domestic violence each year in the United States. Such situations are hard enough on adults, and can be particularly detrimental to the impressionable minds and souls of children. The Women’s Center offers counseling for youth survivors to learn coping mechanisms and lay down a hopeful path to recovery. They also host Children’s Group, open to youth residents of Harbor House and children whose parents attend the Domestic Violence support group. In Children’s Group, participants can learn how to stay safe, develop problem-solving skills, and understand that what happened to them is not at all their fault.
The Women’s Center does everything in its power to create communal awareness of these unfortunate situations happening around us.
The Women’s Center hosts fundraisers and family friendly events, and makes special efforts such as decorating the local courthouse with purple pinwheels for domestic violence awareness. They’ve even had a free self-defense class for those ages twelve and older. In addition to hosting events, they help with necessities by providing items such as socks and warm boots, an absolute must-have here in the U.P.
Annually, the Women Center’s Harbor House provides over three thousand shelter nights to men, women, and children, with the average stay lasting between forty-five and ninety days. These stays run an average of over $1,000 per person. That doesn’t include the many other services provided which are all free of charge. Without community donations, these acts of compassion within our community wouldn’t be possible. Monetary (tax deductible) donations can be made online at wcmqt.weebly.com/donate or over the phone at (906)225-1346. The Women’s Center also accepts used cell phones, and donations can be made at PakRatz Resale. Your donations will go to those who desperately need them, and to help out a center that greatly improves our community!
Emergency hotline: 906-226-6611 or 1-800-455-6611
Katelyn Swanson is a women’s health enthusiast and doula at Katelyn Swanson Birth and Family Services. She also creates social media content under the figure Really Rosemary and joins together a community of women by sharing her vulnerable and honest mothering of three young children.
Reprinted with permission from the Winter 2019-2020 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. All rights reserved.