Posted on 15 October 2015.
By Mary Kuhlman, Michigan News Connection
It’s often a hidden problem, but domestic violence occurs in Michigan homes more often than some may realize.
Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October is being used to highlight misconceptions about domestic violence. As a social worker with the National Association of Social Workers in Michigan, Erica Schmittdiel has seen the face of domestic violence and she says it never looks the same twice.
According to Schmittdiel, domsetic violence happens regardless of gender, age, race or economic and educational background.
“Domestic violence is an equal opportunity destroyer, and there are no boundaries,” she says. “Whether you have a PhD or a GED, you can be the victim or you can be a perpetrator.”
Schmittdiel says a common misconception is that a victim can simply walk away from an abuser, but a victim often feels a need to stay for children, out of a fear of retaliation or does not have adequate resources to get away. An estimated one-in-four women, and one-in-seven men, will be a victim of partner violence in their lifetime.
Domestic violence isn’t always physical. Schmittdiel says there are other tactics a person can use to control another person, including emotional abuse, sexual violence and economic abuse.
“Maybe they’re telling the other partner they can’t work or they’re taking the partner’s paycheck if that person does work,” she says. “We see a lot of using children. ‘If you leave me I’ll file for custody, I’ll get the kids or I’ll call Children’s Protective Services on you.’”
Another myth, says Schmittdiel, is that alcohol or drugs can cause abusive behaviors. But she contends abuse is a choice and it is not out of the control of the perpetrator.
“They need the support that our shelter and other shelters in Michigan provide,” she says. “Unfortunately, our shelter has been very full, as well as other shelters across the state. That is really unfortunate for people that are ready to leave.”
Schmittdiel works at MSU Safe Place in East Lansing, which provides emergency shelter, counseling and safety planning for survivors of violence. She says having a place to stay is one of the biggest needs of victims, but there is not enough space in the county’s two domestic violence shelters.
Here in Kent County, if you need immediate assistance, call 911.
If you need an emergency shelter and supportive services, contact the YWCA at 616-451-2744 or Safe Haven Ministries at 616-452-6664. You can also visit www.stopkentviolence.org, or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE.
Data from the Michigan State Police shows over 93,000 domestic violence offenses were reported in 2013.