Successful businesses understand that achievement and profit are the result of a combination of things: leadership, vision, financial discipline, skilled and committed employees, and a keen understanding of one’s market.

However, those characteristics are not limited to the for-profit sector.  As the first-ever domestic and sexual violence service provider in Michigan to fully meet 100 percent of the state’s core and best practice standards, the YWCA West Central Michigan right here in Grand Rapids is a shining example of what such discipline, strength, and vision can achieve for the most vulnerable in our community.

Reacting to the news, Carla Blinkhorn, YWCA CEO, said “This is an exciting achievement and I am proud to say it is the result of hard work by a tremendously strong, smart, and caring staff. At the same time, I hope that our community and YWCA supporters see this as evidence that their investments in this organization are well-placed.”  The YWCA serves about 5,000 people each year throughout the range of its services.

The assessment was conducted by the Michigan Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention and Treatment Board (MDSVPTB) which was established by the state in 1978 during the earliest days of the domestic and sexual violence movement. The MDSVPTB is charged with monitoring the 48 service providers throughout Michigan which care for tens of thousands of victims annually. The MDSVPTB team conducted preliminary reviews of the YWCA’s policies and practices prior to its three day on-site visit. Once at the YWCA, the team interviewed more than 40 YWCA community partners, volunteers, and staff.  Much of their time was spent in an intensive, in-depth review of YWCA policies and practices representing 172 standards covering policy and governance; program administration and service delivery; financial management; facility, safety, security and health; community relations and fundraising; staff and volunteer management; and systems change.

The importance of the YWCA’s work is underscored by the extraordinary scope of these issues. Kent County law enforcement agencies annually report over 1,000 cases of child sexual abuse. The Centers for Disease Control reports that nearly 1 in 5 women has been raped, almost half as teenagers. More than 25 percent of men who were raped were attacked when they were younger than 11 years old.  Children with disabilities are more than twice as likely to be victimized than children without disabilities.  One in 4 women has suffered severe physical violence by an intimate partner.  Extrapolating, there are approximately 76,000 individuals within Kent County who experience some form of domestic violence within their lifetime.

The economic impact of assailant behavior is significant, particularly on the business sector. The CDC estimates that domestic violence assailants cause their victims to miss nearly 8 million days of paid work in a single year – the equivalent of losing more than 32,000 full-time jobs from the U.S. economy. An article by the RAND Corporation, cites studies showing sexual assault assailants cost the U.S. economy $104.5 million annually. Services, like those provided by the YWCA help reduce such costs.

Karen Porter, Quality Assurance Director for the MDSVPTB, led the seven-person assessment team. Reflecting on her experience, “The YWCA is frequently the ‘go to’ agency for others around the state when they are looking for innovative, high quality practices. The West Michigan community should feel fortunate to have access to such a critically important asset. It should also feel assured that victims are receiving some of the best care available anywhere.”

If you or someone you care about could use help, please call the YWCA West Central Michigan at one of the below numbers:

Confidential Sexual Assault Hotline: 616-776-7273
Confidential Domestic Violence Hotline: 616-451-2744