Wellspring

Wellspring

Saturday, August 22, 2015

A Play to Remind Us Why We Have Women's Equality Day


Stopping by the League of Women Voters' table at the farmers' market last Saturday, I ran across some friends.  We started talking about how important it is to get the word out to vote. I've spoken with elder women I know who told me how important voting has always been to them. We tend to forget how hard our predecessors fought for the right to vote.

 

Well the League has a great way to help us remember... The Stone that Started the Ripple is a humorous yet historical representation of the return of the women who initiated the crusade for women's right to vote. Using their actual words from the 1800's, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Sojourner Truth, and Lucretia Mott offer commentary on the status of women's issues today. Written by local author, Pat Nugent.
All proceeds benefit the League of Women Voters of Saratoga County. One performance is being offered, on Wednesday, August 26th at 7 PM in Skidmore College’s Filene Hall.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Deserving of Praise?


I serve on quite a few community coalitions that address issues affecting our youth and how to guide children, teens and young adults to make healthy decisions.  If you’ve been alive so long that  your memory has stored the Kodachrome images of childhood in frames nostalgically gilded with Huck Finn-like images of childhood innocence and  freedom from care… well I hate to burst your bubble, but your memory is playing tricks on you (and you probably need to go back and reread Mark Twain). The years of our youth are full of challenges, disappointments, tragedies, fears and betrayals; it’s those struggles that help us to become resilient, compassionate adults.

Often when adults question “How can we help kids to make better decisions?”, I think one simple response is to be aware of the messages we send them through our own actions. Kids learn much more by watching what we do than by listening to what we say. When my sons were teens they would roll their eyes as I imparted well-intentioned pearls of wisdom (teenage translation –Mom’s constantly nagging me about stuff I haven’t even done). Like most parents I thought my words fell on deaf ears. But my work on the Shenendehowa Community Coalition suggests otherwise. Time and time again students have told us (in interviews and anonymous surveys) that their parents are the top influence as they make decisions about using drugs or alcohol.

So last week I found one article about David Cassidy’s volunteerism at CAPTAIN’s summer lunch program really troubling. Glenn Griffith’scoverage of Cassidy’s mandatory community service gushed unabashedly about Cassidy’s generosity, humility and caring…. as well as his fame.  Cassidy has repeatedly driven drunk (a DUI in Florida followed by 2 DWIs within a six month period, one in California and one in NYS).  The repeat convictions for driving intoxicated raise questions about whether he takes any of this seriously (he reportedly even failed to attend a court date for the NYS arrest, instead choosing to spend the day at the track.)  I wish the man no ill and hope that the arrests have led him to evaluate his choices to get behind the wheel after drinking, but wonder what message we are sending to our youth with this public adoration of Cassidy’s community spirit, while downplaying the severity of the offense that prompted the community service. These are the same kids we’ll soon be talking to about the dangers of drunk driving. If community service and laudatory news articles are the only consequences they see, will they take us seriously when we explain the decision to drive drunk can be a life altering mistake?

I’d welcome an article about the really great work CAPTAIN does for kids every day… about their dedicated staff and passionate volunteers. Their summer lunch program served 1,700 lunches per week this summer at 12 sites throughout Saratoga County. Yes, you read that right-- 1,700 lunches each week! Any kid under 18 who needed a lunch got one, just for asking. If you think poverty, homelessness and hunger don't exist in Saratoga County, those numbers should get you thinking. These kids sit beside yours in schools all over the county. They play on the playground together. They study for the same math tests. And their families struggle to provide for the most basic needs. The challenges these families strive to overcome and the agencies like CAPTAIN who are working every day to help them---  that's what I find inspirational.


But Griffith’s front page news article lauding a ‘celebrity’ for mandated community service, sugarcoats the reality that drunk drivers cause accidents with tragic consequences. It also ignores the reality that a multiple drunk driving offender was sentenced to a $900 fine, 6 months' license suspension and community service. Let’s think about the messages we’re sending our community and our kids.   They are watching.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Parents' Homework- Do You Know How to Keep Your Kids Safe Online?

It's never been easy keeping up with kids...and it's even harder keeping ahead of what they are learning.   When I was a kid,  the 'New Math' had parents mystified. My kids were learning to read with the 'Whole Language' method... which meant I wasn't supposed to correct them if they spelled cat,  "ket" , or I might extinguish their love of reading. Today's parents feel like they're always one step behind their kids with computers.  Just when they got Facebook figured out it's passé.


While I don't think new math or misspellings ever had dire consequences, predators do lurk on social media, so it's important that parents have the knowledge to monitor their kids' computer activities. The Saratoga Center for the Family is hosting a workshop, How predators use today's social media to lure teens into risky behavior. John Kelly, community educator for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and former Saratoga Springs police officer, will offer parents tips for keeping their children safe on line.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Perfect Weather for Golfing

Summer is winding down, but here's a chance to enjoy one more day golfing with friends. The weather predictions are for a beautiful summer day, low 80's, a mix of sun and fluffy white clouds. Don't miss the opportunity. If you need more incentive, 100% of the proceeds benefit Wellspring's work to end relationship and sexual abuse.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Google Responds to Revenge Porn

Revenge porn...it's used to control a partner,  to expose them and most of all to humiliate. With a simple mouse click, an embarrassing image can become public not just to a select group, but can be viewed by dozens, hundreds, thousands or more.  And worse, that image lingers in the public domain. A simple search of someone 's name and anyone can view the image. Victims of on-line posting of unauthorized sexually explicit photos and videos feel intensely violated not only at the initial incident... but indefinitely, affecting relationships, employment, and an individuals entire on-line presence.


Google just announced a response to the problem- individuals can request that Google remove unauthorized pornographic images from search results. While the images remain on the Web and can be accessed  through the direct page link, they will not show up through Google search engines.  


Click here to ask Google to remove your sensitive personal information, like your bank account number, or an image of your handwritten signature, or a nude or sexually explicit image or video of you that’s been shared without your consent, from Google search results.  



Thursday, July 16, 2015

'Applauding' John Gray's Insights

I've been following the wit and wisdom of local pundit, John Gray for so many decades it feels as if, even without ever having met each other,  we've grown wiser together, changing some of our viewpoints as life's lessons shaped our opinion and insights. Reading his Applause column today, I noted how in just a few sentences he takes a timely news story and thinks about how people are affected by it. In this case he's discussing (and for the most part supporting) Governor Cuomo's 'Enough is Enough' response to campus sexual assault. Gray's big worry was that in the heat of the moment (and may be with a bit of alcohol as a disinhibitor) young people wouldn't realize the importance of affirmative consent... and the consequences that can result by just assuming consent.

It's a good point. It's important that we have these conversations with our young people. Campuses are taking this responsibility very seriously; Skidmore and Wellspring are working very collaboratively and proactively to have increased prevention and awareness programs and on-campus access to a Wellspring  advocate. But the responsibility doesn't reside solely with colleges.
 Parents need to talk with their sons and daughters about sexual assault and about consent. Wondering how to start that conversation. Maybe we can help; here's two ways Wellspring can help you start the conversation:
  • Wellspring has a an interactive awareness program Rape or Regret. It's a video of a trial for a common date rape scenario (a party with underage drinking). Our staff present the video and facilitate a discussion session. We've had parents and teens watch it together. A mother commented months after attending a viewing that she'd always wondered how to start that difficult conversation with her daughters. After they attended  the program "the conversation just started... It  opened the  lines of communication, and now my daughters' friends also talk comfortably with me about these issues." We can bring this presentation to your  community group. It's free, enlightening, and interactive.
  • Need a quick and easy conversation starter? Here's a two minute video Wellspring developed about consent.
So Mr. Gray. You are so right; it's important we educate our youth about consent. And in response to your observation, "I think we are a short drive from a time when students will sign contracts before getting undressed. I’m sure there’s already an app for that."  There is indeed an app for that; it's called Are We Good 2 Go?

  

Friday, July 10, 2015

Shifting from Blaming to 'Generosity and Connectedness'

For too many decades domestic violence and rape crisis agencies' impact has been constrained because our focus (often determined by funding) has been limited to only one piece of the solution to these problems- crisis and support services for survivors. These services are critical, but they
  • address the issue far too late-- after the victimization has happened, and
  • place the responsibility for solving the problem on the very person who is the victim of the actions.
In no way am I diminishing the importance of this work. Every day at Wellspring we help victims of abuse to break free, heal, find a measure of justice, and emerge as survivors. But there are two other pieces to this puzzle that need to be addressed before we can solve it.
We need to focus on the actions of the person committing the abusive behavior, not on the victim. In the past year, we've seen a  shift in holding offenders accountable. The year's news stories have been peppered with incidents where public figures (athletes, celebrities) committed acts of relationship or sexual violence. While the 'sensational tweet of the moment' social media coverage of these incidents spans the gamut from voracious public shaming to prurient nosiness into the private lives of celebrities, the sheer volume of coverage about high-profile abuse has resulted in more thoughtful conversations about character-- with important career consequences. Where I hope we get to with these discussions is not the sensational, career-ending consequences after actions suddenly become public, but instead instilling character and ethical leadership as equally important attributes for excellence in one's field. Often talent, and its sidekick fame, buy privilege--that carte blanche that we offer to excuse, cover up, or ignore habitual abusive actions. Hopefully, we'll invest more resources in changing attitudes so that success depends not just on athletic, artistic or intellectual skills, but on character also... and this value will be taught early and often, to all. 
Holding people accountable for their individual actions is important, but that's addressing the issue on relationship at a time. So change will only happen as quickly as we can 'fix' each relationship. True change comes from realizing that  we all need to be part of the solution. Ending relationship and sexual abuse, is about changing social norms. When Wellspring staff work with kids in prevention programs, we teach then about bystander intervention-- the skills they need to know so that they can take action in a situation.  The title of a recent news article Here's How You Can Stop A Sexual Assault Before It Happens caught my eye. It's a discussion about the role of bystanders. And it's got a very potent message about how traumatized bystanders are when they've witnessed an assault, but through shock, confusion, or not knowing what to do, they didn't do anything to intervene. That feeling of helplessness can haunt them forever. Programs that expose youth (or adults) to the ethic of intervention and provide strategies they can use in situations prepare them. I especially like that the focus changes from a victim/perpetrator solution to a broader focus. The concluding words of the article sum up that difference quite eloquently:
It’s not saying, 'You are the problem,'” explained Miller,
who has published research on bystander education.
“It taps into a sense of generosity and sense of connectedness.”

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Hot Yoga Saratoga Offering Benefit Yoga Class





Note: If you read yesterday's blog post,  the information about this fundraiser was incorrect. Please not change of location. Many thanks to Hot Yoga Saratoga!