Abuse survivor plans to escape Michigan, a state where the law won't protect her

Abuse victim says state laws are too weak

New paint will go on the walls at Nicole Beverly's Ypsilanti Township house in the coming weeks. 

She'll rip down the boards she nailed to the windows by the front door, too. Beverly put them up several years ago as a safety measure to ensure her abusive ex-husband couldn't break the glass and then reach inside to open the door. 

"When he was stalking us, we literally had to do anything we could to slow him down," she said. "We nailed a board over each of my side windows. I had to replace my basement windows with glass block because the windows were big enough for him to get in. My friend's partner installed the safety lights in the back on the outside of the shed. We had an alarm system installed.

"It was as safe as it could be. ... I bought that house myself. … The house, for me, was independence from him. It was, you know, a fresh start.”

Beverly, 44, is preparing for the day this summer when she and her boys will have to leave that home and escape to a new life somewhere else, somewhere with better laws to protect survivors of abuse.

And that somewhere, she hopes, will be a safe haven not only for her, but for her two sons. She’s being forced out of Michigan and into hiding by an ex-husband who, she says, is intent on killing her and by weak laws that fail to protect survivors like her. 

Kevin Beverly, 44, is serving out the end of his sentence on a 2012 aggravated stalking conviction involving his ex-wife. But even from prison, the threats have continued. 

Four times in four years, he allegedly tried to hire people to kill Nicole and their children from prison or threatened to kill them himself when he’s released. 

Nicole Beverly is convinced that once her ex-husband gets out of prison — he is to be paroled Aug. 24 and placed on a GPS tether for 60 days before he reaches his maximum five-year sentence in October — her life and the lives of their children are in danger. 

She'd hoped the state attorney general would intervene in Kevin Beverly's case and bring new charges of solicitation to commit murder from his alleged attempts from various correctional facilities over the last few years.  Prosecutors in Luce County, Wayne, Washtenaw and Jackson counties all declined to bring new charges against Beverly. 

The Michigan State Police appealed to state Attorney General Bill Schuette with details of its latest investigation into the threats in Luce County, while Beverly was incarcerated at Newberry Correctional Facility.

Schuette told the Free Press that the case is still under review. 

Without a new charge that could hold Beverly in prison longer than his maximum five-year sentence, Nicole Beverly said she has no choice but to leave. As each day passes without action on his case, her time to get away grows more limited. 

There's no victim relocation program in Michigan to help survivors of domestic violence and stalking move to another place that might offer safety. There's no help with identity change or programs that provide financial support.  

Beverly has to quit her job, sell her house, cut ties with friends and relatives and make a life somewhere else on her own. 

And because Michigan is among 14 states nationally without an address confidentiality program, Beverly said she can’t remain here. She'll need to live in a state that offers at least that tiny bit of protection. 

She said it's hard on her, but it's even more heartbreaking to see her sons walk away from lifelong friendships.    

“It’s one thing as an adult to deal with it, but as a kid, it’s just so unfair,” she said.

Her younger son, Carter, 13, finished middle school last week. He posted these words along with a heartbreaking farewell video to his friends on Instagram:

“Well … I have to move states for reasons I don’t want to bother you with but this video is to show you I appreciated all the years we have known each other and all the fun times we had. Even if you’re not in this video, you still meant a lot to me. I can’t come back to Michigan, but we should keep in contact. Thank you for all the fun years together. Love — Carter”

Beverly acknowledged that though Carter suggests he'd like to stay in touch with his friends in the video, he really can’t.

“It’s probably wishful thinking on his part,” she said. “I don’t know how we can safely do that." 

Her older son, Myles, graduated from high school in early June, and is headed to college this fall. Beverly says she's working with the university to create a safety plan for him.  

The Free Press reported her story, “Nowhere to run,” June 4, drawing more than $20,000 in donations to her emergency relocation fund through the crowdsourcing fund-raising website GoFundMe.

 "A lot of people were supportive and even offered me places to stay," Beverly said. "Connections have come out of it, too, like the referrals to people who may be helpful, and people contacting the Attorney General's Office and contacting their state representatives. ... It makes me feel like I'm not in this alone.

"I just don't know if the people that actually have the power to do something are taking it seriously, only because it hasn't been taken seriously until now."

Beverly said she was contacted by U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, after her story was published, and state Rep. Margaret O'Brien also spoke with her about the possibility of drafting legislation to better protect survivors of domestic violence in Michigan. 

"We are far from introducing legislation, but it is something that we are going to take a look at," said Stephanie Bogema, O'Brien's spokeswoman. "At this point, it’s still preliminary. … We would obviously need to work with the prosecutor’s association ... to make sure victims like Nicole are being better protected. ... Obviously, something needs to be done."

That something, however, will likely come too late for Beverly. 

Schuette told the Free Press last week that he has worked in the past with state lawmakers on human trafficking bills that included an address confidentiality component. However, those bills failed to pass through the Legislature in the last term and would need to be introduced again for consideration. 

"If and when the Legislature does that, we'll continue to work with the Legislature on a program like this," said Andrea Bitely, a spokeswoman for the Attorney General's Office.

"It is an expensive program. Should the Legislature deem that the address confidentiality program be run through our office, there would be a funding element to it, too. It depends on the how the Legislature defines the program, and what crimes are deemed eligible. Certainly, sex trafficking and domestic violence make sense, but there are other things that down the road could become eligible."

In the meantime, Kevin Beverly was moved last week from Newberry Correctional Facility in the U.P. to Central Michigan Correctional Facility in St. Louis. 

Holly Kramer, a spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Corrections, said the move was not tied to his upcoming release. 

"Transfers could be related to a number of factors such as availability of programming, educational or health needs, changes in security level or available bed space," she said in an e-mail to the Free Press. "Kevin Beverly was moved from one level I facility to another level I facility, so I wouldn’t classify it as a step down."

Still, it has Nicole Beverly on edge.

"In my mind, even though he's still behind bars, just knowing he's closer to us ... it just makes me feel sick," she said. "It's just like he's one step closer."

 Contact Kristen Jordan Shamus: 313-222-5997 or kshamus@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @kristenshamus.

How to help

To donate to Nicole Beverly’s emergency relocation fund, to go www.gofundme.com/bbvs5n-relocation-due-to-domestic-abuse.

How to be heard

If you have an opinion on sentencing guidelines for domestic violence and stalking cases in Michigan or state protection programs for victims, call your state senator or representative.

To find your state representative, go to house.michigan.gov or call 517-373-6339.

To find your state senator, go to senate.michigan.gov or call 517-373-2400.

To contact Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office, call 517-373-1110.

How to get help

If you or someone you know is being abused, the National Domestic Violence Hotline also has a toll-free 24-hour crisis line: 800-799-7233. Additionally, several Michigan agencies can offer crisis assistance as well. They include:

In Kent County

  • The YWCA West Central Michigan can be reached at their 24/7, confidential help line at 616-454-YWCA (9922) or online at http://www.ywcawcmi.org

In Wayne County

  • The YWCA Interim House is a domestic and sexual violence shelter that provides safe refuge along with food, clothing, advocacy and counseling to victims of abuse. Its 24-hour crisis line is 313-861-5300. For more details, go here.
  • Wayne County SAFE offers forensic medical exams for rape and sexual assault victims in Wayne County and provides help for victims of any kind of sexual violence, including rape, sex trafficking, child abuse and incest. Call its crisis pager 24 hours a day for crisis intervention at 313-430-8000. Learn more at http://wcsafe.org/.
  • First Step serves western Wayne County and Downriver and has a 24-hour help hotline at 734-722-6800 or 888-453-5900. The agency also offers emergency short-term housing for victims, counseling, support, safety planning, advocacy and more. Learn more at www.firststep-mi.org.

Macomb County

  • Turning Point offers a 24-hour help hotline at 586-463-6990. The agency also offers an emergency shelter for victims and their children, counseling, advocacy, safety planning and more. Details: turningpointmacomb.org.

Oakland County

  • HAVEN offers a 24-hour toll-free crisis line at 877-922-1274 along with live chatting on its website, www.haven-oakland.org. The agency also offers emergency shelter for victims and their children, counseling, advocacy, safety planning and more.

Washtenaw County

  • SafeHouse Center in Ann Arbor offers a 24-hour crisis line at 734-995-5444. The agency also offers emergency shelter, counseling, support, safety planning, advocacy and more. Learn more at www.safehousecenter.org.

Livingston County

  • LACASA Center provides comprehensive services for victims and survivors of child abuse, domestic violence and sexual assault. Its 24-hour help line is available by calling 866-522-2725. Services and programs include a crisis shelter, and Safe Pet Place for shelter residents' family pets; individual counseling and support groups for children and adults; legal advocacy services, and a private and confidential Sexual Assault Response Center. Learn more at lacasacenter.org.

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© 2017 Detroit Free Press


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