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Safe at Home (Part 1): Support for survivors of domestic violence

October is domestic violence awareness month. At Michigan Radio, we are taking a look at how domestic violence impacts our communities.

We are also looking at the support and intervention programs in place to assist those impacted by domestic violence.

Safe House Center is one such support organization. It provides assistance to those affected by domestic violence or sexual assault.

Jenn White, host of Michigan Radio’s All Things Considered, talks with Barbara Niess, director of Safe House Center in Ann Arbor.

In recent years, there has been a growing need for the services provided by Safe House. Niess explains:

“As the issue of domestic violence and sexual assault has gained awareness, the number of people seeking supportive services from us has skyrocketed. I can’t say, necessarily, that domestic violence and sexual assault have increased. They haven’t. It’s always been there. It’s just that there are more vehicles for people to report it and get the help that they need.”

What they need is crisis intervention. Safe House is the only center in Washtenaw County that provides services for survivors of domestic violence. The key, says Niess, is safety planning.

“We recognize that survivors of domestic violence are at various stages of the relationship that they’re in. Some people say to me ‘Why does it continue? Why does she stay?’ The relationships begin and continue because of love…frequently, survivors are thinking they can go back to the way it was. We talk about how to keep yourself safe while you’re staying in the relationship. We also talk about how to stay safe after leaving the relationship.”

There are between 900 and 1000 cases of domestic violence reported annually in Washtenaw County, though Niess says people often expect the numbers to be much lower.

For someone experiencing domestic violence, the first resource for anyone in danger is to call 9-1-1.

“If you’re really wondering, you can also call Safe House and say, ‘I heard this interview on the radio…I’m worried that my relationship might be this’ You don’t deserve this. It’s not your fault. There is help. And we are happy to help you put together a plan to be safe.”

Niess says,

“We have lots of friends and family calling in that say, ‘I have this friend that I’m concerned about.’ We talk about why they are concerned and we talk about safe ways to let them know.”

-Meg Cramer


If you are or if someone you know is a survivor of domestic violence, please call:

  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
  • Safe House Center 24-hour help line, Washtenaw County: 734-995-5444
  • S.A.F.E. PLACE 24-hour crisis line, Battle Creek: 269-965-SAFE (7233)
  • Alternatives to Domestic Aggression, Washtenaw County: 734-971-9781 Ext. 430
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