Survivors brand thoughts on clothing in student center
By Chanel Stitt
Over 5,000 people reach out to SafeHouse Center annually for their many programs such as the helpline, shelter, medical care, support groups, legal advocacy, counseling and a response team. Together these programs help those in need of assistance with 24-hour service.
Developed in the 1970s, SafeHouse Center stands by its mission, “to assist and empower those whose lives have been torn apart by the crimes of domestic abuse and sexual assault; and to build communities where these disgraceful crimes of violence and injury cannot exist.”
During the week of Oct. 17, a display of shirts and jeans that survivors had created hung in the student center. The clothes are a part of the Clothesline Project which helps to express emotions and empower women after what they’ve been through. Each color represents the type of abuse the survivors have experienced.
On Oct. 18, Laura Hoehner and Tianna Sharp, both counselors and advocates for SafeHouse Center, were at WCC providing information about domestic violence and sexual assault.
There are not always clear signs to look for if one is experiencing or entering an abusive relationship.
“There is no cookie cutter of a domestic violence survivor, or red flags,” said Hoehner.
However, there are small signs that will stick out very well to some people. Others may not be able to point them out right away or in time Hoehner mentioned.
“If your relationship has changed with them heavily, that would be one huge sign of isolation,” said Sharp.
People are also known to create fabricated stories to cover up either physical or emotional abuse. Whether they were in the hospital, or missed hanging out with friends.
These occurrences, when repetitive, can be signs that a supporter may notice as markable changes in their friend or loved one.
When supporting a survivor, it is important to not yell at them and make them feel bad about their situation. According to the SafeHouse Center, supporters should be aware that the rape, assault, or violence was not the survivor’s fault.
“Offering a supportive environment, making them feel like they’re not going to be judged and that they can come to you and say how they’re feeling is probably the biggest thing you can do,” said Sharp.
SafeHouse Center supports members of the LGBT community who can experience different types of challenges.
Possible types of abuse in the LGBT community are being unfairly outed, discriminatory responses and people not believing survivors because of their own homophobia.
The two representatives began to work for SafeHouse Center to help those in need for different reasons.
“I am a huge advocate for women’s rights,” Sharp said, “Part of this is transformed into violence against women. It’s a huge problem and it’s a huge stigma as well. For me to help address it and help survivors, it combats against those problems.”
“I actually know survivors of sexual assault,” Hoehner said. “I wanted to get into the community and raise awareness. I focused a lot on my degrees on women’s studies, counseling, advocacy and how to change rape culture.”
There are volunteer opportunities at SafeHouse Center, several programs need volunteers and all ages are accepted.
The problem of domestic violence and sexual assault affects everyone. Whether it’s a friend, mom or other relative. It is still a relevant threat and can happen to anyone. The statistics are that 1 in 4 women report experiencing domestic violence and 1 in 6 women report experiencing sexual assault; sexual assault is the most unreported crime, only one in three incidents are reported, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.
SafeHouse is located in Ann Arbor and there is also 24-hour helpline that can be reached at 734-995-5444.