Support Domestic Violence Awareness Month with Haven House

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Aubreanna Miller, News Editor

Haven House has a long list of fundraisers, events, and awareness activities planned for Domestic Violence Awareness Month, as well as resources to help anyone affected by domestic violence.

Wayne State College has partnered in many ways with Haven House over the past few decades, and this month, students and staff have stepped up to support the cause in countless forms.

The organization kicked off the month by marching in the 2021 Homecoming Parade alongside Theta Phi Alpha, a sorority on WSC’s campus.

Another event planned for this month comes from an addition of the Student Health and Counseling Center’s “Healthy and Happy Hour,” which takes place in the Kanter Student Center every Thursday. On Oct. 14, Haven House will host the hour, presenting a table where students can decorate Halloween masks, eat candy, and encourage others with the slogan “Don’t Mask Domestic Violence.”

Active Minds, a club on campus that focuses on mental health support and awareness, has coordinated with Haven House to hold a candlelight vigil on Wednesday, Oct. 20 at 8 p.m. This will include a presentation about domestic violence, survivor accounts, a conversation about people who have died from domestic violence around the Wayne County area and a moment of silence for those lives lost.

“Our hope is that we bring awareness about domestic violence and that we give courage to those who are maybe in this situation to reach out for help,” Hannah Mills, Active Mind’s President, said.

Moving off campus and into the surrounding community, other events include Chamber of Commerce coffee hours, National Wear Purple Day, Trunk-or-Treat and fundraisers with Runza and the Target Circle app.

On Oct. 8, Northeast Nebraska Community College and Siouxland Chamber of Commerce collaborated a coffee hour with Haven House at the College Center in South Sioux City. The Wayne coffee hour event, brought to the public by the Wayne Chamber of Commerce will be held at the Haven House office on Oct. 15 at 10 a.m.

National Wear Purple Day falls on Thursday, Oct. 21. Everyone is encouraged to wear purple to support domestic violence awareness and take pictures of themselves and their co-workers, team or classes. Share the photos of everyone wearing purple on social media with the hashtags #DVAM21, #HavenHouseNE and #gopurpleDVAM.

Haven House will have a spot in The Heartland Counseling Trunk or Treat in South Sioux City and in the Wayne Trunk or Treat on Oct. 28 with WSC’s women’s ministry group, Delight.

On Oct. 26, community members can eat with their staff at Wayne’s Runza from 5-7 p.m., where a percentage of those funds will be donated to the organization. Finally, users of the Target Circle app can vote for Haven House as their favorite charity up until Dec. 31. In the end, Target gives donations to the top-rated charities, so every vote helps.

“The community here in Wayne, and also the surrounding service-area communities, have always been supportive of our mission for domestic violence and sexual assault awareness,” Connie Reyes, SA/DV Supervisor, said. “There have been times where we put ‘We need laundry soap’ on Facebook, and by the next morning we’ll have 10 jugs of laundry soap brought in from donors around the area.”

Tamara Torres, their Bilingual Advocate, expressed how grateful she feels for the community for spreading awareness. She described the bittersweetness of seeing new faces in their office. Unfamiliar faces means that more people currently experience domestic violence, but these people now receive the help they deserve because of the organization’s efforts to expand their reach.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month, according to Maureen Carrigg, Haven House’s Outreach Coordinator, launched nationwide in 1987 when communities realized that they needed to come together to do something about this horrible situation.

“It can happen to anyone, anywhere. It is not limited to one certain social class or in big cities,” Reyes said. “I hope to bring awareness for people to be on the lookout for different red flags in people’s relationships.”

Haven House’s mission statement explains that they are “dedicated to the elimination of violence against women, men, and children through empowerment, education, social action, and support services.”

The organization has three offices including one in Wayne, South Sioux City, Iowa and Hartington, Ne., which serve five counties including Cedar, Dakota, Dixon, Thurston, and Wayne.

Transportation, shelter, childcare, and employment make up the four cornerstones they implement when helping a victim rebuild their life. These foundations make it easier for people to start again.

“According to a federal report that I just read, it takes about seven times for someone to listen [and leave their abuser],” Carrigg said. “It’s a difficult situation, and it’s usually a case of logistics, where, especially around in a rural area like we have, they may not have reliable transportation.”

The staff at Haven House are well equipped to deal with all sorts of situations and offer support to everyone who reaches out.

Carrigg explained that they have a large collection of resources for those affected by domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, digital stalking, teen dating violence and more. Any person who has questions regarding these topics is encouraged to call their number at 402-375-5433.

Haven House supports people of all genders and sexual orientations. Also, they have Spanish speaking staff or the option of a language line if callers do not speak or are not comfortable with speaking English.

Often, the questions that they receive come from people wondering if their dating experiences are healthy and normal or not. Trained professionals will then offer actionable advice and emotional support.

“They may have something going on in their relationship where their partner doesn’t want them to go visit their family, or they want all their passwords to all their social media and they’re just wondering if this is something that’s normal in a relationship,” Carrigg said.

There is also an anonymous crisis hotline open 24/7 to those in emergency situations. That number is 1-800-440-4633.

All calls are anonymous, and workers ask questions such as “Are you safe?” and “Are you needing medical help at this time?” to gauge the situation. Haven House has a long list of resources to help a caller in an emergency.

Support comes in the form of those four cornerstones, but also through emergency medical care, education and advocation about human trafficking, protection orders, serving meals to the community, distributing donations to those in need and more.

“We served over 4,000 meals last year and I think part of that was because of Covid,” Carrigg said. “We have a little food pantry, so we’re always very grateful when student groups get together and do a supply drive for us so we always have food on hand to give out to people.”

Haven House also takes other forms of donations, with dish washing and laundry soap at the top of their list currently. Other desired items include, but are not limited to, personal hygiene items, feminine products, non-perishable food, office supplies, general cleaning supplies and monetary checks.

They also take clothing but ask those wanting to donate clothes to call first due to limited storage.

More ways to get involved and spread awareness include following their social media at Haven House on Facebook and @havenhousefsc on Instagram and stopping by their office to sign up as a volunteer.

If someone you know is in a poor or abusive relationship, Carrigg encourages you to direct them to Haven House. Sometimes people do not see a problem with their situation while they experience it, so just giving them that number to call can make a huge difference. Be patient, kind and continue to monitor the situation.

“It’s really hard to watch your friend go through something like that,” Carrigg said. “But the best thing to do is to be there. Listen and say here, here’s a phone number that can help you. These people can help.”

If you yourself are experiencing domestic violence, please call their number at 402-375-5433, or 1-800-440-4633, if your situation requires emergency attention.

“Whatever’s happening is not your fault, and it doesn’t make you less of a person that this happened to you,” Carrigg said. “You need to know that you are a valued human being. You deserve kindness and love. If there’s someone out there who does need help, I would encourage them to give us a call and we’ll listen. And we’ll try to help them figure out a way to live a violence-free life.”