Affirmations, HAVEN team up to raise awareness of sexual violence

By: Joshua Gordon | Woodward Talk | Published April 16, 2014

FERNDALE — It can be hard for victims of sexual violence to open up about their traumatic experiences, according to Liz Bayer, a HAVEN advocate.

HAVEN, based in Bingham Farms, serves as Oakland County’s center for the prevention and treatment of domestic and sexual violence. Through several programs, the nonprofit organization works to promote a violence-free society and help victims when they need it.

So, in order to help sexual violence victims to open up and talk with others who have been in similar situations, HAVEN has teamed up with Affirmations in Ferndale to present Take Back the Night April 25 in downtown Ferndale

The event will include an awareness march through Ferndale, a candlelight vigil and an opportunity for sexual violence survivors to speak to those in attendance.

“I have had people tell me that they found it really healing to be able to share their story,” Bayer said. “I think, a lot of times, these people are told not to say anything or to seek help, but for them to go on stage and share their story, it can be very empowering. They can also hear other peoples’ stories and they know they are not alone and the only one going through this. They can know help is available.”

Take Back the Night will take place at Affirmations, 290 W. Nine Mile Road, beginning at 5 p.m. with sign-making for the march. At 6 p.m., staff from both organizations will provide education on domestic and sexual violence before the march begins at 7 p.m.

Then, at around 7:30 p.m., the candlelight vigil will begin back at Affirmations, along with the survivor speak-out. All events are open to the public, but Bayer said staff asks that no one leaves once the speak-out has begun.

“We are hoping to get more people involved and to come to this event so they can learn more about how sexual violence impacts the community,” Bayer said. “And obviously, we are offering healing and connecting with others, which can be a therapeutic thing. These people have gone through violence, and we want people to learn more about how these issues can impact their community.”

For Affirmations, Director of Communications Cass Varner said people may not think about domestic or sexual violence taking place in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, but it is as much an issue in same-sex relationships as it is in straight relationships.

“Ultimately, we are really looking to raise awareness and educate people on sexual violence and intimate partner violence,” Varner said. “People think in the LGBT community, some of these things don’t exist, but it does, and we want to raise awareness throughout the community. We consider HAVEN to be experts in this particular field of domestic and sexual violence, so they are coming on board in an effort to really target their efforts to the LGBT community.”

The march through downtown may be a small thing, but Bayer said it helps spread the word instead of talking to those who attend at Affirmations, who are already aware of the problems.

“I think the march is important because it can get people involved and aware of the issues who may not otherwise be involved,” she said. “The speak-out is like a preaching to the choir type of thing, as people who are showing up are already supportive of our efforts, but marching people in the community, we reach people going to bars and going out on Friday nights. They may see what we are doing and want to learn more about how they can help.”

Varner said when people see something they are not familiar with, it is natural for them to find a way to learn more.

“The march is a very visible action, and you can’t help but see it because folks are right in the middle of the road,” she said. “It is a natural reaction for folks to want to know what is going on — what are we doing and why and what does it mean? This march creates an opportunity to talk to folks about important issues.”

While staff from both organizations is looking to spread the word about sexual violence, Varner said they also aren’t losing track of trying to help those that already know about the problem, maybe even firsthand.

“I think one of the things about this event is it is definitely a cathartic process for some,” she said. “Those that have gone through the horrific experience, it can be helpful for them to let out in a safe space and tell the story and help prevent others from going down the same road.”

For more information, visit or call (248) 334-1284.