Each year, Turning Point hosts Tara’s Walk to raise awareness of domestic violence.

Each year, Turning Point hosts Tara’s Walk to raise awareness of domestic violence.

Photo provided by Sharman Davenport

Organizations spread the word about Domestic Violence Awareness Month

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published October 16, 2020

METRO DETROIT — October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and local shelters and aid organizations are spreading the word to those in need that help is available.

Sharman Davenport, the CEO of Macomb County shelter Turning Point, said having a month to discuss domestic violence and raise awareness of it is very important.

“I think it’s important to have this month because survivors of domestic violence are living that situation in secret,” she said. “They often don’t speak out on their own behalf and the assaults happen behind closed doors. We have Domestic Violence Awareness Month so the community can be aware of this prevalent issue and how it is a detriment to women, to children and to the community at large.”

Lori Kitchen-Buschel, the executive director of Wayne County shelter First Step, added that by talking about domestic violence out in the open, it can encourage those who are living with it to seek help.

“So many survivors or those going through domestic violence do so in secret or with a sense of shame,” Kitchen-Buschel said. “It’s important we remove that sense of shame from suffering through domestic violence. Many people survive and find peace after enduring this violence, and raising awareness that those who are still going through it aren’t alone and that there is a way through it is important.”

Davenport said domestic violence and abuse can take many forms and can harm people in different ways.

“Domestic violence can be physical, emotional or financial abuse. It’s a pattern of abuse,” she explained. “Physical abuse is obvious; this is slapping, hitting, choking. When people call our hotline, we look for lethality and see if someone has choked them or pulled a gun on them or if there is a history of life-threatening danger. This can also include rape. Financial abuse is withholding money or threatening not to pay bills. Emotional can be threatening others, it can be screaming or belittling or any other way of controlling someone emotionally.”

Kitchen-Buschel said that domestic violence is so common that virtually every person either knows someone who has been affected by it or has been affected by it themselves.

“It affects one in four people in their lifetime,” she said. “There are other awareness months for other things; we share October with Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and that affects one in eight people. Everyone is either touched by domestic violence or knows someone who is affected by domestic violence. So most people don’t realize how prevalent it is in our community.”

Among the things both want people to learn more about during Domestic Violence Awareness Month is how to recognize the signs of it.

“We want people to know what the signs are of people who need help,” Davenport said. “A lot of times if someone is in a domestic violence situation, they might be isolating and not engaging with friends and family anymore. You get a sense of secrecy around their relationship. There is a loss of self-confidence and self-esteem, there can be depression, they might avoid certain situations. For children who live in domestic violence-afflicted households, you might see a delay of emotional development or a fear of leaving their parent.”

She added that educating people about the realities of domestic violence is more important than ever.

“Domestic violence is up since the pandemic started,” said Davenport. “We have been getting a 25% increase to our hotline. According to reports from the police, it’s up everywhere. Considering it was already a large number, we should be very concerned about this. There’s more isolation and people going through emotional and financial difficulties has caused this increase in cases and also in their severity.”

Both women want people to know help is out there and no one is turned away. In addition to counseling, they offer services such as personal protection assistance, a forensic nurse examiner’s program, legal services and supportive housing services.

“If people are thinking they are in a situation where they might be in a bad place, they can call our hotline and we can work through it all with them and talk to them about what constitutes domestic violence and what their options are to move forward,” said Davenport. “We’re the only domestic violence shelter in Macomb County.”

“We serve all people, all races, all religions, all genders and gender identities,” said Kitchen-Buschel. “We primarily serve the Wayne County area, but we turn no one away. We welcome people who may not just be going through it now. If you went through something 20 years ago, you can come to us for support.”

Turning Point’s 24-hour crisis line is (586) 463-6990. The First Step 24-hour hotline is (734) 722-6800.