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ANN ARBOR – Victims of intimate partner violence in the LGBT community may have special concerns when it comes to getting help, but Safe House in Ann Arbor knows what to do. “We’ve learned in working with LGBTQ clients that to begin with their friends and family may not know they’re in the relationship they’re in. So coming out may be a barrier to being able to go to friends or family for support,” said Safe House Executive Director Barbara Niess-May. “We’ve found that they may be worried about discrimination, or they may have thought that services aren’t available to them.”
Niess-May explained that one common myth is that shelters won’t accept male survivors, but there are programs and facilities available for everyone. “People are hurting. It doesn’t matter who they are. We find a way to help,” she said.
In 2015 Safe House will celebrate their 40th year. The service was founded by a group of University of Michigan grad students who discovered that survivors of violence did not have a safe place to go. They have specific outreach programs for the LGBTQ community, and they work with many organizations like Spectrum Services, Ozone House, Affirmations, Equality Michigan, Jim Toy Center, and Ruth Ellis Center.
The need for support is great and the center sees LGBTQ survivors each week. “It happens in the LGBT community as much as in any community. People frequently come to see us. It can happen to anybody, any race or ethnicity, any income level, any age. Anybody.”
While similar themes appear in stories, each situation is different. Safe House counselors listen to the survivor and connect them to the resources they need. “What survivors have lost is a sense of personal power because of power exercised over them by the perpetrators of violence. We help them regain that. We listen and we find out from them what needs to be done. Most people have a better sense of what they need to be safe than we do. We know what opportunities and challenges there are in the system and we empower them to be safe.”
Safe House has shelter, counseling, support groups, referrals and more.
Find out more at http://www.safehousecenter.org/. To take a virtual tour of Safe House, search for “Safe House Ann Arbor” and select “look inside” from the Google Map.
Safe House’s guides for LGBT Victims of Intimate Partner Violence include plenty of useful information, including:
What can I do if I have been sexually assaulted?
* Talk to someone you trust: You can ask for what you need from them, “I just need for you to listen” or “I just need someone to be here while I sleep so I can feel safe.”
* Sexual assault exam/health care: A Nurse Examiner Program can provide a forensic exam, pregnancy prevention, antibiotics to treat some STIs, information about sexual assault support services and the criminal justice process, and future testimony in a sexual assault court case. They can help you figure out what steps you might like to take initially since making a decision right after an assault can be difficult. If you believe you could have contracted HIV during the assault, talk to the nurse or emergency room. If you are not given assistance, call your local HIV/AIDS agency. (HIV/AIDS Resource Center 734-572-9355)
* Criminal Prosecution: If you do want to press charges, the first step is to file a police report. You can also file a police report without pressing charges, or change your mind later about pressing charges. Contact your local sexual assault crisis center if you would like to request an advocate to be with you when you report to the police.
* Report Discrimination: Contact Equality Michigan http://www.equalitymi.org at 866-962-1147 or 313-537-7000 to get legal assistance and report a hate crime. You can also call the SafeHouse Center Hotline, 734-995-5444 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.