HANCOCK - Domestic violence is a societal problem which doesn't appear to be going away, and the Barbara Kettle Gundlach Shelter Home exists to take in the victims of physical abuse.
At the Orpheum Theater in Hancock, the sixth annual fundraising event for the shelter was conducted. It included a silent auction and musical entertainment.
Speaking to the people in attendance, Mary Niemela, shelter director, said it began in 1979 in a private residence. In 1981, the state of Michigan agreed to partially fund it and other shelters.
Kurt Hauglie/Daily Mining Gazette
Azure Daniels, left, and Michelle Klein, performing as Viney Willa, sing Sunday during the sixth annual fundraising event for the Barbara Kettle Gundlach Shelter Home at the Orpheum Theater in Hancock.
"There's 46 shelters in the whole state of Michigan," she said. "In the Upper Peninsula there's only seven."
The BKG Shelter Home has 10 beds, but Niemela said there are often more than 10 people staying there at one time. The shelter takes women and children.
Niemela said men are often the victims of domestic violence, but the BKG Shelter Home won't take men. The facility's staff will try to find a place for men to stay, however.
Niemela said in 95 percent of reported domestic violence cases, females are the victims. Although there is much education about domestic violence, it isn't going away.
"(The number of cases) are not coming down," she said.
Although many people may think domestic violence is a greater problem in large cities, Niemela said per capita locally the number of cases are the same.
"It's very serious," she said.
Many victims of domestic violence are reluctant to talk about it, but Niemela said as a society, the problem must continue to be addressed.
Domestic violence is a learned behavior, Niemela said, and many children of abusers see it every day, so they may become abusers later in life, also. Many victims of abuse who lived with one parent abusing the other may in later life think being with an abuser is normal.
Some abusers may abuse alcohol, but even without it, they would still be an abuser, Niemela said.
"Alcohol is not the cause of domestic violence," she said.
Niemela said many people who see a victim of domestic violence may ask why that person stays in the relationship, and Niemela said it's because of love and fear. The abused in many cases actually loves the abuser. That person is also afraid to leave because there could be even greater violence if the abuser eventually finds that person.
"It's a dangerous time to leave," she said.
Most domestic violence victims don't want advice, just someone to talk to, Niemela said.
"She wants someone to listen and believe her," she said.
Niemela said many abusers may seem like nice, ordinary people to those who see them only outside of their homes, but they are deceptive.
"Abusers don't wear name tags," she said.
Niemela said the BKG Shelter Home needs monetary donations, as well as some household items. It also needs volunteers. For more information, go online to bkgshelterhome.org, or call 337-5623.
One of the people who attended the event Sunday was Diane Sprague, who supports what the shelter home does.
Sprague said she knows domestic violence is common in the Copper Country.
"It's a learned behavior left over from a time when women weren't valued at all," she said.