LETTER FROM THE FOUNDER AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

My name is Kimberly Hurst, and I am proud to be the Founder and Executive Director of the Avalon Healing Center. Our journey began in 2004, and now, over 16 years later, we have served over 17,000 survivors of sexual violence in Southeast Michigan.

  • One in five women and one in 33 men will experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetime. 
  • Every two minutes in the United States, someone is sexually assaulted.
  • Michigan is ranked 2nd in the country for incidence of sexual assault.
  • Michigan is also ranked in the top 10 states for incidence of Sex Trafficking.
  • Our surrounding community of Detroit and Wayne County, MI account for the highest number of reported sexual assaults.

These statistics are staggering, and sadly, are consistent with data from 20 years ago, when I began working with survivors. Not only does this justify the need for Avalon’s existence, but pushes us to provide for more survivors, offer deeper and broader services to each survivor, and work harder than ever to end sexual violence.

Avalon’s model of care is an innovative, place-based solution that places the complex needs of survivors above all else. We combine trauma-informed, comprehensive medical services, and evidence-based best practices in the field of sexual violence to offer survivors responsive, person-centered healing. We work diligently so that survivors can access services easily, eliminating redundant paperwork and intake processes and housing services in one location to reduce stress. To complement this work, we provide sexual assault identification and support training for healthcare and law enforcement professionals. Our advocacy efforts provide survivors with tools to speak their truths and seek justice against their abusers. Our expertise and championship inform policy change and advance social justice initiatives. Through a community-informed needs assessment, survivors were able to help us understand their needs and hopes, shaping the Avalon Healing Center strategy and design. Ultimately, this model is being developed in a way that encourages replication across the nation while allowing communities to tailor the model and meet their unique needs.

Please accept my invitation to join us in this groundbreaking endeavor as we combat sexual violence and the ideas of oppression and subjugation and behaviors that sustain it. Together, we will overcome the pain inflicted by this violence. Together, we will offer healing and hope to survivors. And together, we will shape a new solution to one of the world’s oldest problems. On behalf of the 17,000 survivors and their families and communities Avalon has served, I thank you for uniting with Avalon Healing Center in this ever-important effort and look forward to sharing our many successes with you.

KIMBERLY S. HURST
BS, MA, MS, PA-C, DFAAPA
Forensic Examiner
Founder and Executive Director, Avalon Healing Center

OUR HISTORY, MISSION AND VISION FOR THE FUTURE

Avalon Healing Center, a leader in the field of sexual violence, is a non-profit 501(c)3 that provides compassionate and trauma-informed care to sexual assault survivors. Avalon is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year with highly trained medical staff and trauma-informed caregivers. Avalon Healing Center services are available to anyone, no matter where they live or when they were assaulted.

Avalon (originally Wayne County Safe) recently rebranded to help strengthen Avalon Healing Center’s mission to provide a safe and confidential place of healing through community-based, trauma-informed, empowerment-focused services.

Avalon Healing Center is the largest program of its kind in Michigan and the only program in Southeast Michigan to provide comprehensive services focused solely on sexual assault. Since 2006, Avalon has provided critical, life-saving services, medical-forensic healthcare, and support to survivors of sexual trauma and assault; the organization has a long history of working side-by-side with survivors and community partners to seek justice and healing for survivors. In 2010, the organization implemented a parallel track of community-based, empowerment-focused advocacy services with specially-trained staff that provide crisis response, counseling, advocacy and supportive services.

Avalon meets the needs of vulnerable people through expert leadership and collaboration. And it is nationally and regionally recognized as a leader in addressing Detroit’s over 11,200 rape kits that were discovered languishing in a police warehouse. It was determined that over 8,000 of them were never tested, representing thousands of women, many of whom are Black, whose voices went unheard and assaults went ignored. Our staff responded with trauma-informed supportive wraparound services, worked as a member of multidisciplinary teams that implemented legislative change for how sexual assault is responded to, investigated, and prosecuted, resulting in the implementation of one of America’s first kit tracking systems. Avalon staff has also been involved in local, statewide and national work groups that address training, legislation and victims’ rights to pave the way for change in sexual assault response and envisions a trauma-informed designed facility that will provide comprehensive trauma-informed care that can be replicated around the country to elevate the response to those in crisis.

SEXUAL VIOLENCE

STAT: The most vulnerable to be sexually assaulted or raped are women between 12 to 34 years old. This group makes up 69% of victims.

Sexual violence is rooted in the oppression of women. While these interwoven issues affect women around the world, the Avalon Healing Center seeks to provide a model of exceptional, accessible, and equitable healing services to women who have suffered sexual violence. In turn, this model will demonstrate how national and global communities can combat the effects of sexual violence and work to prevent it through advocacy and education. Avalon Healing Center plans to implement the first-of-its-kind, comprehensive Healing Center for survivors of sexual violence focused on addressing oppression against women. This space will be created to deliver services in one location that houses everything needed for a survivor’s healing journey, such as empowerment-focused initiatives that shift victim narratives to survivorship, community education, awareness of and advocacy for initiatives changing public perceptions of women, developing relationships with community leaders and stakeholders, and developing best practices for replication in other communities.

Avalon Healing Center knows that sexual violence is rooted in the oppression of women, particularly where social and gender norms create a narrative that women are inferior. This subjugation creates an environment that excludes women from leadership roles, pays them less money, and diminishes their voices and influence.

Socialized and normalized subjugation contributes to pervasive, frequent occurrences of sexual violence in the US, with 1-in-3 women experiencing violence of some form in their lifetime. This culture of violence dehumanizes women, casts doubt upon their experiences, disempowers them, and ultimately propagates and encourages ongoing abuse and domination of women.

Avalon focuses on preventing sexual violence through dismantling the systems and cultural norms that enable oppression of women. This includes changing public perceptions and empowering women to take the helm of their own healing.

PEDIATRIC SEXUAL ASSAULT- CHILD MOLESTATION

STAT: 93% of all child victims of sexual assault know their perpetrator.

When people think of sexual assault and abuse, they often do not consider that children are one of the most vulnerable populations and represent approximately one third of our patient/client population.

Child sexual abuse is a widespread problem – every 9 minutes, child protective services substantiates, or finds evidence for, child sexual abuse. Tens of thousands of children are sexually abused every year. One in 9 girls and 1 in 53 boys under the age of 18 experience sexual abuse or assault at the hands of an adult. The trauma of child sexual abuse can be long-lasting and significantly impact children’s physical and mental health well into adulthood. Sexual abuse/assault victims are many more times likely than non-victims to develop drug addiction, PTSD, major depression and other mental health disorders, as well as chronic pain disorders.

Often, children are not believed when they disclose, or in many cases are too young or non-verbal to even be able to tell anyone that abuse has happened. Nearly all child victims of sexual assault know their perpetrator – in fact, 93% of the time, the child knows the person since 34% of the time it is a family member; and 59% of the time it is an acquaintance – family friend, coach, teacher, etc.

Avalon has extensive experience in providing acute medical-forensic healthcare for children of all ages (our youngest patient was only 2 weeks old). Avalon Healing Center is the only organization in the community that provides a comprehensive response to, and provision of, acute medical-forensic healthcare and crisis intervention to children and their families in the immediate hours and days following a disclosure of sexual assault or abuse. We partner with our local Children’s Hospital of Michigan, as they refer all of their acute child sexual abuse/assault cases to Avalon. In addition, we have a formal Memorandum Of Understanding in place with our local Children’s Advocacy Center and work firsthand with our Department of Human Services, Child Protective Services, Prosecutor’s Office, Sheriff’s Department, local city law enforcement jurisdictions, and other children’s advocacy & service organizations in order to ensure a compassionate, multi-disciplinary, timely and coordinated response.

Children who experience sexual violence deserve access to the highest level of best practice and comprehensive care. They deserve…

PEDIATRIC SEXUAL ASSAULT- CHILD MOLESTATION

STAT: 93% of all child victims of sexual assault know their perpetrator.

When people think of sexual assault and abuse, they often do not consider that children are one of the most vulnerable populations and represent approximately one third of our patient/client population.

Child sexual abuse is a widespread problem – every 9 minutes, child protective services substantiates, or finds evidence for, child sexual abuse. Tens of thousands of children are sexually abused every year. One in 9 girls and 1 in 53 boys under the age of 18 experience sexual abuse or assault at the hands of an adult. The trauma of child sexual abuse can be long-lasting and significantly impact children’s physical and mental health well into adulthood. Sexual abuse/assault victims are many more times likely than non-victims to develop drug addiction, PTSD, major depression and other mental health disorders, as well as chronic pain disorders.

Often, children are not believed when they disclose, or in many cases are too young or non-verbal to even be able to tell anyone that abuse has happened. Nearly all child victims of sexual assault know their perpetrator – in fact, 93% of the time, the child knows the person since 34% of the time it is a family member; and 59% of the time it is an acquaintance – family friend, coach, teacher, etc.

Avalon has extensive experience in providing acute medical-forensic healthcare for children of all ages (our youngest patient was only 2 weeks old). Avalon Healing Center is the only organization in the community that provides a comprehensive response to, and provision of, acute medical-forensic healthcare and crisis intervention to children and their families in the immediate hours and days following a disclosure of sexual assault or abuse. We partner with our local Children’s Hospital of Michigan, as they refer all of their acute child sexual abuse/assault cases to Avalon. In addition, we have a formal Memorandum Of Understanding in place with our local Children’s Advocacy Center and work firsthand with our Department of Human Services, Child Protective Services, Prosecutor’s Office, Sheriff’s Department, local city law enforcement jurisdictions, and other children’s advocacy & service organizations in order to ensure a compassionate, multi-disciplinary, timely and coordinated response.

Children who experience sexual violence deserve access to the highest level of best practice and comprehensive care. They deserve…

RACE AND GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE

STAT: Over 18% of Black women in the U.S. will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime.

Because racism and sexism have long been framed as two separate problems, women of color experiencing gender-based violence carry multiple, heavy, and compounding burdens. Women of color experience greater health inequities, simultaneously juggling more chronic disease, less access to healthcare where their experiences and cultures are celebrated and dignified, and much higher mortality rates than their white peers – across all ages and classes.

Gender-based violence creates a wake of devastation, not only for victims, but whole systems. Over time, unrecognized and untreated traumas repeat themselves in families, communities, and society. They become shared, generational injuries, borne on the backs of victims.

Research indicates that for every 15 Black women who are raped, only one woman reports it. (National Organization of Women, 2018)

LGBTQ+ COMMUNITY

STAT: 64% in the LGBTQ+ community who have experienced sexual assault have attempted suicide.

Gender-based violence victimizes mostly those who are not heterosexual males, and that includes transgender people and members of the LGBTQ+ community. Almost half of all transgender people have been sexually assaulted at some point in their lives and these rates are even higher for trans people of color.

According to a National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) study,

  • Respondents who identified as transgender or gender non-conforming during grades K-12 reported significant rates of harassment (78%), physical assault (35%), and sexual violence (12%).
  • Respondents who identified as American Indian, Asian, Black, and multiracial experienced higher rates of sexual violence than K-12 students of other races.
  • More than half (51%) of respondents who were harassed, physically assaulted, or sexually assaulted because of the gender expression in K-12 reported having attempted suicide.
  • The overwhelming majority (90%) of respondents reported harassment and mistreatment at work, or felt compelled to take actions that negatively affected their well-being or career.
  • American Indian, Black, and Hispanic participants reported the highest rates of sexual assault at work.
  • Almost one-fifth (19%) of respondents reported experiencing homelessness at some point in their lives. Of respondents who tried to access a homeless shelter, 22% were sexually assaulted by residents or staff. Respondents who identified as American Indian, Black, and Hispanic, as well as those who were undocumented, reported higher rates of sexual assault by shelter residents or staff.
  • Nearly half (46% of respondents) reported being uncomfortable seeking police assistance. Of those who interacted with police, 2% reported being sexually assaulted by police, with percentages higher for respondents who identified as Black or Hispanic.
  • A total of 41% of respondents reported attempting suicide, with markedly higher rates for those who had experienced sexual assault (64%).
  • Respondents who had been sexually assaulted because of transphobic bias reported higher rates of HIV infection (10%).

MALE RAPE

STAT: 1 in 33 American men have been raped or suffered an attempt within their lifetime.

Millions of men in the United States have been victims of rape. Generations of abuse, silence and concerns about sexuality, masculinity, and pride; regrets about not being able to defend themselves against their abusers; and shame around how their bodies responded to unwanted touch all complicate health care response to male sexual assault survivors.

Avalon’s counselor/client relationships with male clients has helped them to discover generations of abuse, silence and concerns about sexuality, masculinity, and pride; regrets about not being able to defend themselves against their abusers; and shame around how their bodies responded to unwanted touch. This served as the catalyst for our commitment to improving services and outreach to men and boys.

We began exploring local, state and national resources for male survivors. We located experienced clinicians who had worked with male survivors and arranged for internal training for our staff and volunteers as well. We’ve organized Sexual Assault Awareness month activities with male survivors as our focus and are one of the only stand-alone sexual assault programs in the state that have hired both a male SANE nurse and male Sexual Assault Advocate.

Our hope and intention is to shift the culture from one that stigmatizes men and boys who seek help to one that normalizes and honors them for it.

HUMAN TRAFFICKING

STAT: The United States is ranked as one of the worst countries in the world for human trafficking.

And Michigan, ranked 7th in the nation, is a gateway to the rest of the United States for Traffickers. Fortunately, Avalon has been responding with vital services to victims of Sex Trafficking for over 15 years. Now, with a recently awarded $750K grant, Avalon will expand and strengthen these services with trauma-informed care for those suffering from the indignity of human trafficking.

According to the National Trafficking Hotline and the Polaris Project, in 2019, there were 4,585 reported cases of Human Trafficking in the United States- 3,266 of which were Sex Trafficking alone- equating for 70% of all Human trafficking cases.

TEEN HUMAN TRAFFICKING

STAT: The average age a teen enters the sex trade in the US is 12 to 14 years old. Many victims are runaway girls who were sexually abused as children.

At least 100,000 U.S. children are exploited in prostitution every year in America according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Teens can be commercially sexually exploited through prostitution, pornography, stripping, erotic entertainment or other sex acts. The commercial aspect – an exchange of money or something of value – is critical to separate the crime of trafficking from sexual assault, dating violence or rape. Sex trafficking of minors is a severe form of child abuse, and victims endure significant trauma through repeated rape and physical violence.