Members of the Reach the Moon Grant Team of Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, accept a Domestic Violence Prevention Award at the ceremony.

Members of the Reach the Moon Grant Team of Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, accept a Domestic Violence Prevention Award at the ceremony.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

Community recognized at domestic violence prevention award ceremony

By: Kayla Dimick | C&G Newspapers | Published November 5, 2019


OAKLAND COUNTY — Several local members of law enforcement were recognized for their domestic violence prevention efforts Oct. 30.

The officers were honored at the 2019 Oakland County Domestic Violence Silent Witness and Awards Ceremony inside the Oakland County Board of Commissioners’ auditorium in Pontiac.

Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper hosted the ceremony.

“One of the things that I want to talk to you about is that in Oakland County, we have thus far this year about 17 murders. That’s very low,” Cooper said. “But I need to tell you that 41% of those murders are domestic violence cases, and over the years that I’ve been here, sometimes that amount goes up to 80%.”

Aimee Nimeh, the CEO and president of the HAVEN domestic violence shelter, gave an overview on the Oakland County Coordinating Council Against Domestic Violence, an organization formed to sustain a community response to domestic violence. Members include judges, prosecutors, law enforcement officers, legislators, social service providers, educators, health care professionals, clergy members, business people and other members of the community.

HAVEN is an Oakland County-based nonprofit organization that offers comprehensive programs for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. It provides shelter, counseling, advocacy and educational programming to almost 30,000 people annually.

“Most of you probably know that 1 in 3 Michigan families are impacted by domestic violence overall, and that is an extremely staggering statistic,” Nimeh said. “All of you in this room know somebody has either been a survivor, knows a survivor — you work with them.”

Nimeh also noted that if anyone in the room was facing domestic violence or felt triggered by any of the topics discussed, there were advocates available to speak with victims on-site.

The event’s keynote speaker talked about her experience as a domestic violence survivor.

She said that as a child she was physically and sexually abused by her father, and when she met her now ex-husband, she chose to ignore the warning signs that he was also an abuser.

“He started using power and control over me, which I didn’t understand at the time. I ignored the red flags because going back home was a horrible thought, and I couldn’t afford to be on my own yet,” she said. “So I stayed and married my husband, hoping things would just get better. I ran away from home for a better life, but the next 14 years were like living in prison.”

Throughout her marriage, she said, she endured many different types of abuse. Her husband did allow her to go to law school, however, because eventually he wouldn’t have to work as much, she said.

Eventually, she said, her husband filed for divorce, and she moved out of their home quickly when his anger surrounding the divorce flared.

“In April 2016, the gavel pounded. The divorce was finalized, and the prison doors were flung open. I was happy, but I was scared, because my kids were left behind to deal with his power and control issues,” she said. “I was grateful that the court allowed me to keep in contact with my stepson, which they didn’t have to do.”

Oakland County Assistant Prosecutor Sara Pope-Stranes and Lt. John Haput, of the Farmington Hills Police Department, made a presentation in remembrance of domestic violence victims. Pope-Starnes and Haput are both co-chairs of the Coordinating Council Against Domestic Violence.

Lt. Timothy Willis and Deputy James Kavalick, both of the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office, each received the Domestic Violence Hero Award.

Detective Theresa Young, of the Southfield Police Department; Detective Dawn Mullins, of the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office; investigator Dave Szlezyngier and Assistant Prosecutor John Pietrofesa, of the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office; Angie Reid, of the 51st District Court in Waterford; Heather Herbert, of Lakeshore Legal Aid; Madison High School employees Stacey Cauley and Bonnie Girson; and the Reach the Moon Grant Team of Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, all received Domestic Violence Prevention Awards.

The Oakdale Community Chorale offered a moment of remembrance for victims through song.