Friday, December 29, 2017

Let’s Create a New Vision of “Me Too” in 2018

Looking back at 2017, it’s impossible not to notice how issues of gender inequality, harassment and sexual violence were in the forefront of our consciousness throughout the year…culminating in mid-October with a viral #MeToo twitterstorm that was a rallying cry against gender based violence. #MeToo didn’t emerge from a vacuum… for several years there’s been a steady increase in our society’s awareness and concern about sexual violence. The accounts of sexual assault, harassment, groping, and discrimination have garnered headlines. The names and stories of respected men who are also perpetrators remain in our consciousness because we’ve given these issues more attention than ever before— Ray Rice, Bill Cosby, Brock Turner, Jameis Winston, Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Bill O’Reilly, Brett Ratner, Louis C.K., US gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, Bryan Singer, Kevin Spacey. Concepts like “locker room talk”, consent, intimidation, power and privilege have migrated from HR offices to boardrooms, to locker rooms to water coolers and to the family dinner table…and the magnitude of this problem is shameful. 

The voices of courageous survivors sharing their experiences has made it clear that sexual victimization is more pervasive than we’ve ever acknowledged. It’s not the occasional perpetrator who ‘behaves badly’. We’ve got people in positions of power in sports, education, politics, entertainment, tech-everywhere- who routinely commit acts of gender based violence…. and we look the other way. There will always be people who choose to victimize; our problem is that we are a society that tacitly condones these behaviors when the person committing the acts is well-liked or important or talented or successful. Where we go from here?

The solution lies with all of us. We have the power and responsibility to change the norms that allow sexual violence to continue. As these public figures have been exposed for harassing, intimidating or perpetrating sexual assault, it’s also come to light that their colleagues were often aware of these behaviors… but rarely confronted them. Even if they personally abhorred these behaviors, their silence condoned them. Imagine if instead, they’d confronted or exposed the behaviors….there might be far fewer individuals responding with #MeToo. Imagine if fathers, coaches, and friends gave voice to the importance of respect and consent. Most men do not commit acts of sexual aggression… yet we tolerate a social norm of toxic masculinity that reveres the conquest. What if instead, men and women fostered positive social norms that celebrated equality, choice, and communication as hallmarks of masculinity?
One of my favorite symbols of hope in the path toward social change comes from a recent rape case. Brock Turner, better known as the Stanford swimmer, was in the process of sexually assaulting an unconscious young woman behind a dumpster. Two men on bicycles saw the act, interrupted it and chased him down. The young women who survived his assault sleeps with a drawing of two bicycles over her bed… a reminder that any one of us can be a hero for someone.

Together we can end relationship and sexual abuse. The MeToo I’d like to see in the future is not the voices of more courageous survivors telling their stories… but a commitment from each of us to say “Me Too” in taking action to end sexual violence.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

To the god of doorways... and noticing the silence

The Roman god Janus was the god of doorways, transitions, and new beginnings. It's fitting that the our first month was named in his honor, because we spend those first days of the new year contemplating where we've been, where we'd like to be and sometimes making resolutions to help us achieve those goals.

Looking back at 2016, I'm struck by how much the issues of sexual harassment, domestic violence, and sexual assault have dominated coverage of news, sports, Hollywood, politics, even the tech world. These conversations aren't totally new; 2014 seems so long ago when Ray Rice's infamous act of domestic violence was captured on video, doesn't it? Yet, the cadence and depth of covering these stories seemed to increase significantly in 2017, culminating with the #MeToo campaign that went viral with thousands of women disclosing their own stories of sexual harassment or sexual victimization. 2017 was a year of reducing the silence and stigma of sexual victimization, and recognizing the strength of survivors who are willing to tell these very personal and traumatic stories to help us understand the magnitude of the problem, so we can create change.
In fact, Time's person of the year is a group of women whose courage in discussing their own experiences of victimization, opened the floodgates on twitter as other women told their stories. MeToo isn't new; Tarana Burke created the MeToo campaign back in 2007. What's different is the willingness to tell these accounts, to listen nonjudgmentally, and to accept that we all are a part of the problem when we don't notice, speak up, or intervene. So Time is heralding the courage of those voices create change... but look closely at the bottom right corner of the magazine cover.  Did you notice the elbow? Melissa Chan of Time explains,  

"It belongs to an anonymous young hospital worker from Texas — a sexual harassment victim who fears that disclosing her identity would negatively impact her family.
She is faceless on the cover and remains nameless inside TIME’s red borders, but her appearance is an act of solidarity, representing all those who are not yet able to come forward and reveal their identities."
And that's the doorway we are all standing in. We've brought the issue of gender based violence into our consciousness...  many survivors still are haunted by their victimization... but the fear that constrains them today is what would happen if they gave voice to their stories of victimization. Those who nod knowingly, but who don't tell their own stories outnumber the many who have said #MeToo. May 2018 bring us out of the doorway to a place where They Too can feel safe.
If you or someone you know
has experienced relationship or sexual abuse,
or if you or someone you know is struggling because of the media coverage of sexual violence, talking to an advocate can help.
Call Wellspring's hotline at 518.587.8188

Friday, October 27, 2017

26...3... 3.5 ...70,000... Infinite

I've got a lot of numbers in my head today.
26   It's been 26 days since the launch of the Purple Purse Challenge.
3  We're currently in third place in the nation. 
3.5 We've got 3.5 days left in the Challenge.
70,000  We're about to reach $70,000 in funds donated to Wellspring by our community since October 2nd.

 Infinite. How grateful I feel by the overwhelming support of our community.. and inspired  that by working together we truly can end relationship and sexual abuse. From local businesses (an extra  big thanks to the members of the Saratoga Springs DBA), to the community leaders who gave voice to why our work is so important, to faith organizations , and individual people who gave so generously from their hearts.

What I've really enjoyed throughout this month is hearing all the reasons people care: children, women, safety, financial stability, hope, empowerment. Yesterday the folks at the Saratoga Casino and Hotel were sitting around the table talking about Wellspring's Purple Purse Challenge and they pulled out their phone, made a video and sent it to me. Click here to see what they had to say.

I don't think there's been anyone more excited about the Challenge than Jesse Jackson at Look TV. He's had me as a guest on the show so many times this month that he's seen my entire purple wardrobe... and  has a new moniker for me. Click here to find out what Jesse has named me now and hear what we talked about today.

So Jesse is reminding folks to support the Challenge by making their gift online before 1:59 October 31st at wellspringcares.org/purse

Thanks Jesse... and thanks to all of you! Together e we can reach all our goals.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Because She Sees Wellspring at the End of the Poem

In the past few months I have been highlighting some incredible people in our community who were gracious enough to work with us in our Purple Purse Leaders campaign.  Now that October is almost over and the campaign is winding down, I wanted to highlight one group that holds a special place in my heart. 

Soroptimist International of Saratoga County is an organization by women, for women.  Their mission is to improve the lives of women and girls through programs leading to social and economic empowerment.  I’m proud to have been a member for 11 years  and am constantly amazed by all of the things my sisters do.  Let me introduce you to Marie Buckley Hoffman, the current President of our chapter.  For 35 years she has been working as a teacher for hearing impaired children.  Yesterday, she shared a poem with me because she believed it related to our work. Click here to hear why she cares and how the  poem below inspires her commitment to Wellspring's work.
Children Learn What They LiveBy Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D.

If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live. 


If children live in homes with domestic violence, they learn unhealthy habits that will follow them through life.  But Marie told me the other day she sees Wellspring at the end of the poem.  Wellspring shows children and victims of domestic violence compassion, acceptance and kindness.  Because of this, they learn so many important skills that will serve them throughout their life. 


All of my Soroptimist sisters have found their reasons for supporting Wellspring. I’ve been  showing the reasons so many of our community leaders care as well.  I've truly been moved hearing people talking from the heart about why they care.  But what about you?  Why do you care about Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and the work Wellspring does to end these issues?  Please let me know, either in the comments below or just if you see me in the community.
Do you want to help us make this world a nice place? Give today to the Purple Purse Challenge at
We've got just until 1:59 in the afternoon on October 31st to reach our goal in the Challenge, raising more funds for prevention so that all children live with honesty, security, friendliness, and kindness.


Sunday, October 22, 2017

Savvy Women on the Importance of Supporing Each Other

In her work as a life coach, Carly Hamilton Jones has seen the effects of domestic violence. Click here to hear why she thinks Wellspring's work is important for our community.

Brandon Dewyea , founder of the women's network, Savvy, shares her thoughts on the important of women supporting each other to achieve their  personal and professional goals.

Many victims of domestic violence suffer in silence without ever telling anyone what's happening in the relationship; often they maintain this silence because they're embarrassed to admit they're being abused by a partner. It's not unusual for us to hear, "I don't know anyone else this has happened to." Actually one in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. Ending domestic violence... and the stigma of it, starts with talking about the prevalence, the challenges, and owning that it's up to all of us to  create the change to end abuse.

Many folks have told me they had no idea about the scope of Wellspring's programs until they read the blog over the past month. So for a bit of fun, here's a little crossword challenge highlighting info about some of those lesser known programs.

Answer Key:

4. Safe
7. End
9. Dilemma
10. October
11. View

1. Allstate
2. Maggie
3. Keshi
5. Broadway
6. Zero
8. Hope

Friday, October 20, 2017

Safe Harbour-- reaching out to each Jane Doe

In helping domestic violence victims, we often interface with other related social issues. Dave DeCelle of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, talks about how domestic violence intersects with their work.

This year, Soroptimist International of Saratoga County is working to raise awareness of trafficking issues. Our theme for the year is Talk About It! Before a Club meeting a month ago, members asked me for statistics on trafficking in Saratoga County... do we even have any trafficking that happens here? Yeah we do. John Kelly oversees the Saratoga County Safe Harbour Program, a community response to sex trafficking. He provided the following statistics since July 2016 in Saratoga County:
  • They've worked with  13 confirmed Trafficking Victims . 
  • There have also been 62 individuals under the age of 21 who have scored a “High Risk” level on the screening tool for trafficking during the same time period.
I might also add, these are just the number of trafficking victims under the age of 21; Wellspring also assists trafficked persons  over 21 years of age... so the problem is even greater than those stats.
At our monthly Soroptimist meeting, members were shocked at the numbers... in Saratoga County?! Frankly 4 years ago, before CAPTAIN and the Center for the Family collaborated to launch the Safe Harbour Program,  these vulnerable youth probably wouldn't have been identified... or helped.  What's happened in the past few years? We've all gotten training so we're better able to recognize trafficking... and know what resources there are to help a victim. We've developed teamwork between agencies so that we can pull together our resources to help vulnerable victims. CAPTAIN, the Center for the Family, Wellspring  work together to increase awareness and provide crisis services and support. Wellspring hosted a training for first responders where CAPTAIN's street outreach team talked about the  needs of vulnerable teens on the street-- how they get sucked into a world of sexual victimization... just to survive.
Most folks wouldn't imagine trafficking happens right here in our community... and wouldn't recognize it if they saw it. So how can we help? Let's increase our knowledge. Awareness is the first step to solving the problem. Here's an opportunity. On Thursday October 26th at 4 pm, Bow Tie Cinema at 19 Railroad Place in Saratoga Springs will have a showing of the film, I Am Jane Doe. The film has been described as :
a gripping legal thriller” (Esquire); “a powerful call to action” (The Los Angeles Times); “viscerally emotional” (The Washington Post), I Am Jane Doe chronicles the epic battle that several American mothers are waging on behalf of their middle-school daughters, victims of sex trafficking on Backpage.com, the classified advertising website that for years was part of the iconic Village Voice.  Reminiscent of Erin Brockovich and Karen Silkwood, these mothers have stood up on behalf of thousands of other mothers, fighting back and refusing to take no for an answer.

Reservations are available on line. Click here for more information. Watching the documentary and starting a conversation... it's an easy way to start tackling a tragic problem that affects our youth.

And here's another easy way to make a difference for victims. Wellspring has just 10 days left  to raise funds in Allstate's Purple Purse Challenge. It takes just seconds to make your donation online and help place first in the nation earning the $100,000 bonus from Allstate. Go just a few seconds to get us one step closer to ending relationship and sexual abuse in our community... click here to donate.


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

One Day... One Day Closer

My sons are grown men now, but if there were Emmy nominations for reading to your kids, I'd probably have a series of trophies on my mantle (I delight in character voices, accents, suspense and timing when reading a kids' book). Malcolm Gladwell says  the key to achieving expertise is dedicating 10,000 hours of practice to your craft. I'm pretty sure I spent at least that much time with the boys (and a cat) sitting in my lap as together we discovered how a book can open the door to any possibilities you can imagine. Dreams become reality when you're between the front and back cover of the book...and often ideas live on after the reader closes the book.  Judith Viorst's Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, monumentalized one day in the life of young Alexander. Allow me to share  with you the story of my yesterday... with a working title of Maggie and the Stressful but Exciting, Inspiring, Grateful, Hopeful, Really Wonderful Day!

So yesterday at 1:59 in the afternoon marked the end of week 2 of Allstate's Purple Purse Challenge. It was a big week as the 3 agencies that raised the most money during that week, would earn a $10,000 bonus. We're competing with about 125 agencies across the country... and they're all working hard for the survivors in their communities, so we have some really stiff competition! Stressful.

Watching the leaderboard!
As 2 pm approached concluding the end of week 2 of the Challenge, I was in the company of about 25 women who were enthusiastically watching the leaderboard and supporting Wellspring's campaign in every way they could. All eyes were glued to the cell phone screens as the fundraising totals for all agencies kept changing ("We're in 3rd- by $1,000... another agency just got a $5,000 donation... oh Wellspring just moved ahead!...can we hold the lead?)" Exciting

While Tuesday's conversation was certainly about the Challenge, this isn't the first time we've gotten together to talk. We've talked before about educating youth, about reducing stigma, about how to talk to a friend who may be experiencing abuse, about changing attitudes that contribute to  abuse... and mostly about what they can do to end relationship and sexual abuse. Wellspring's not alone in this... we've got a community supporting our vision. Inspiring

Karen Charbonneau, Willie Miranda, me and Karen Totino
We had a quick moment of celebration when Wellspring placed 1st in the nation in the week 2 challenge and- yes!- got the $10,000 bonus funds for programs  and services here in Saratoga County, but then all went back to our busy lives. I left there and headed to the ribbon cutting for the Saratoga Home Team. On their really special day as they launched their new business, Karen Charbonneau and Karen Totino chose to share the spotlight to support Wellspring, raising funds and awareness about our work. Grateful
Throughout the crowd were friends of Wellspring who've championed our work over the years and were following the leaderboard all afternoon. We've always said the key to ending abuse doesn't rest solely in the hands of Wellspring advocates assisting survivors... we'll only achieve or our vision by engaging everyone  to create the change so that abuse isn't acceptable  in our community. Everywhere I went Tuesday, I saw we're on that path. Hopeful

When I'd read to my sons about Alexander's bad day, I'd always tell them that tomorrow's a new and different day with new possibilities.  Unlike Alexander I had a magnificent day yesterday... but it was just one step along the path. We've got less than 2 weeks left in the Challenge... and a lot of work to do to maintain our standing (and maybe advance into the first place position) so spread the work and let folks know they can help by clicking here. And then we've got some more work do to do to create the change needed to end relationship and sexual abuse. But, together, we can do it!

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Nicole Kidman Should Be Here

There's a saying about domestic violence, "Silence Hides Violence". Tomorrow at 4 pm at Northshire Books, join us-- we're breaking the silence. We're not the only ones doing it. In fact, Liane Moriarty started it with her book, Big Little Lies. Then came the HBO series based on the book. And Nicole Kidman continued the conversation with her Emmy acceptance speech. Tomorrow we're inviting you to be part of the conversation as we have an open community book/series discussion about Big Little Lies.
Rachel Person, of Northshire  Books, explains that one of the best ways to deal with the hard things in life is through the safe space of a book. Click here for more from Rachel... and join us tomorrow at Northshire Books for an exciting conversation about the book where the "little lies turn out to be the most lethal" and about Wellspring's vision of ending relationship and sexual abuse


Thursday, October 12, 2017

Purple Purses for Sanctuary

The Presbyterian New England Congregational Church is no stranger to helping those in need. From being the site for the Saratoga County Economic Opportunity Council's daily soup kitchen and food pantry, to supporting Code Blue efforts, and the recent Peace Fair, their congregation lives their commitment to be a loving friendly community that worships God and serves others.
Pastor Kate Forer spoke with me recently about how the church is a sanctuary where everyone can feel safe, loved and valued... click here for her inspiring wish that the Purple Purse Challenge can help make all relationships that same sanctuary for people.

Today Wellspring is in third place in the nation... because you and all our community members share that same vision. Please spread the word and support Wellspring's Purple Purse Challenge by donating here

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Thoughts Over Your Morning Coffee

Like me, you probably wake up and have a cup of coffee to start your day. Unlike me, you may not wake up most days and start thinking about how we can end domestic violence in our community.

Well the folks at Death Wish Coffee know a thing or two about coffee beans... and they're also really good spokespeople for how important it us for us to increase awareness. Click here to find out why their supporting Wellspring's mission and the Purple Purse Challenge.

Wellspring is as concerned as Talia from Death Wish about the  1 in 3 teens who experience dating violence. We do extensive outreach to youth for prevention programs and also social change initiatives. If we can teach youth to recognize and take action when they notice abusive behaviors, we're on our way to creating the social change needed to end abuse. To that end, here's a video we produced for high school and college age youth about being advocates for change by challenging social norms. Share the video with a young adult you t know (or a parent of one).