Wellspring

Wellspring

Friday, June 24, 2016

Out of Site

Reading the news locally and nationally, we've got some troubling community safety issues we're trying to address. In Saratoga Springs the front page stories lately revolve around the concerns about homelessness, vagrancy and the need for housing and support services to assist people out of homelessness and into safe housing, services and stability. Nationally, the tragedy in Orlando has spiked concerns about the rise in gun violence. These are big issues that may seem very unrelated to my work in domestic violence or sexual assault, but it's interesting that lately I've seen people drawing links to Wellspring's mission.


About a week ago I attended the Saratoga Springs Downtown Business Association meeting. Saratoga Spring's Police Chief, Greg Veitch was talking about his department's work to preserve community safety, quickly and effectively respond to any crimes that are reported, and whenever possible to link people living on the street with support services such as those offered by Shelters of Saratoga. As always, the audience appreciated his openness and professional response to their questions and concerns. The Chief responded to community inquiries about safety, explained the SSPD's efforts and limitations in having a continual presence in the downtown business district (it's a relatively small police force which sees exponential increase in demand during the tourist season). He also discussed factors that underlie/contribute to homelessness.



When citizens and business owners described their experience with feeling unsafe, he offered suggestions and discussed how the SSPD can assist. At one point he mentioned data about arrests for assault  and observed that statistically there's greater potential for harm from someone you know than from strangers. I noted it's interesting that we perceive the streets to be potentially dangerous, while our sense of home is a place where we're safe from harm-- not always so. The number of assaults in Saratoga Springs over the past 3 years, by a homeless person against a random person on the street was negligible if not null; by comparison the SSPD  has ~400-500 arrests each year for domestic violence. It's no surprise to me that we fail to notice one of the most serious safety concerns in our county- domestic violence. Why? Because we don't see it. Grabbing our morning coffee at Uncommon Grounds, lunch at the Hungry Spot, and shopping at any of the wonderful shops on Broadway, we may pass by the same homeless person sitting on a corner several times each day... and each time our mind registers one more incidence of homelessness- even though it's the same person sitting on a corner. Conversely, it's so rare to actually see a domestic violence incident, that domestic violence seems nonexistent. In Saratoga County, domestic violence is the #2 violent crime (and also the primary cause of family homelessness) ... but I rarely hear community groups convening to discuss what we can do about this safety issue*.


Later in the week another seemingly unrelated headline evidenced a horrific crime with connections to domestic violence lurking  just under the surface. In the aftermath of the Orlando tragedy, it was quickly revealed that the shooter had a history of domestic violence. To anyone who works in the domestic violence field, this revelation didn't come as a surprise. All too often when reading about a mass shooting, we note there was a history of domestic  violence... or  the tragic incident involved an abused partner or was preceded by an act of abuse at home.  In her article On guns, stop talking about terrorism. Start talking about domestic violence,Vox reporter, Emily Crockett states,
"...most "mass shootings" aren't how we imagine them — they’re not school shootings or dance floor massacres. They’re relatively private acts of horror, preceded by red flag after red flag of abusive and violent behavior...
We can’t predict who will become a mass shooter, nor can we save every potential victim of domestic violence. But it would be an unforced error not to do all we can to keep guns out of the hands of people who are known to be violent — and it’s a lot easier to predict violent behavior in general than the specific decision to commit a mass shooting."


 

I don't have the answers these big social issues affecting community safety, but I do think it's interesting to note that we shouldn't discount red flags that are a little less obvious because they're happening at home. Let's not look away from violence in the home. That flash of red you see waving in the backyard may be more than just some laundry hanging on the line...it could be an indicator of something dangerous looming larger in the future.


*Wellspring staff is available for presentations at no charge  to business or organizations if they'd like to learn more about domestic violence or sexual assault or what they can do to help.


If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse,
contact our 24 hour hotline for assistance
518-584-8188




Thursday, June 2, 2016

Got Books?


There's nothing that says summer better than lying on the beach or in a hammock on a warm afternoon leisurely reading a book.  It a wonderful indulgence, but takes just a bit of planning. You've got to have a good book on hand for when the moment presents itself. Make sure you're ready... this weekend Northshire Bookstore is donating 20% of all sales to Soroptimist International of Saratoga County... just say you're "shopping for Soroptimist". While you're lying in the hammock reading that mystery novel, your donation will be hard at work supporting programs that help women and girls-- maybe across the globe building a birthing center in in Uganda or providing mobile medical services in Ecuador... or maybe right here in Saratoga County supporting Wellspring's financial literacy program, Project Hope and Power.


Image taken by Brian Hoffman (c) 2016

Northshire Bookstore
Soroptimist In-Store Book Fair

June 4th 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
June 5th 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.


Come out and support Soroptimist this coming weekend in downtown Saratoga Springs. It's easy!

Tell the bookseller that you are "Shopping for Soroptimists” and 20% of your purchases will be devoted to supporting the Secret Gardens Tour, scheduled for July 10, 2016. Come and enjoy yourself in Saratoga's exceptional bookstore.

And yes, you can purchase gift certificates in any amount.

The Secret Gardens Tour draws more than 700 visitors from the Capital Region who spend the day enjoying exceptional gardens in and around Saratoga Springs. Tickets to the general public go on sale soon for $20 in advance and $25 on the day of the tour. Download the brochure and buy your tickets by mail.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Football is moving out of the Wild West

Sports Illustrated's Joan Niesen  calls it "a broken system... a crisis". What's she referring to? The prevalence of violence against women by collegiate and professional football players... and  a system that is aware of their actions and actively  shields the player from consequences in order to protect their investment in the athlete. SI's recent article, "Latest sexual violence allegations highlight broken system at Baylor" references the recently released report by Pepper Hamilton investigating how Baylor University handled numerous allegations of sexual violence by Baylor's athletes.  The report cites numerous problems with the college's response: inadequately trained administrators, lack of response to alleviate a hostile environment, and a different disciplinary process for athletes than other students.


Baylor has announced leadership changes and corrective actions based on the findings of the investigation they commissioned by Pepper Hamilton. Baylor's response is late and lackluster, coming only after intense public scrutiny of how the university mishandled numerous reports of sexual misconduct. Niesen states, "It’s the Wild West, an absence of justice, and Baylor has had no incentive to fix the landscape it created—until now."


This is where there's hope. In the past couple of years we've heard so many stories where star athletes commit acts of gender-based violence-- domestic violence or sexual assault. And we've heard over and over, how their celebrity status protected them from consequence. But, while for years, these acts remained private, victims are now speaking out, the public is noticing, organizations are being held accountable for  the actions of their players... and teammates an coaches are speaking out against violence. Concern, justice, and accountability are civilizing  the Wild West



Friday, May 13, 2016

"Wait, Worry and Wonder"

Yesterday John Gray's Fade to Gray column, Social Nightmare, covered an important issue affecting teens, the devastating violation of personal privacy that occurs when an intimate  image is privately shared on-line with one person, but then becomes public. Sometimes  images are posted publicly after a break-up -- so called 'revenge porn', other times, it's sextortion, i.e.,  predators actively groom vulnerable teens they've met on-line,  building a 'friendship' and with the express intent to solicit the teen to send them explicit images that they will post publicly.


We hear about these things, but tend to think they happen elsewhere, in some other county or to someone else's kids. Gray's story is about a local teen... and the concern was that what happened to him could affect at least a dozen of his friends. Technology has changed so quickly, it's hard for parents to keep up with it let alone to be ahead of the game in helping their children remain safe. We didn't grow up in a time when in an impulsive and emotionally-charged moment it was possible to take a quick intimate picture and press send... possibly having it viewed worldwide by strangers. It's the kind of situation a parent doesn't even imagine until it happens. Gray states
"He made a 10 second mistake that will now haunt him forever.
Like a grenade with the pin pulled all he can do is
wait, worry and wonder when it’s going to go off."
What teen hasn't made a10 second mistake a some point? It's chilling that todays' technology allows those mistakes to become viral. Here's a graphic and haunting video depicting a typical teenage girl...and how her whole life can be controlled due to sextortion. 

Friday, April 29, 2016

"Man Up"

The focus on athletes committing acts of domestic violence or sexual assault has been ever-present in the news over the past year; new incidents seem to pop up at least weekly. I've been asked, "is it because they're such superstars they feel they're beyond the rules?", or "Is it something about athletics or people who excel in athletics that contributes?" I don't have the answers.


DeAndre Levy (@drelevy) | TwitterBut today I read Man Up an article by Deandre Levy, a linebacker for the Detroit Lions, that sheds some light on the messages we give young men about masculinity:
"It’s truly astounding the number of awful things that occur in this world because men are afraid of appearing weak."


... and the messages we don't give them about sexual violence.
"My understanding is that most women have heard the talk about how to avoid becoming a victim, but growing up, I was never involved in a conversation about what consent is. I was never even flat-out told not to rape or sexually assault anyone."


More frank talk like this is needed, with young athletes, with coaches, with our sons, and with the parents who raise boys. Levy makes a compelling argument for getting real about these issues and leading the change:
"Some of the funniest, most insightful and honest conversations I’ve ever had in my life have taken place inside a locker room. But this particular topic is one that has never come up.
As professional athletes, we have the prominence in our communities to effect real change. When we talk, people listen. So in a sense, our general silence on this issue is condoning it.
So let’s change that. Speak out with me. Man up."


Click here to read the article.



Monday, April 25, 2016

Raising Their Voices... In the Best Possible Way

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and it's drawing to an end. I've  been a bit quiet about sexual assault awareness month, because I think it's important that we don't limit these conversations to just 30 days. They're discussions we need to have real time, when the topic arises-- all year long. Only then will we really notice how often relationship and sexual abuse are in our local news... how often we hear comments/jokes that tacitly condone abuse... or how often we have opportunities to create change.


True social change is rarely cataclysmic; more often it's a gradual awakening accompanied by almost imperceptible shifts in how each individual thinks and acts. And when many peoples' thoughts and actions all start to change there's an alignment. Awareness isn't about a month; it's about consciousness, day-after-day.


As April comes to an end, I'd like to recognize 10 musicians who are using their talent to increase awareness of sexual violence, domestic violence and child abuse. Their songs, while dealing with tragic topics, convey courage, strength, honesty, and poignancy. They also inspire us to work toward ending relationship and sexual abuse.
 


While their styles range from rap, to rock, to country and heavy  metal they're united in the message- No More.


Listen to their inspiring messages  here



Friday, April 22, 2016

When Domestic Violence Comes To Work

We often think of domestic violence as something that happens at home. While most physical abuse happens out of sight,  in reality a domestic violence victim is not free from the power and control even when they leave home.  I was reading an article last night that illustrated how vulnerable and unprepared businesses feel when domestic violence enters the workplace. Tragically, the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center lost two employees within six months due to domestic violence. In one case a young mother was shot in front of her 3 year old by a former partner. Just 5 months later a nurse was stabbed to death by her son after repeated domestic incidents.
Domestic violence impacts your employees and your bottom line. Often when a victim leaves the abusive partner, the abuser may concentrate his/her focus on the workplace to stalk, harass or otherwise control the victim.
  • 21% of full time employed adults have been victims of domestic violence, and most indicate their work performance was significantly impacted.
  • 40% of these victims report being harassed at work by their abuser.
  • 74% of perpetrators had easy access to their partner's workplace.
  • 21% of offenders contacted their victim at work in violation of an order of protection.
What does a business owner or manager need to know?
  • Wellspring offers a full range of crisis and support services for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault... including safety planning while at work.
  • Wellspring also has an Employer Toolkit to help managers and supervisors recognize and respond when an employee is experiencing abuse.
  • Our advocates are available 24 hours/day not just to help victims of abuse, but also to provide support and guidance for anyone who has someone in their life who is being victimized--that someone may be a son or daughter, friend, a neighbor, or an employee.

As I read the article about the  St. Joseph Medical Center, I was struck by how helpless the staff felt as they lacked company policies to assist an employee who was experiencing domestic violence. Wellspring can help your organization to increase awareness, develop policies to support someone who may be experiencing abuse, and maintain a safe workplace. Call us at 518-583-0280 to find out how we can assist you.


If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse,
contact our 24 hour hotline for assistance
518-584-8188


  





Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Honoring 2016's Women of Influence


With delight, I read the award winners of Saratoga Today’s 2016 Women of Influence award. The award recognizes women demonstrating leadership, community involvement, and professionalism that benefits Saratoga County today and shapes our future.  Each year, I’m always thrilled when I see the impressive women selected as the awardees. This year’s winners are:

Shelly Amato

Elizabeth “Libby” Coreno

Gayle LaSalle

Jane Mastaitis

Christianne Smith

And Co-Teachers Laura O’Brien and Miyo Read 

It never escapes my notice that so many of them have been instrumental in shaping Wellspring, through their board membership or volunteerism. This year alone we have three former Wellspring board members: Shelly Amato, Libby Coreno, and Christianne Smith being recognized (if you’ve ever admired Wellspring’s new logo, that’s Christianne’s work), plus Gayle LaSalle and I sit on many committees together achieving solutions to issues affecting our community.

Wellspring has been blessed to have benefited from the leadership and support of transformational women leaders.  Looking back on the Women of Influence Award recipients over the past 5 years, 11 women have aided Wellspring through their leadership and volunteerism:

­2015

Tara Pleat (board member)

Nancy Trimbur(board member and  volunteer for Project Hope and Power)

Paul Fidalgo (promotes awareness of relationship and sexual abuse and Wellspring’s services)

Kim Klopstock (graciously assists with Wellsprings fundraising events)

2014

Jessica Petraccione (board member)

Kathleen Fyfe (volunteers providing leadership development and strategic planning)

2013

Theresa Skaine (board member)

Robin Solomon  (volunteer for Project Hope and Power)

Cynthia Hollowood (graciously assists with Wellsprings fundraising events)

2012

Melissa Ward (program supporter through NYS Tech Valley Women)

2011

Sandy Foster (volunteer for Project Hope and Power) 

So congratulations to this year’s Women of Influence… and sincere gratitude to the many influential women who have shaped Wellspring.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Would You Believe the Same Lie for 22 Years?


Today started like many others. I was up before dawn, in the kitchen making breakfast and lunch for my husband and me. As the sun began reflecting golden light off the river in front of my house, I looked out my kitchen windows toward the wisps of smoke rising from the chimneys in the houses in my neighborhood, homes occupied by family members and neighbors I count as dear friends. My very sleepy husband, who built this home and with whom I’ve shared it for 29 years, stumbled past followed by Andy, my equally sleepy golden retriever. I handed the former a cup of coffee as he plopped into his favorite chair, and handed the latter one of my homemade dog biscuits as he curled up on ‘our spot’ on the couch. Each day I give thanks for my very blessed and blissful life…and mornings like this remind me of what a wonderful life I have.

So how is it that just 5 minutes later I was suddenly feeling angry, frustrated, and so very, very tired? Hubby got first dibs on the shower this morning, so while he was I there I grabbed a cup of my favorite vanilla rooibos tea and settled into Bill’s chair (a gift from me for his birthday 2 years ago when, even he, began to note that his beloved recliner looked quite similar to the one Frazier’s dad occupied on that eponymous sitcom.) With just a few minutes of free time, I decided to pop open my laptop and check out the news. I read just one story , brief coverage of the final segment on the series ‘The People vs O.J. Simpson’, and my morning changed.

The murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman on June 12, 1994 was a pivotal turning point in the domestic violence field. The elements of the case intrigued America in 1994 and still do 22 years later-- the celebrity status of the accused murderer, the riveting drama of the police chasing the white Bronco, and the sensational ‘gotcha’ in Cochran’s famous defense, "If it doesn’t fit , you’ve  got to acquit.” That brutal homicide started Americans talking about domestic violence at the dining room table, in the sports bar watching football games, and at the water cooler.

So why did just reading about the show (which I’ll admit I haven’t watched) instantly darken my mood?

Because yesterday a local woman living in Amsterdam who was brutally beaten by her boyfriend a week ago died of injuries sustained in the assault, leaving her children motherless and traumatized.  Because in an interview with ESPN earlier this week, Greg Hardy  denied ever laying hands on his girlfriend … despite photos of her badly bruised body. Even players, coaches, and sportscasters  are speaking  out in disbelief of his denials, but the charges were dropped because the victim, who states Hardy repeatedly threatened her life, didn’t show to court to testify against him.

Because 22 years later, partners are beaten, threatened and degraded  behind closed doors.

Because 22 years later, women and men die at the hands of their abusers.

Because 22 years later, abusers can still look us in the eye and say, “I never hit her” and even when it rings false, they get by and keep abusing. Even when the evidence is compelling, if we don’t actually see the abuse happening, we‘re hesitant to believe it.

WHY?

Because we want to believe that the person looking us straight in the eye is telling the truth… and the person who isn’t in front of the camera must therefore be lying-- without considering that the victim may be humiliated, controlled and  terrified. And that’s the power and control that the abuser relies on to maintain that protective silence.

Because we don’t want to think that people we admire are capable of such violence behind closed doors.

Because it’s scary to think that someone who professes to love you is capable of such violence.

And because it’s easier.

It’s easier to just accept the lie… even when we don’t believe it.

And I am so very tired, frustrated and, yes, angry that all these years later we still have a steady influx of victims experiencing abuse at the hands of the people who profess to love them… and all these years later we haven't ended the abuse.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Two Good Men Made a Difference


We've got a lot of work to do to end relationship and sexual abuse. But one thing that gives me hope is we're not doing this work alone. We've got many community partners. One such partner is Janine Stuchin, the executive director of the Prevention Council. Our agencies collaborate extensively because we understand how alcohol and substance misuse correlate with relationship and sexual abuse. Today Janine has graciously offered to be my guest blogger and share her thoughts on a recent news article:
The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil 
is for good men to do nothing.
As I scan the headlines and read news articles of rape and assault, it seems too often the article concludes with perpetrators who seem to get away with the “perfect crime”.  An unconscious or alcohol/drug impaired victim who has been undeniably violated but largely unable to assist in identifying what actually happened.   And then I wonder … did no one, see or hear anything that lead to this crime being committed.  Could anyone have intervened?  Across college campuses Bystander Intervention programs have been brought in, students have been taught by peers to speak up, and challenged to create a new culture that keeps men and women safe in social settings. 


And so as I read The March 31, 2016 Huffington Post article “Ex-Stanford Swimmer Found Guilty of Sexually Assaulting Unconscious Woman on Campus”, I was struck that the turning point in this crime hinged on “two graduate students who rode their bikes by a night-time sexual assault outside a fraternity party”.  They stopped and got involved.  They shouted at the assailant, one cyclist pursued the rapist and one assisted the unconscious but breathing victim.  


And that is why the headline reads “Ex-Stanford Swimmer Found Guilty of Sexually Assaulting Unconscious Woman on Campus”, and not, “Woman Wakes Up With Pine Needles in Her Disheveled Hair [and] Dried Blood on her Hands and Elbows”.  That second quote was her testimony after waking up in the hospital after at least three hours of unconsciousness.    It may take good men doing nothing for evil to prevail, but on that winter night in late 2014, two good men made sure that didn’t happen. 


You can read more about this story here
Janine Stuchin
Executive Director, The Prevention Council of Saratoga County.