The death of Farmington resident Kaitlin Hehir, who authorities say was killed and dismembered by her live-in boyfriend, may lead more people to seek help for abusive relationships.
Beth Morrison, who runs HAVEN, an Oakland County nonprofit that helps families experiencing domestic violence, says victims may recognize they could be the next headline. HAVEN offers help, support and information through a 24-hours crisis line and website.
If you need help, or know someone who does, call HAVEN's crisis line, 248-334-1274, 877-922-1274 or the TTY line, 248-334-1290. Live chat and email help are available at haven-oakland.org.
"We typically do get an uptick in calls, although sometimes it doesn't happen right away," said Morrison, CEO of the Bingham Farms-based nonprofit. She said calls may come not only from those experiencing abuse, but also co-workers, friends and relatives who are "seeing the reality of a situation a loved one or friend might be in."
But the headlines may also give abusive spouses another tool for intimidation. "One woman told me her abuser came in with the headline and said, 'See? This could be you.'," Morrison said.
HAVEN last year provided services to about 220 people in Farmington and Farmington Hills, with 60 crisis line callers identifying themselves from the communities. Morrison pointed out those numbers could be higher; HAVEN doesn't require anyone who seeks help to report where they live.
After a big jump between 2008-2009, when the economy tanked, Morrison said HAVEN has seen a 2-5 percent annual increase in requests for help. The more noticeable change, she said, has been in the severity of injuries suffered by victims of domestic violence, and particularly, sexual assault.
"Our gut instinct in listening to stories as we help people is ... those individuals who were abusive and have the belief that they have a right to have control over their partner have become more abusive as they become more stressed," Morrison said.
So a woman whose husband may have been verbally abusive might find herself suffering physical abuse. Or a partner who was occasionally pushed is now being hit.
"We want people to know there is hope, and there's help," Morrison said. "One of the first steps is to become educated about what's happening. You are not alone."