ADVOCACY AND OUR ADVOCATES
Patients who survive assaults are in need of advocacy, support, and person-centered services. Survivors are often unsure of whom to contact or how the judicial process works.
As Avalon Healing Center works to address the need for follow-up services by offering comprehensive, trauma-informed, antiracist person-centered care plans for every survivor, the organization also understands that health care providers and law enforcement agencies can and must be better prepared to acknowledge their implicit biases; address overt racist and misogynistic behaviors, procedures, and policies; and support patients through every step of the healing and justice-seeking process.
Avalon and its partners – including hospitals and clinicians – are invested in and have the background, expertise, and medical knowledge to create and provide training series’ to reach health and criminal justice sectors.
Avalon’s advocates serve as a liaison and support to survivors, ensuring their needs are met and rights are honored. Advocacy services may include assisting a survivor and/or their family with navigating the many resources that address challenges related to their experience with sexual violence or otherwise. Some examples of advocacy services include:
Includes ensuring survivors are knowledgeable and understand their rights and options concerning the criminal justice process; accompaniment to law enforcement and prosecutor interviews; court accompaniment; help drafting victim impact statements; assistance filing for personal protection orders.
Community-based advocacy: Includes researching and connecting survivors with other service organizations for additional resources and assistance (i.e. food pantries/resources; clothing resources; assistance with rent and utilities and other financial resources, etc.)
Includes aiding survivors in securing safe shelter; locating and connecting with organizations that provide services related to securing long-term housing and related resources (i.e. organizations that help with security deposits); assistance completing paperwork related to applying for housing resources, etc.
Transportation can be a huge barrier for many survivors in Metro Detroit to access resources and services. Avalon provides transportation for survivors of sexual assault to accommodate appointments, meetings, and other forms of care related to their experience with sexual violence (i.e. individual and group counseling, law enforcement/prosecutor interviews, follow up medical care, and court related matters). We use Lyft, Uber and cab services as transportation options for survivors.
The Crime Victim Services Commission (CVSC) Compensation Program may help sexual assault survivors who sustained a personal physical injury, and their immediate families with the financial costs of the crime they experienced. Costs that may be eligible include medical treatment, counseling, funerals, crime scene clean-up, grief counseling and loss of income or support not paid by other sources. Avalon’s advocacy staff assists survivors in completing the application for CVSC.
GROUP COUNSELING SERVICES
Many survivors of sexual violence process their trauma best in communal settings, such as support groups. Avalon Healing Center offers diverse opportunities to explore various methods of coping with trauma with the support of trained advocates as well as other survivors of sexual violence. Whether it is using their voice to speak or hands to create, survivors’ ability to cope is supported and cultivated in brave spaces that promote empowerment and resiliency.
Group offerings and schedules vary throughout the year:
- Poetic Justice: A Speaker’s Bureau for Survivors and Supporters of Sexual Assault
- (In Wayne County Jail – Women’s Facility)
PEER SUPPORT GROUP
Including Women’s Empowerment Support Group and Men’s Support Group
Our Support group offers a warm, welcoming space for survivors to explore their reactions to trauma and work collaboratively in their healing journey. The group is survivor directed, and topics discussed and activities conducted are chosen according to members’ interest and needs. The goal is to create a close, supportive community of survivors who will help each other move from trauma to personal growth and fulfillment.
The purpose of the group is to reach and work with survivors who have some of the most complex trauma and polyvictimization (those who have experienced multiple, different kinds of victimization). Survivors who are currently incarcerated have specific trauma related to gender and intimate pattern violence and have often been ignored and missed by multiple systems. This is a space where relevant resources and referrals are shared so a survivor can receive assistance both while on the inside and upon being released from jail.
This is an informative support group for sexual assault survivors to enlighten them about the Criminal Justice system and to explore emotions surrounding their experience. This support group informs survivors about how they can protect themselves moving forward in an environment where they can feel safe around individuals with similar experiences.
SURVIVOR’S ADVISORY COUNCIL
Avalon understands that stakeholder engagement is essential to its innovative vision for place-based, survivor-focused healing. To ensure that programming, services, language, and organizational approaches to problem-solving include the perspectives of people who have survived sexual assault, it will convene a Survivor’s Advisory Council to provide insight and solutions from those who represent Avalon’s patients and constituents. This Council will partner with Avalon to form steps and action plans in programming, where necessary, to better serve patients and survivors.
Generally, SAC members will:
- Commit to attending meetings as regularly as possible, provide Avalon leadership with insights regarding cultural sensitivity and experiences of survivors (including those specific to Black, Brown, and LGBTQ+ communities)
- Connect, where safe and appropriate, other survivors to Avalon for services and support
- Provide insight on program structure and delivery to survivors
- Provide feedback on efforts to conduct outreach to survivors and the communities in which they live
- Work hand-in-hand with Avalon leadership to improve upon existing programming and identify opportunities to expand programming where appropriate
Avalon looks forward to gleaning important and essential lessons from this group, as well as encouraging the SAC to consider themselves as pivotal actors of change. This may lead to their development as activists and policy-changers. Furthermore, the collective wisdom collected via the SAC can be communicated and disseminated throughout the community. Avalon will encourage researchers, legal field representatives, healthcare professionals, and law enforcement agencies to engage with the SAC (where appropriate and with certain safeguards to protect confidential information) so that their voices and perspectives are included and referred to as institutions work to address equity and service to survivors.
EXPERT WITNESS TESTIMONIES
Justice. This looks different for each survivor of sexual violence. For some, justice does not involve law enforcement or the criminal justice system at all; but for many… it does. Two-thirds of sexual assaults are reported to police and a majority of survivors choose to participate in the prosecution of their perpetrator(s). Unfortunately, the criminal justice system has a weak history of holding offenders accountable and is steeped in institutional bias and a prevailing attitude of not believing victims. Statistics reveal that less than 2% of offenders are convicted of sexual assault, and even fewer are actually incarcerated. These statistics are appalling and speak to the biased nature in which our culture, and the criminal justice system, view sexual violence. The need for qualified and experienced experts in the field of sexual violence is immense.
Avalon Healing Center’s Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner’s staff is trained in the provision of expert witness testimony and has extensive experience in this area. Our staff has helped hold hundreds of sexual assault perpetrators accountable through the provision of our testimony, and in doing so, hope to provide some kind of justice for our clients while at the same time helping to make our community safer by taking dangerous criminals off the streets.
Avalon staff also has experience in testifying for the defense, as our role in the courtroom remains focused on testifying to our examination findings, protocols and education regarding our role in medical-forensic healthcare. We are always healthcare first and foremost, and forensic second.
Our work within the criminal justice system crosses over into training for prosecutors, defense and civil attorneys, as well as the judges overseeing these cases. Avalon is the only organization in our community qualified to provide this level of training and witness testimony, and has been doing so for over a decade.