Kelly Mays remembers her daughter’s first birthday well. There were presents, cake – and a beating from her boyfriend that landed her in the hospital. Five years later, Kelly still has memory issues and limited hearing in her left ear — but she is also hopeful, accomplished and independent. All because she had the support she needed to leave her abuser and start a new life.
In honor of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month and survivors like Mays, the DTE Energy Foundation announced today that it will fund every state-approved domestic violence shelter in Michigan. The announcement was made at press conferences in Detroit and Grand Rapids.
“The worst thing is to be hands off when it comes to domestic violence. We treat it like it’s this ugly truth, but it’s a societal problem. We are all affected by it,” explained Mays. “When organizations like DTE stand up and support survivors, it shows the community that it is on all of us to help.”
In Michigan, one in three people will be affected by domestic violence. More than 2,600 survivors require some form of assistance every day, including shelter yet there are less than 1,300 beds in the state. The statistics are startling and demonstrate that domestic violence can affect anyone, regardless of social standing, race, education level and financial achievement. This crisis also takes a toll beyond the personal. The Department of Labor reports that victims of domestic violence lose nearly 8 million days of paid work per year in the U.S., resulting in a $1.8 billion loss in productivity for employers.
“Providing critical services to survivors is essential both for their immediate safety and for their long-term success as they work to put their lives back together,” said Emma Peterson, YWCA of Metropolitan Detroit president and CEO. “We’re grateful to the DTE Energy Foundation for both the funds that will support our work in the community and the for the statewide lens through which they view this growing crisis.”
Today, Mays is happily married with three kids, but she stressed the importance of support. She began using her love of poetry to help the healing process “In abusive relationship your voice is taken away,” she explained. Mays has since held poetry events, where the proceeds go to HAVEN, a domestic violence shelter that will receive a portion of the Foundation’s grant.
“The grants will help provide critical services from finding employment and permanent housing to opening a bank account. Equally important, these programs help survivors navigate what can be a very complex criminal justice system,” explained Trevor Lauer, who made the announcement at the Detroit press conference along with Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist.
The Foundation chose to undertake this funding as early intervention can help victims chart a new path to a new life.
“Domestic violence shelters serve a critical need for those in search of a safe haven and the DTE Foundation is honored to support their mission. These grants will help thousands of people with both emergency housing and support services,” said Lynette Dowler, president of the DTE Foundation. “Our gift will assist shelters across Michigan in the work of helping survivors rebuild their lives.”