Monday, November 30, 2015

Tuesday is the Day for Giving

So the turkey leftovers are all gone. Hopefully between Black Friday and Small Business Saturday, you've gotten a start on your holiday shopping.  And if you're like me and prefer to skip the crowds, today's the day to sit on the couch and take advantage of the Cyber Monday deals; then wait for the packages to arrive on the porch in a few days. 
But before you put the list away, there's one more important item. Don't forget about #GivingTuesday, a global day dedicated to giving. So think about the causes you care about. While you’re making the season brighter for friends and family, you can also make an impact by supporting the nonprofit agencies dedicated to that cause. While you may not get the immediate thrill of seeing joy on someone’s face after they tear off the wrapping paper, you’ll know that you’ve made a difference. 
If  you’re interested in helping to address Saratoga County’s the #2 violent  crime, #1 cause of family homelessness, and top cause of homicide,  might I suggest a donation to Wellspring. 
  • $20 provides taxi fare for a domestic violence victim to get to court 
  • $50 helps a family with their first week of groceries as they move into a violence-free home 
  • $200 provides legal advocacy so a domestic violence victim can access an order of protection, and  
  • $500 provides 3 days of prevention programs in a local high school reducing the incidence of dating violence and sexual assault for our youth.  
Click here to make a one-time or a recurring donation to Wellspring.

Whether you care about saving the manatees, bringing music to disadvantaged neighborhoods, or ending relationship and sexual abuse, thanks for caring and sharing this holiday season by supporting your favorite charity.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Orange is the New Purple?

In the past, I've asked you to wear purple during October (Domestic Violence Awareness Month), teal in April (Sexual Assault Awareness Month) and denim on Denim Day. I  hope you've got a rainbow of colors in your closet because tomorrow I'm suggesting you wear orange. Why? In 1999, the United Nations' General Assembly   declared November 25th as the International Day for the Awareness of Violence Against Women. Here's why:

  • 35% of women and girls globally experience some form of physical and or sexual violence in their lifetime with up to seven in ten women facing this abuse in some countries.

  • An estimated 133 million girls and women have experienced some form of female genital mutilation/cutting in the 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East where the harmful practice is most common.

  • Worldwide, more than 700 million women alive today were married as children, 250 million of whom were married before the age of 15. Girls who marry before the age of 18 are less likely to complete their education and more likely to experience domestic violence and complications in childbirth.

  • The costs and consequence of violence against women last for generations.

  • As I'm thinking of all the things in my life to be thankful for, I'm glad I live in the US. While we certainly have problems with gender based violence, the magnitude pales in comparison to other parts of the world. Want to learn more? Take a moment to view this infographic about worldwide violence against women.

    Join me tomorrow in raising awareness so we can achieve peace and equality for women worldwide.

    Wednesday, November 18, 2015


    Imagine what it feels like to not trust that your thoughts, observations and recollections of events are true. Imagine the embarrassment of having a loved one regularly correct what you say explaining what really happened.

    Now imagine that the trusted loved one is deliberately manipulating the truth to cause you doubt, psychological dissonance... and to control you. That's gaslighting... and it's a common form of psychological control used in abusive relationships. To learn more about gaslighting click here.

    Alone,  gaslighting itself is damaging, destructive and frightening, but it rarely occurs as a sole abuse tactic. Often it's combined with social isolation, where the abuser gradually and insidiously decimates his/her partner's social support system.  Sometimes this is subtle;
    " Let's not go out; when I'm not at work I just want to be with you... no one else." or
    "Are you going out with friends again; what about me?"
    Gradually it may become more insistent,
    "Your sister keeps trying to come between us; I don't like it when you spend time with her." 
    Sometimes, the abuser may physically separate his/her partner from social supports, e.g., by taking a job and moving the family to a distant location and limiting contact with friends or family.

    When gaslighting is combined with social isolation the domestic violence victim's world may shrink down to only the input of his/her abusive partner. Without others to provide feedback, the abuser's voice becomes the only source of feedback... and as he/she regularly denies and contradicts their reality, the victim starts to question every thought. This psychological abuse doesn't happen overnight, but over time becomes absolutely crippling as every thought, decision or action is questioned.

    Often people think of domestic violence as physical abuse. The 'black eye poster', the dramatic movie with a terribly bruised woman, and yes, even the recent elevator video... these are the images that inform our concept of domestic violence. In the absence of physical abuse, victims often minimize the abuse. So even though we understand that domestic violence also includes emotional and psychological abuse, social isolation, economic abuse and sexual abuse, too often when physical abuse is lacking we fail to identify domestic violence... and fail to seek help.
    If you or someone you know experiences any form of abusive power and control, call us...we can help.

    24 hour hotline 518-584-8188
    Office 518-583-0280

    Saturday, October 31, 2015

    Even Green Became Purple this October

    Karen Totino, of Green Conscience,
     presents Maggie Fronk with pillows for the shelter
    Karen Totino's not letting the awareness stop just because October has ended. For the next year!... she's providing each of Wellspring's emergency shelter guests with his/her own Savvy rest pillow to use while in shelter and take with them when they leave. On October 22nd she hosted an awareness event. Approximately 25 community members joined the event in support of the Safe Sleep program... and engaged in a passionate and thoughtful conversation about each of us can work to end domestic violence.
    Asked about the Safe Sleep collaboration with Wellspring, Karen said, “I am excited to partner with my clients and Wellspring to offer something that is needed.To even bring a small comfort to those receiving our products gives me a reward no money can buy.”
    Stop in to Green Conscience to learn more about the program. And while you're there check out their organic, chemical-free mattresses, pillows and linens. Perhaps it's time to treat yourself to a better night's sleep too!

    Friday, October 30, 2015

    Looking Back on October

    While Domestic Violence Awareness Month hasn't ended yet, I thought I'd take the next few days to look back at how our  community members joined with us to increase awareness about domestic violence and to support Wellspring's work. Domestic violence advocacy is serious work, but we also managed  to have quite a few smiles throughout the month.

    As always we launched DV Awareness Month with our annual Pooch Parade. People are often shocked to learn that pets can be impacted by abuse in the home, either through neglect or  violence launched directly at the pet or through coercion, i.e., threats to harm the pet used as a means to control the victim. 
    Assemblyman Tedisco and Gracie
    enjoy a quick break by the duck pond
    before the start of the Pooch Parade
    Wellspring's Safe Pet Partnership offers vet care and temporary foster homes to keep pets safe while the family finds safety and support. Our foster families  realize how hard it is to place a furry (or feathered or finned) family member with a stranger, even if only temporarily... you can tell how much they love pets when they tell us stories about the pet.

    Assemblyman Tedisco and His pooch Gracie, both tireless advocates for animal rights, joined us for the Pooch Parade and presented Wellspring a citation recognizing the agency's 30+ years of service to the community and our Safe Pet Partnership's impact in reducing cruelty to pets in homes with domestic violence.

    As you can see, they weren't  alone in wishing for an end to domestic violence against all famil membes. 

    Add Gayle LeSalle and Maestro, representing
    the Saratoga Spring's Mayor's office,
    discuss the importance of services ot help all domestic violence victims

    Maibeth Wallingford DVM,
    coordinated this year's Pooch Parade

    Loretta Somerville delivered a blessing
    to all the pets who so our lives.

    Pooches impressed us with their skill so the agility ocurse

    Wednesday, October 28, 2015

    Saratogians Sounding Off about Affordable Housing

    Reading some the Saratogian's Sound Off  comments over the past month, it's clear the issue of affordable housing is ever-present in peoples' minds. Here are some of the comments from Saratogian readers in the past month: 
    Am I the only one who remembers that the Bonacio Apartments at 2 West Avenue were supposed to be for seniors and affordable? They’re not affordable apartments. 700 sq. feet for $1,300 a month.

    To the person who said you shouldn’t live in Saratoga Springs if you can’t afford to live there, some people have lived there all their lives, but their lifestyle changes and they need subsidized or low-income housing. They worked their all their lives, so that’s not the answer.

    Wow. To the nasty caller who says we don’t need low-income or subsidized housing in Saratoga because it’s a beautiful city, and that if you can’t afford it you shouldn’t live here. Really? Well, Saratogians could afford it before all the rich people decided to move here and housing prices escalated. I refuse to move from my hometown, so get used to it.

    I guess a lot of people thought that the apartments on West Avenue were going to be for lower income housing, under $1,000. We don’t have enough places for seniors to live in Saratoga, or for the common everyday working person. If you’re not a professional you can’t afford to live in Saratoga and they can’t afford to drive long distances. So there should be some more subsidized and low-income housing.

    I was just wondering. They have built so many hotels, they’re building more stores all around, but did they ever of building anything for senior citizens? A nice little building for us would be perfect. We would have all the stores, we’d have the Northway close to us. It’d be perfect, but they just want to build high-rises, and we can’t afford that. Just a short not so maybe somebody might think of us once in a while.

    Some of the people struggling with  housing costs in these comments were; seniors, long term residents of the city, and everyday workers. What wasn't mentioned in these comments was the population that represents the largest segment of family homelessness-- domestic violence survivors. Wellspring can help with that. Our NewView Housing program provides subsidized rent and in-home support services for individuals and families that flee abuse with no other options for safe housing. Last year alone, because of the NewView program 51 adults and children with 10,750 nights of safe slumber in their own apartment free from domestic violence. But even though we have the money to provide rent subsidies and the staff to provide support services, Wellspring struggles to place people in apartments simply because we lack enough affordable rental units in Saratoga County, especially family-sized units that are accessible by public transportation.

    Communities thrive when there are adequate and affordable resources to meet the needs of all people, seniors, veterans, families, and the local workforce. I look forward to the day when our planning process includes mixed use housing  and opportunities for affordable housing for all our citizens.

    Tuesday, October 27, 2015

    This Thursday... tickets selling fast

    Fashion show, shopping, chair massages, makeup application, hair consultations, wonderful hors d'oeuvres... and a night out with your girlfriends. What more could you want?

    Monday, October 26, 2015

    You Can Call Us Too

    In last Friday's Saratoga, the advice column, Annie's Mailbox, responded to a questions I'm asked about often... what to do when a friend is in an abusive relationship.

    Dear Annie: Two nights ago, I witnessed my best friend being verbally abused by her boyfriend. The boyfriend was drunk and probably doing something illegal.
    I listened to him yell at her on the phone all night while we were supposed to be spending time together for her birthday. It was 3 a.m., and he was demanding that I pick him up on my way to take her home. I told him no, because I didn't want him being drunk and possibly violent in my car.
    I let my friend know that she can call me if she needs anything, and dropped her off at their house. Although I'm sure her boyfriend will eventually get himself arrested for violating his probation, I feel it is up to me to report him. But if I do, I will lose her friendship. Should I turn him in for the sake of my friend's safety or mind my own business? — Unsure in Ohio
    Dear Unsure: We aren't certain what this man was doing that violated his probation. Yelling at his girlfriend isn't enough to warrant a report, unless there is a restraining order preventing him from phoning her. Does his probation state that he cannot drink? If so, you should report him and let the chips fall. But a suspicion that he might have been doing something illegal is not sufficient, and the police likely would not pick him up for that unless you could provide proof. And without any evidence, he could accuse you of harassment.
    Please be careful. This guy sounds like a loose cannon. Your friend should call the National Domestic Violence Hotline (thehotline.org) at 1-800-799-SAFE and ask for help.

    While I agree with their answer in that the friend is in an abusive relationship and should seek help, I'm also aware that often the victim doesn't seek help right away and the friend is then left worried,  sometimes frustrated, often fearful for their friend, but sometimes also fearful for their own safety and that of their family if their choices to help their loved one flag the ire of the abuser... and most often...wanting to help but not knowing what's the right thing to do. It's such an uncomfortable place to be, as you are indirectly exposed to the trauma the domestic violence victim is facing, but don't have control over the choices that are made. There's even a  term for anyone in the position of having someone they care about, a son or daughter, relative, friend, employee or neighbor; they're referred to as secondary victims.

    Wellspring offers services to help secondary victims. To help them understand the dynamics of abuse. To help them talk about how to support their loved one. To help them be mindful of their own safety and how to set loving boundaries. To help them be compassionate and supportive, yet safe. Like all of Wellspring's services, these services are free and totally confidential.
    If you, or someone you know is experiencing an abusive relationship, call us.
    We can help.
    During business hours call 518-583-0280
    or call or Wellspring's 24 hour hotline at 518-584-8188

    Friday, October 23, 2015

    "What is good for women is good for New York"

    Beverly Neufeld, President of PowHer New York said it best, "New York women have new tools needed to fight discrimination and combat obstacles to personal and economic security. This historic accomplishment also spotlights that what is good for women is good for New York.” She was referring to  the historic Equality Act Legislation.
    In a major show of support for Domestic Violence Awareness Month, earlier this week Governor Cuomo signed into legislation new laws designed to protect and promote women's equality. These laws will help achieve pay equity, strengthen human trafficking laws and protections for domestic violence victims and end pregnancy discrimination in all workplaces. These laws support basic needs and protect fundamental rights such as: equal pay, fair housing, accommodations during pregnancy, reproductive rights, and freedom from sexual harassment in the workplace.  "Many women’s lives and financial livelihoods depend on the passage of these bills." Senator David J. Valesky

    For many domestic violence victims the  biggest obstacle to breaking free of abuse is economic stability; they're afraid that they will be unable to put a roof overhead, food on the table and provide medical care for the kids if they leave the abuse... and are even more afraid that they might lose custody of their kids because they lack these resources. Poverty doesn't cause domestic violence (dv affects all socioeconomic groups) but there's a correlation. An Allstate Foundation study concluded that 50% of women participating in TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) had experienced domestic violence – more than double the percentage in the general population. Abusers use financial control (including preventing or interfering with their partner maintaining employment) to promote dependence. Economic stability is essential to reducing domestic violence... and since domestic violence disproportionately affects women, laws to promote pay equity and end workforce discrimination are key to reducing abuse.

    Gary Dake, CEO, Stewarts Shop, said, "As a family and employee owned company we know the importance of long term relationships. Discrimination or exploitation are in direct opposition to the principles of long term strength and stability. Our work force is about two-thirds female and the stronger that group is, the stronger the company as a whole is."

    Locally Soroptimist International of Saratoga County, an international women's service organization dedicated to improving the lives of women and girls, advocates nationally and globally for women's rights and equality...but they also roll up their sleeves to actively work for these goals here in Saratoga County through Project Hope and Power, a financial literacy program to help women attain economic stability. Now in its 11th year, Project Hope and Power has helped more than 500 women become more financially knowledgeable and self-sustaining... and in the process they've helped those same women reduce their risk of domestic violence. In the words of  the women who attend the class:
    ”Hope and Power has given me the strength and, as the name implies, hope for my future"

    As a result of taking this class, I plan to be more confident in myself and always remember that I’m not alone.  I will get stronger as the weeks go by, emotionally and physically.  Nothing will ever stop me again.  No one person will ever bring me down again.”

    Local Soroptimist members attend a training to facilitate Project Hope and Power financial literacy classes


    Wednesday, October 21, 2015

    Creating change while curled up on the couch

    People often say to me, "I want to be more involved in Wellspring's mission, but I'm not sure I want to volunteer for a hotline." There are myriad ways to  help and you'd be surprised how easy they are.

    As the nights get colder it's the perfect time to curl up under a blanket with a cup of tea and a good book. How about reading about intimate partner violence to increase your understanding? Sound intimidating... boring... academic? You'd be surprised the array of really great reads, ranging from fiction, to autobiography, poetry, feminism, and inspirational books.

    Once you're done you'll be more aware and have a great conversation starter. Better yet, start the conversation. Do you belong to a book club? Perhaps your book club could choose this topic for their next book choice.

    If you're wondering what to read, just stop in to Northshire Books. In recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, they created a display with suggested titles. Just look in the self-help section. They said these books have been flying off the shelves, so start a conversation about the book you're reading-- there's a good chance the person you speak with has been reading about the topic too. 

    And as you're curled up on the couch reading might I suggest a nice cup of tea with a touch of chocolate honey from Saratoga Tea and Honey (I like my Golden Retriever, Andy,  snuggled up next to me too). Here's a suggested reading list to get you started;

    Black and Blue: A Novel, by Anna Quindlen
    The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
    Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe: A Novel, by Fannie Flagg
    Secrets of Eden: A Novel, by Chris Bohjalian
    Vinegar Hill (P.S.), by A. Manette Ansay
    Crazy Love, by Leslie Morgan Steiner
    A Natural Woman, by Carole King
    The Woman Who Walked Into Doors, by Roddy Doyle
    Torn From the Inside Out, by Josephine Thompson
    The Burning Bed, by Faith McNulty
    I Closed My Eyes: Revelations of a Battered Woman, by Michele Weldon
    I, Tina, by Tina Turner
    The Gift of Fear, by Gavin De Becker
    Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men, by Lundy Bancroft
    Next Time She’ll Be Dead: Battering and How to Stop It, by Ann Jones
    The Stalking of Kristin: A Father Investigates the Murder of his Daughter, by George Lardner