Category Archives: Child Advocacy

Community Improvement: NOT for Women only – The Women’s Center’s Support for Children, by Katelyn Swanson

domestic violence prevention and support to survivors, Marquette and Alger CountyMI Women's Center, support services for children in Marquette MI, U.P. wellness publication

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

Sources:

Statistics


http://wcmqt.weebly.com/

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.

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Filed under Child Advocacy, Children, Community Improvement, women's organization

Community Improvement: Health & Happiness’s Annual Donation Recipient—Superior Child Advocacy Center

Imagine you are a child being sexually abused by someone you thought loved you. How scary that would be to tell someone. Now imagine the perpetrator told you that if you told someone, he or she would kill you, or kill someone you love.  Imagine the tormented life you would have as that child.

Imagine how much courage it takes for you to report this. Now imagine having to summon that courage repeatedly. Typically, a child must share his or her story and respond to questions several more times after the initial disclosure – once each to the police, Child Protective Services, a medical professional, and a prosecutor, and in several different, coldly official types of locations.

Superior Child Advocacy Center (SCAC) will prevent that by being a one-stop, more welcoming hub for child sexual and physical abuse investigation. As volunteer Hannah Syrjala explains, “It’s not a scary police station, not an interrogation room or intimidating courtroom. The child will be able to come into a soft space and talk to just one interviewer – there are no cops there, no lawyers. Everyone on the team–Child Protective Services, a counselor, medical professional, and law officer-observes the interview from another room, so the child only has to tell his or her story once rather than living it over and over again.”

“Keeping the process to one forensic interview limits further trauma to the child, strengthens the case as a whole, and streamlines how the child gets the different services he or she may need,” adds volunteer and Marquette County Assistant Prosecutor Jill Simms. “The interviewer is specially trained to ask the right kind of questions to get the information needed for an arrest and conviction, and to help the child move forward. A multi-disciplinary team will continue working on each case, assigning services for the child as necessary.”

Studies have shown that without proper intervention, children who are abused are likely to become abusers themselves, or continue to be victims, with poor life skills and increased likelihood of experiencing mental illness and/or drug addiction. “SCAC’s goal is to nip that in the bud to better their lives and prevent future turmoil,” say Simms.

The initiative to create SCAC was begun a couple of years ago by Marquette County Prosecutor Matt Wiese. Wiese explains, “MI law requires that we have a social worker, law enforcement, and medical personnel all address child physical and sexual abuse cases. We’ve learned having a child advocacy center is the most effective way to implement these requirements. It’s been proven to be the best approach in many communities, increasing accountability for perpetrators of child abuse, and decreasing the amount of times children have to appear in court.”

Currently, Delta is the only U.P. county with a child advocacy center. And with an increase in such cases, handling them as sensitively and effectively as possible becomes even more crucial. Prosecutor Wiese says, “We have already been seeing approximately thirty felony cases against children a year, and that’s just counting those under thirteen. The forensic interview room we’ve been using is woefully inadequate – it’s not soft or welcoming. It’s in the courthouse building, next to a stairwell. Children are often distracted by the sounds of people walking by, and by any movement or sounds from the other side of the one-way mirror. Plus we have no ability to record the interview. The center will create a one-stop place with trained professionals in a friendly environment. Digital and audio recordings of the interview will be made. Everything disclosed is captured evidence showing the interview was done appropriately, without leading questions. There will a physical examination room with a trained medical professional who knows how to look for evidence of both sexual and physical assault injuries.

Eventually the center’s services will include education and prevention programs, and may be extended to adjacent counties. However, the biggest need right now is financial. A rent-free initial location has been secured thanks to Trace Holistic Center, which will begin providing forensic nursing for sexual crimes against both children and adults in 2019.

At least $12,000 of the $50,000 goal for Superior Child Advocacy Center’s set-up and first year of operation needs has been raised so far. Grant applications are in process and fundraisers have been organized to pay for expenses such as recording equipment and cameras.

This holiday season, a “Wish List Christmas Tree” will be up at the Marquette County Courthouse. Community members will be able to choose an ornament specifying a needed supply to donate, such as paper, ink, staplers, and so on. SCAC’s future needs include volunteers, installation of recording equipment, furniture, paint, and electronic donations.

Another enjoyable and also healthy way to donate is by participating in the “Lead the Way 5K” scheduled for April 13, 2019.

A healthy, caring community must support the health of our children, our future adults. As Acting Board President of SCAC Dianne Heitman implores, “Please help us to help physically and sexually abused children take back their lives.”

To stay updated and learn more about SCAC, and how you can donate or volunteer, you can visit http://www.superiorcac.org or the Superior Child Advocacy Center Facebook page.

Excerpted with permission from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Winter 2018-19 Issue, copyright 2018. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Child Advocacy, Community Improvement