COVE to offer sexual assault services in Manistee County

MANISTEE COUNTY — Decades ago, a group of volunteers worked together to provide a dire community service, which expanded into a nonprofit assisting survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence in Oceana, Mason and Lake counties.

The local nonprofit, Communities Overcoming Violent Encounters (COVE), is celebrating 40 years, and with that, sexual assault services will now be available in Manistee County.

Services for domestic violence and sexual assault survivors are already available in Mason, Oceana and

The COVE logo (Courtesy Photo)

Lake counties.

The expansion of services was made possible by a grant created by the Victims of Crime Act of 1984 (VOCA). According to a press release, the Crime Victims Fund is derived from federal criminal fines and penalties, not from taxpayers.

Through the grant, additional services provided by COVE include individual or group supportive counseling, and advocates to assist with sexual assault issues. Two new positions were created, both having a presence in all four counties.

“If a recent sexual assault occurred then whomever is on call, which I am a part of that rotation, can drive them out to the nearest COVE office, if they want to,” said Kara Eastling, COVE sexual assault counselor. “We have sexual assault nurse examiners (SANE), or forensic nurses who are on call to do a sexual assault kit.”

Eastling, who was hired in February, said she works with those in Manistee County who need assistance. Eastling has offices in all participating counties.

In Manistee County, a satellite office is located at the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians Department of Health and Human Services office at 2608 Government Center Drive in Manistee, and at United Way of Manistee County at 449 River St. in Manistee.

The COVE main office is located at 906 E. Ludington Ave.

“We will be there as an advocate to comfort them, support them or whatever they need from us,” she said. “We will be there if they want to report it to the police or we can help them fill out legal forms.”

Eastling said COVE’s mission is to provide shelter, protection and advocacy to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, which includes people of all gender expressions.

In the last year, COVE has supported survivors for 8,631 shelter nights, a press release stated. Clients typically stay from one night to 90 days, with an average of 34 days. For the past six months, COVE supported 35 to 41 people in its shelter.

Over the past year, COVE has provided services to 410 clients from Mason, Lake and Oceana counties.

In the future, Eastling said they plan to hold therapy groups, which vary from art to other relaxing activities.

“We are actually in the process of creating an art therapy group. We are going to do painting, and we are anticipating the first week of May to begin that,” she said. “That will be once a week, for four weeks. There’s going to be yoga, meditation and breathing exercise classes. We will have adult and child survivors in separate classes.”

Tracy Davis, COVE executive director, said advocates and counselors will travel to survivors at the nearest office location, which eliminates the need for them to drive to the main office in Ludington.

Eastling added that they also reimburse travel or provide free rides, if needed.

“If somebody calls me and needs a ride over to the clinic, I can do that. We can also reimburse them for their mileage or other stuff like that,” Eastling said.

All services are free to clients, and their information is confidential.

Individuals should call the 24-hour COVE help line at (800) 950-5808 for immediate assistance, or call COVE’s main office at (231) 843-2541 for more information.

The State of Michigan’s sexual assault hotline number is available at (855) 864-2374; an online chatroom and texting is coming soon.

For more details on COVE and its services, visit www.callcove.com.

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Posted by Ashlyn Korienek

Ashlyn is the cops & courts and city reporter for the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach her at (231) 398-3109 or akorienek@pioneergroup.com

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