‘Domestic violence is the No. 1 crime in Southfield’

Southfield to hold 2022 Walk to Raise Awareness of Domestic Violence

By: Andy Kozlowski | Southfield Sun | Published September 22, 2022

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SOUTHFIELD — Domestic violence is a complex problem that is present in every community, and Southfield is trying to be part of the solution. In addition to partnerships and police training aimed at resolving abuse situations, the city holds a walk each fall to raise awareness. The event empowers victims with the knowledge that help is available, and warns others that abuse won’t be tolerated.

The 2022 Walk to Raise Awareness of Domestic Violence will take place 11 a.m.-2 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 2, beginning and ending on the front lawn of the Southfield Municipal Campus, located at 26000 Evergreen Road. The first 500 registered participants will receive a free package that includes a T-shirt, a wristband, and an informational card that will be mailed to their home.

To register, visit https://walktoraiseawarenessofdv.qmigroupinc.com.

Now in its third year, the walk coincides with October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The 2-mile walk will be preceded by a press conference where officials will discuss the impact of domestic violence on the community and the resources available to address it. There will also be testimony by survivors of abuse. The free event is sponsored this year by Huntington Bank.

“I consider domestic violence to be a national crisis because an estimated 10 million people per year, of all genders, are victims of this crime, and a significant number of incidents go unreported. Domestic violence occurs in multiple forms, including physical abuse, verbal abuse, psychological abuse, isolation and financial manipulation,” Southfield Police Chief Elvin Barren said in an email.

“An unfortunate reality is that many people are unknowingly associated with someone suffering from domestic violence. Therefore, it is important for us to continue raising awareness to reduce the cycle of abuse. Each year, participation in our annual walk has increased. This initiative is a key component for increasing public awareness and educating victims regarding available resources.”

The walk, organized by the Southfield Domestic Violence Group, is part of a larger effort by the city to address the issue. In early 2020, Barren unveiled a plan called the “Community Harms — Directed Policing Model.” It was a new approach to policing in the city, with a focus on issues such as domestic violence.

Barren — who became Southfield’s chief in 2019, after a 21-year stint with the Detroit Police, where he retired as the deputy chief — knew that it would take a collaborative effort between police and other stakeholders to tackle such a nuanced issue.

So he reached out to HAVEN — a Pontiac-based nonprofit specializing in domestic violence that provides shelter, counseling, court advocacy, financial aid and other services to abuse victims. HAVEN even has programs that help to rehabilitate abusers, who are often struggling with emotional issues of their own.

In talking with HAVEN, Barren learned of the Coordinated Community Response Team — a system where police receive specialized training that allows them to identify abusive situations, and forward those cases to advocates at HAVEN. The advocates know how to discreetly intervene and safely extricate victims from dangerous situations, and provide support to them afterward.

Each case begins with two officers who complete a “danger assessment” form while on scene, outlining any concerns. A thorough documentation is then completed and presented to investigators and prosecutors, at which point it goes through the courts, as well as HAVEN.

To reform offenders, there are court probation programs that involve mandatory attendance of intervention classes. Male offenders attend HEAL (Helping Explore Accountable Lifestyles), while female offenders attend WEAVE (Women Examining Accountability in Violent Encounters).

“The program is based on the concept that abuse is a choice, and that participants need to integrate accountability in their lives,” Barren said.

In the CCRT’s first year, officers were dispatched to more than 1,000 incidents involving intimate partner violence. The police also added a unit specializing in the issue of strangulation — one of the most violent expressions of domestic violence, often resulting in serious injury or death.

However, there are many cases where the victim may appear fine, with no physical symptoms. The abuse can be purely psychological, but is still about control. The situation can become even more difficult when children are involved.

Kenson Siver, the mayor of Southfield, said that domestic violence continues to be relevant, and the walk sends a powerful message.

“Sadly, domestic violence is the No. 1 crime in Southfield. It occurs almost daily,” Siver said in an email. “We all know that violence is never the answer — violence never resolves a disagreement. Love is not about violence. Might does not make right.”