Anyone in an abusive relationship who needs help can call the national domestic violence helpline at 800.799.7233.


IONIA, Mich. (WOOD) — A Michigan man is facing up to life in prison for allegedly kidnapping and raping an Ionia County woman who was his ex-girlfriend. This comes as domestic violence cases continue to rise in Michigan.

Monday morning, an Ionia County woman called 911, saying her neighbor had texted her saying “HELP.”

An undated booking photo of Kurt Gene Franklyn.
An undated booking photo of Kurt Gene Franklyn. (Courtesy Ionia County Sheriff’s Office)

She knew her neighbor was experiencing domestic violence, allegedly at the hands of her ex-boyfriend, 52-year-old Kurt Franklyn of Roseville.

Deputies say on Monday, Franklyn went to his ex-girlfriend’s home and turned off her power. When she got home, deputies say Franklyn attacked her.

But she came up with an escape plan. She was able to convince him to let her drive to his car and pick up her belongings.

As she drove him to his car, she pulled into the Meijer gas station in Ionia, telling him she needed to put air in the tire. She got out of the car and ran into the gas station, screaming for help, saying she had been kidnapped and raped. Deputies soon showed up and arrested Franklyn.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE SHELTER: ‘TRUST YOUR GUT’

Patricia Barlow-Bray is on the front lines of helping with domestic violence situations. She works as an emergency response coordinator for Relief After Violent Encounters, which supports domestic and sexual violence victims in Montcalm and Ionia counties.

“It is similar to a lot of cases I’ve dealt with in the last few years,” Barlow-Bray said. “It’s something that unfortunately happens quite often.”

Lately, her organization has received more domestic violence calls and taken more people into their emergency shelter, which is meant to protect people from abusive living situations and help them move forward.

“We notice that there is a rise kind of all across Michigan, and we can see that in Ionia,” Barlow-Bray said. “A lot of that can do with COVID and being stuck at home and the trickling effects of that.”

For the past few months, Barlow-Bray said the shelter has averaged about 15 people, consisting of women and children.

“It has been getting quite full,” Barlow-Bray said. “I think we’ll have a few days where there’s a few people who’ve exited. And then the next few days we’ll have three or four more families coming in.”

For those suffering from abusers, Barlow-Bray says there are things they can do now to be ready to leave safely.

“You can gather your important documents and information and have them in a safe space to be able to leave if that’s safe for you,” she said. “If it’s safe for you, you can have things in your car waiting.”

“If you know your abuser is going to see those things, then you’re able to talk to somebody that’s trusted,” she added. “Let them know if something’s going on. Let them know if there’s a code word that if you message them or tell them then they can help get you help.”

If that’s not an option, the organization also has a crisis and support line — 800.720.7233 — with professionals ready to help and connect victims with resources and counseling. They also have a legal advocate, helping with cases against abusers and securing protection orders for victims.

“It’s hard to know that a lot of people don’t know that we’re here,” Barlow-Bray said. “But across the state and across the country, there’s thousands of agencies like ours that are willing to help anyone.”

Barlow-Bray suggested that victims should “trust their gut.”

“A lot of people try to push it away to be nice, to be polite, and at the end of the day, it’s OK to lie if it gets you out of a harmful situation,” she said. “It’s OK to be rude if it gets you out of a harmful situation. Because the person that is causing that situation wants to harm you. And you just need to get out alive.”

Barlow-Bray said she has seen clients who reached out 10 years after their abuse took place, fearing retaliation from their abuser.

“The trauma can last for a very long time,” Barlow-Bray said. “It can look different. It can go away for a few months and come back at any time. So that’s why we’re always 24/7 with our crisis line. Because we know trauma doesn’t have a timeline.”

She says no matter what, victims are never alone.

“Nothing that they do leading up to these events, during these events, or after their events are their fault. And there’s nothing that they should feel ashamed or embarrassed about. I understand feeling those things and it’s okay to move through those emotions. But I’m there to help,” she said.

In addition to the emergency shelter and crisis line operating around-the-clock, the organization has free counseling available for domestic violence and sexual assault victims.

If you or someone you know needs help, call the national domestic violence helpline at 800.799.7233.

“At the end of the day what matters is that you survive,” Barlow-Bray said. “No matter what they do, no matter how they end up in a situation or how they got out of their situation, they’re alive and able to work through that. And I’m just there to help navigate them through that process.”