Content Warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that include abuse which could be triggering to the reader. If you or someone you love is experiencing abuse, contact the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Support is available 24/7.
Domestic Violence: A Hidden Crisis in Our Communities
Domestic violence is a pervasive issue that affects millions of individuals and families across the United States. Shockingly, nearly 20 people per minute experience physical abuse at the hands of an intimate partner in this country, amounting to over 10 million survivors each year. Beyond its criminal implications, domestic violence has far-reaching public health consequences that impact the physical, mental, and financial well-being of survivors. It's a problem that not only requires urgent attention but also demands a collective effort from our society. This article explores the health implications of domestic violence, delves into local statistics from Michigan and even deeper into the Michigan Lakeshore, and sheds light on the critical role of nonprofits in combating this issue.
The Health Implications of Domestic Violence
Domestic violence leaves deep and lasting scars on its survivors, affecting their physical and mental health in profound ways. Here are some critical health implications:
- Lack of Medical Care: Shockingly, only about one-third of those injured by a partner seek medical care for their injuries. This means that many survivors suffer in silence, without the necessary medical attention to heal physically and emotionally.
- Mental Health Disorders: Survivors of domestic violence are at a higher risk of developing mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The trauma they experience can have long-lasting effects on their psychological well-being.
- Chronic Diseases and Infections: Domestic violence survivors are more vulnerable to chronic diseases and infections due to the stress and physical trauma they endure. These health issues can have lasting consequences on their quality of life.
- Enormous Financial Costs: The annual financial cost of domestic violence is staggering, estimated to be in the trillions of dollars. This includes lost productivity, healthcare expenses, and law enforcement efforts to address the issue.
- Adverse Impact on Children: Children who grow up in violent homes are particularly vulnerable to both social and physical problems. Witnessing violence at home can lead to emotional trauma and behavioral issues. Moreover, when children learn that violence is a normal way of life, it increases the likelihood that they may become the next generation of victims or abusers.
Local Data and Information from Michigan
Domestic violence is not just a national issue; it is a pressing concern in communities across the United States. In Michigan, recent statistics from the Michigan Incident Crime Report (MICR) shed light on the situation:
- There was a 2.9% decrease in incidents of domestic violence from 2021 to 2022 in Michigan.
- Survivor Statistics:
- Among survivors in Michigan, 15.4% were in the age group between 30-34.
- 70.7% of survivors were women.
- 52.8% of survivors were white, and 42.8% were Black/African American.
- Alarmingly, 43% of incidents resulted in serious injuries.
- Offender Statistics:
- Among offenders in Michigan, 18.1% were in the age group between 30-34.
- 71.1% of offenders were men.
- 49% of offenders were white & 43% were Black/African American.
Statistics Broken Down on the Lakeshore (Muskegon, Newaygo, and Oceana Counties)
There were 1,665 domestic violence incidents reported to police (1,311 in Muskegon County, 134 in Newaygo County, and 220 in Oceana County) in 2022. Of these incidents, 823 resulted in injuries (51% in Muskegon County, 38% in Newaygo County, & 43% in Oceana County).
Relationships of Offenders to Survivors
A majority of domestic violence incidents are between dating couples (boyfriend/girlfriends). 28% of all incidents shared a dating relationship. Other high percentages of relationships included parents, siblings, and spouses. See below for a break down of percentages of survivor/offender relationships.
These statistics underscore the urgency of addressing domestic violence within local communities. It is important to remember that the information above only displays the statistics for what HAS BEEN reported. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics survey (published October 5, 2021), only about half of all domestic violence incidents are reported to law enforcement.
Raising Awareness and Support
One of the challenges in combating domestic violence is that it often goes unreported, and survivors may find it difficult to share their experiences. We must raise awareness and provide support to those affected. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, but we need to engage in open and continuous conversations throughout the year.
We often get asked how someone can support a friend or loved one who discloses violence or trauma to them. It can be difficult for a survivor to disclose any part of their experience with others. If someone comes to you for support, start by believing them. You can’t take away what happened to someone, but you can listen to them, believe them, and be a source of comfort.
Some things you can say to someone who has been impacted by domestic or sexual violence:
- “I believe you.” The most important thing to do when supporting a survivor is validate their experience. Let them know you believe them.
- “It wasn’t your fault.” It is essential that a survivor understand they are not responsible for their assault or abuse. Be a supportive voice and remind them that they are not to blame.
- “I’m sorry this happened to you.” Mindful language is key: let survivors know that what happened was unacceptable, and that you take their experience and feelings seriously.
- “Can I help?” Let survivors know you are there to support them without being forceful. This allows survivors power of choice on whether to seek out your help.
- "What do you need most right now?” Give the survivor space to decide what comes next; there is no single right or wrong way for a survivor to respond to an assault or abuse.
It takes a lot of courage for a survivor of domestic violence or sexual assault to share their story with anyone. Never underestimate your power to affect the course of a survivor’s healing journey! The 24-Hour Domestic Violence Hotline is always available at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).
Local Nonprofits Taking Action
Several Lakeshore nonprofits are actively working to combat domestic violence, providing critical support, intervention, and counseling services. These organizations include:
The mission of the Child Abuse Council of Muskegon County is to prevent and treat child abuse and neglect through education, child advocacy, and community collaboration.
Children's Advocacy Center
Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) is a model that supports a compassionate, coordinated community response to allegations of sexual or physical abuse. This means that when a child discloses abuse, instead of having to go from agency to agency telling their story several times, the child is brought to a friendly, neutral facility where their needs come first. Highly specialized staff will facilitate a forensic interview; and if needed, a medical examination. The family advocate will provide information and crisis counseling for parents/caregivers. It is through the Children's Advocacy Center that families will be provided information regarding case tracking, referrals for services, and support from our compassionate and dedicated staff.
Within CAC, services include:
- Forensic Interviews for Suspected Child Sexual Abuse Victims
- Child Sexual Abuse Medical Examinations
- Child Sexual and Severe Physical Abuse Case Reviews
- Non-Offending Parent Support Group/Therapy
- Therapy for Child Victims
- Court Preparation and Support
Court Appointed Special Advocate
The CASA program provides trained volunteers to act as advocates for abused or neglected children. A CASA volunteer is appointed by a family court judge and sworn in as an officer of the court. He or she provides the judge with a carefully researched background of the child to help the court make a sound decision about that child's future. A CASA volunteer can thoroughly examine a child's case, has knowledge of community resources, and can make recommendations to the court regarding what is in the best interest of the child. While CASAs are independent advocates, they work closely with social service caseworkers and the child's attorney to ensure that each child's voice is heard.
Prevention Through Education
To end child abuse, we need to talk openly about a subject that is extremely uncomfortable. Child Abuse Council of Muskegon County offers age-appropriate prevention through education for children and young adults. These programs address topics like child abuse prevention, personal safety, conflict management, education on healthy relationships, the realities of teenage pregnancy, and human trafficking awareness.
Communities Overcoming Violent Encounters (COVE) was established to provide shelter, protection, and advocacy to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault while also educating the community about the root causes of violence. For more than forty years, survivors in Mason, Lake, Oceana, and now Manistee counties have turned to COVE in times of need.
24/7 - 365 Crisis Support Line
- 24-hour Crisis Helpline: 1-800-950-5808
- Crisis Intervention and Emergency Response
- Emotional Support
- Safety Planning
- Financial Assistance
- Domestic Violence Support Group
- Children’s Group
- Healing Art’s Support Group
- 23-bed Shelter
- Food Pantry
- Laundry Room
- Meditation Garden
- Support with criminal or civil legal issues
- Assistance with paperwork – PPO’s, Divorce, Victim Impact Statements, Victim Compensation, etc.
- Court support and advocacy with legal system
- Legal Clinic – attorneys providing pro-bono support
- Crisis Intervention
- Emotional Support
- Parenting Skills
- Kid’s Club
COVE Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) are registered nurses who have completed specialized education and clinical preparation in the medical forensic care of the patient who has experienced sexual assault or abuse.
One component of the streamlined care COVE SANE can offer is the comprehensive medical forensic examination. This exam at it’s broadest is composed of the medical forensic history, a detailed physical and emotional assessment, written/electronic and photographic documentation, collection and management of forensic samples, and providing emotional and social support and resources. The SANE also testifies in any legal proceed-ings related to the examination and ensures the proper chain of custody and integrity of the samples is maintained so that the evidence will be admissible in court.
The COVE Nurse examiners will work alongside a COVE Sexual Assault Crisis Advocate and with other disciplines in the community. These may include: law enforcement, crime lab personnel, child protective services, prosecutors and attorneys. These professionals are also striving to assure that the response to a patient who has been sexually assaulted is victim-centered and compassionate, resulting in a successful criminal justice response.
SANE exams are free, confidential and the survivor has the right to determine if they want to report to law enforcement. Exams are available ages 13 and above
Every Woman’s Place strengthens families in Muskegon County and provides services for victims and survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and sex trafficking.
Residential Crisis Center
Their residential crisis center provides a place for survivors and their children to be safe in a supportive and non-judgmental environment. Survivors are able to start the healing process, explore safe options, and receive support from their dedicated staff.
- 24-Hour Crisis Line - If you need to talk to someone because you have been affected by domestic violence, sexual assault or sex trafficking , please call our Crisis Line at (231) 722-3333. We respond 24 hours a day, and all calls are confidential and anonymous. Staff are available to help survivors assess the danger they are in, and to provide safety planning and crisis support.
- Walk-In Crisis Intervention - Meet with their walk-in advocates for:
- Safety assessment and planning
- Information and referrals
- Advocacy and supportive services
The Walk-In Crisis Intervention staff are available on weekdays from 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m at 1221 W. Laketon in Muskegon. Staff can assist with your immediate needs as well as provide information and referrals to services offered by other agencies.
- Domestic Assault Response Team (DART) is available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week to assist victims of domestic violence and their families. DART team members are contacted primarily by hospitals or police and assist victims at the hospital, on the scene, or at another safe location by providing support, safety planning, advocacy, referrals and information about the effects of domestic violence and how to get help.
- Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) is available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week to assist victims of sexual assault and their families. SART members are contacted by local hospitals and assist victims by providing support, safety planning, advocacy, referrals and information about the effects of sexual assault and how to get help.
Both of these programs work to provide victims with the knowledge needed to make informed decisions based on the options available to them.
Domestic and sexual violence are traumatic experiences that can have a profound impact on an individual and their entire family. Survivors often speak of the emotional scars that have been created as a result of the abuse. We provide free counseling services for adult and child survivors, and for children and youth who have witnessed domestic abuse.
Counseling is provided in a safe and confidential environment in which survivors are free to express their feelings, thoughts and fears. Our staff is specialized in counseling for domestic violence, sexual assault and sex trafficking survivors and can help men, women, and children heal from the trauma–from yesterday or from years ago.
Contact them for one-on-one counseling or for our:
- Domestic violence survivor support group - This group offers domestic violene survivors support, safety planning assistance, and education about the impacts and effects of violence.
- Sexual assault survivor support group - This group is for survivors of sexual assault or sex trafficking and provides support, resources, and guidance along the path to healing.
- Parenting After Domestic Violence support group - This group provides parenting support and education on the effects of violence on children and youth exposed to violence in the home, the benefits and how-to of healthy communication, as well as discipline strategies and other parenting information.
- Counseling and Advocacy Services - Every Woman’s Place offers individual counseling and advocacy services for children who have been exposed to domestic or sexual violence. These services are free of charge and provided in a safe and confidential environment.
- Children’s Education and Support Group - Open to children, age 5-12, who have been exposed to domestic violence, this group offers emotional support and important education to help children process the effects of domestic violence.
To learn more about their services or to schedule an appointment, please call (231) 759-7909.
Their Survivor Advocacy program is for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, or sex trafficking who are not living in our Residential Crisis Center. Survivors are paired with an advocate who assists with a range of supportive strategies, services, and guidance. Advocates in this program provide services in an outpatient, or non-residential, setting.
EWP is committed to sharing resources, providing information, and using their voices to advocate for the survivors in our community. One way they support victims and survivors is educating others about the effects violence has on individuals, their families, and on our wider community.
Speakers and Community Presentations -Every Woman’s Place offers a variety of educational and advocacy presentations to increase our community’s understanding of domestic violence, sexual assault, sex trafficking, and the impact they have on survivors. Speakers are available to present to groups large and small at schools, businesses, churches, and community events.
Empathy Training - Their Empathy Training teaches participants the importance of empathy, helpful techniques to be empathetic and general information about domestic and sexual violence. EWP staff are available to provide empathy training to businesses and community groups at a minimal cost.
Awareness Events - They organize and host a variety of community and survivor events in recognition of Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month (February), Sexual Assault Awareness Month (April) and Domestic Violence Awareness Month (October). Activities include the Clothesline Project, Purchase with a Purpose events, our Silhouette Project, Denim Day, and Purple Thursday. Visit our Events Calendar for upcoming events!
Dating Violence Education - Studies show that one in five teenagers has experienced violence in a dating relationship; however, fewer than 3% have reported the incident to an authority figure such as a teacher, counselor, social worker or police officer. Every Woman’s Place offers a free Dating Violence Prevention Program for area schools that teaches youth about healthy relationship development, non-violent conflict resolution, and bystander intervention.
Legal Aid of Western Michigan are a nonprofit law office. We deliver free legal help to 1) people who live in or near poverty, and 2) seniors. We help when civil (non-criminal) legal problems threaten our clients’ basic living needs, like food-security and income-security, housing, healthcare access, and safety from domestic violence.
Law Services Covered:
- Divorce for survivors of domestic violence
- In special circumstances, divorce to ensure income maintenance and equitable property division
- Defense of custody for natural custodial parents within divorce, custody, support, and paternity cases
- Defense of natural parents’ rights in minor guardianship cases
- Personal Protection Order representation
- Eviction defense
- Representing clients facing loss of a federal housing subsidy or denied access to a federal housing subsidy
- Challenging mortgage foreclosures and predatory mortgage lending and servicing practices
- Challenging land contract forfeitures and option contracts
- Mobile home park litigation
- Tax forfeiture defense
- Challenging unfair housing practices
- Representation in SSI appeals for individuals eligible for State Disability Assistance or receiving State Disability Assistance, cessation cases, and overpayment cases
- Representation in administrative hearings/appeals regarding denial or loss of cash assistance, food assistance, child daycare assistance, Medicaid/CHIP assistance, home health benefits, and unemployment benefits (including fraud allegations)
- Defense of debt collection actions
- Bankruptcy for eligible debtors with special circumstances
- Litigation regarding consumer purchases, student loans, debt assignments, utilities and collection tactics
- Tax controversies with the IRS
- Criminal record expungements
- Sex offender registry removal petitions
- Child abuse registry removal hearings
To strengthen families and prevent child abuse and neglect.
Children's Advocacy Center
Forensic Interviews are provided to children, teenagers and vulnerable adults who may have been victims of sexual abuse, severe physical abuse, or who may have been witness to a violent crime. These interviews are designed to gather the facts from a child in a manner that is developmentally appropriate, safe and comfortable for the child and family.
Kids Have Rights
Kids Have Rights (KHR), the school-based prevention program created by the Center, educates and empowers students, school staff, parents, and caregivers to recognize, report, and prevent child sexual abuse.
Safe Sleep Education
Education for families on infant safe sleep.
Little Bear Care Closet
A year-round donation space with a wide range of products that families may need through their healing process.
Care Seat Safety
Education for families on car seat safety for kids.
The Hope Project provides case management, individual therapy, group therapy, recovery groups, equine therapy, music therapy, advocacy, mentoring, transportation, hygiene products, referrals, and extra support services in West Michigan for victims/survivors of sex trafficking of all ages. In efforts to prevent sex trafficking, The Hope Project also provides services for young ladies, 11 to 25 years old, who have experienced significant life challenges that have made them more vulnerable to sex trafficking.
Survivor Client Services
They meet survivors of sex trafficking right where they are. With each survivor, we assess their needs and identify available resources to support their path to healing. They do their best to be that extra support in her life so she can get the help she needs. Extra support includes but is not limited to assisting her in court or appointments, visiting or writing to her if she's in jail or prison, connecting her to other resources, helping with transportation, providing hygiene products, etc. The Hope Project also offers counseling, group therapy, support groups, and recovery groups. If the survivor is in need of a mentor, they will connect her with our mentoring program. Soon we will also be offering housing for adult survivors!
The Mentor Program is for female survivors of sex trafficking and young women, 11-25 years old, who could be more vulnerable to trafficking. The Mentor Program connects these ladies with compassionate mentors who inspire hope and equip them with the tools to overcome significant life challenges and achieve their goals. Mentees and Mentors commit to meeting at least 4 hours a month for one year.
Lakeshore Human Trafficking Task Force (LHTTF)
The Hope Project founded and co-chairs this task force. They meet monthly to provide a collaborative response to human trafficking in Muskegon County. The task force consists of local law enforcement, community agencies, community activists, and survivors of human trafficking. Our goals of the task force are to prevent, educate, respond, support, and connect.
They are in the process of opening a rehabilitative home for girls, 11 to 17 years old, who have been victims of domestic sexual trafficking. The Hope Project's treatment programs will include residential and non-residential services. Their program will utilize a holistic approach to rehabilitation by providing comprehensive services to address the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of recovery.
Hope Village is in an undisclosed location, in a beautiful and secluded area of West Michigan, with peaceful outdoor recreation areas. Hope Village will utilize a multi-disciplinary team to provide comprehensive services for sex trafficked girls in a loving environment, including counseling, life skills, education, and case management. Their vision includes an expansion to three homes at Hope Village so more victims of sex trafficking can begin their journey of restoration.
Women’s Information Service Inc. (WISE) provides advocacy, safety options, and support services to survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and sex trafficking. WISE empowers individuals and families through respect and equality and works toward strengthening our communities through awareness, prevention, and education.
24 Hour Emergency Shelter
WISE has an emergency shelter. Our shelter services are open to individuals and their children who are fleeing intimate partner domestic violence or sexual abuse.
To begin your shelter assessment, call our 24-hour crisis line at (231) 796-6600 or toll-free at 1-800-374-WISE (9473).
24 Hour Hotline
Advocates are available 24/7 to speak with survivors of domestic or sexual violence. Call 1-800-374-WISE.
WISE’s Outreach Program is designed to serve clients who do not need emergency shelter.
Throughout the year, WISE advocates lead classes for clients in Mecosta, Osceola and Newaygo counties. Class topics include pattern changing, parenting and general group support.
Domestic Violence / Sexual Assualt Response Team
WISE and our community partners operate the Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Response Team to serve survivors in all Mecosta, Osceola and Newaygo counties.
WISE is not a current United Way of the Lakeshore Community Invested Program for the 2022-2024 Grant Cycle.
In 2022, United Way Funded Partners connected 1,245 families to local programs and services.
Domestic violence is not just a criminal issue; it's a public health crisis that affects millions of lives. It's a problem that demands our attention, compassion, and action. By raising awareness, supporting survivors, and backing the efforts of nonprofits in our communities, we can take meaningful steps toward ending domestic violence and creating safer, healthier environments for all. Your support can make a difference – give today. Together, we can make our communities safer and more supportive for everyone.
By donating to United Way of the Lakeshore’s Greatest Needs Fund you help fund programs that connect families to domestic violence intervention, safe shelters, counseling, and more. Even a small donation can make a significant impact and provide critical resources to survivors.