Wednesday, October 8, 2014

One is One Too Many

Mayor Yepsen presents Wellspring with resolution proclaiming October DV Awareness Month
Last night I attended the Saratoga Springs City Council meeting. I was invited to speak  for a few minutes about Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  Mayor Yepsen gave some statistics about the frequency of abuse that she deemed shocking:
  •  in the US we average 20 acts of violence per minute
  •  10 million victims each year; and
  • domestic violence accounts for 15% of violent crime.

I provided some local data from Saratoga County:
  • Domestic violence is the #2 violent crime in our county
  • Depending on the year it is either the #1 or #2 cause of homicide, and
  • It is also the primary reason for family homelessness in our county.
The statistics are sobering; the stories behind those statistics are even more concerning, but what I'd like to take away from the conversation is a  statement by Mayor Yepsen that sums up the vision and work of Wellspring, "Even one domestic violence victim is one too many."

We're working to increase awareness, help people in need get services before a crisis, and engaging our community to create social change so that no man, woman, or child lives in fear at home.  You can be part of that change by:
  • Ask Wellspring staff to come and speak at your workplace or community group about our services and how you can be involved
  • Volunteering- We have new volunteer opportunities assisting the agency with outreach and prevention activities
  • Helping us to spread the word- Share interesting articles or talk with friends about why you care about domestic violence.  Silence Hides Violence- let's break the silence.
"Even one domestic violence victim is one too many."
                                    Mayor Joanne Yepsen

Friday, October 3, 2014

Moving Beyond Ray Rice

Domestic violence isn’t going to disappear tomorrow or the next day. But the more that we choose not to talk about it, the more we shy away from the issue, the more we lose.
                                                                                                                       Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks quarterback

I've been wondering how it must feel to be an NFL player these days as public perception of the league is so focused on the actions of a few players. Players, coaches, and owners who do not commit or condone acts of  violence must feel scrutinized and sometimes judged as guilty by association. Today I happened across an article by Russell Wilson; his candor in speaking about his own history and reactions to the recent events gave me some insights into how players are affected by, "To be honest, many NFL players are reluctant to address such a sensitive issue. How do you fix a problem so big and complex? How do you speak about something so damaging and painful to families?"

Some of those sentiments and frustrations echo how advocates have felt for years. At Wellspring, our goal is to end relationship and sexual abuse, but that's a really big goal. How do we even begin? Like all journeys we begin with a plan and taking that first step.

Wilson did the same. He started the Why Not You Foundation and is asking for your support in Passing the Peace by making a $2 contribution to the National Domestic Violence hotline. As Wilson says, "All I can do is my small part. And I invite you to help me."

Thursday, October 2, 2014

I'm Not Wearing Purple Today

Yesterday I was wearing a red blouse and today I'm wearing green & brown. I'm not a celebrity and generally no one pays any attention to my fashion (I'm not even sure that looking in my closet the word 'fashion' come to mind). But my wardrobe has been a topic of conversation. "Maggie you're not wearing purple? It's October. It's Domestic Violence Awareness Month!" In the past I wore purple every day in October  and encouraged others to do so also to bring attention to DV Awareness Month... and I guess it worked as people remember. But this year I've decided wearing purple to bring about awareness isn't enough so I'm changing the game (and the wardrobe choices.)

I'd  like to ask people to take action against relationship and sexual abuse: start a conversation, educate yourself or ask Wellspring to bring a program to your workplace or community group, forward an article or a blog post that you find interesting.

Need some ideas? Here's a few:
... and if wearing purple helps start conversations, go ahead and take the purple clothes off the hangers.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Does 'Yes means Yes' Fix the Problem?

California is the first state to sign into legislation a bill that requires colleges to assess for affirmative consent when reviewing allegations of sexual assault. The bill has been hotly contested as gender biased. Opponents feel the bill targets men and that instances of regretted sex may end up as rape convictions. The bill's language is actually gender neutral. False reporting of rape is relatively rare and is consistent with  false reporting for other crimes (and may result in charges against the person who knowingly and willfully falsely reported.)

Too often we have seen campus judiciary committees insufficiently trained to handle sexual assault allegations; in these cases the complainant feels the judicial process itself re-traumatizes and victimizes them.  The highly publicized mishandling of a sexual assault case at Hobart and William Smith Colleges all too poignantly illustrates that our campus judiciary process is ill equipped to effectively decide these cases. Rape cases are notoriously difficult to adjudicate in the criminal justice system, where professionals, both prosecutors and defense attorneys are presenting the evidence; campuses simply don't have the experience to confidently and sensitively handle these unique cases... and too much is on the line for both the alleged assailant and the alleged victim to leave this to chance. 

While this bill attempts to provide a higher standard of consent by which colleges can adjudicate these cases (and hopefully also sparks even more education about consent to prevent such situations from occurring), perhaps the real question is, "Do  colleges have the knowledge and experience to review and adjudicate sexual assault cases?" And if the answer is not a resounding yes, then how should we address that?

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Paws for Peace

Assemblyman Tedisco and his pooch Gracie with Dr. Joy Lucas
When I talk about Wellspring's victim-assistance programs people are always surprised when I mention the Safe Pet Partnership... "Whoa, pets? How does that fit with domestic violence?" Sadly, there's a big correlation. Abusers will use our love for our family pets as a tool of coercion. According  to the American Humane Society, 71% of domestic violence victims entering shelters reported their abuser had maimed, killed or threatened family pets for revenge or to psychologically control them. Some victims stay trapped in abuse because they fear their pet would be harmed if they left. Conversely the Humane Society states, "Investigation of animal abuse is often the first point of social services intervention for a family in trouble."

At Wellspring we 're committed to helping all victims of domestic violence. That's why we have a Safe Pet Partnership that provides temporary foster placement in loving homes for pets while their families find safe housing...after which they're all reunited So join us on October 11th us raising awareness  keep our furry, feathered, and finned   family members safe from abuse.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Wellspring. Why? What's Next?

I've spent al lot of time recently speaking with local TV news, radio and print reporters about DVRC changing its name to Wellspring. These are the folks who cover the news stories so they're well aware of the prevalence of domestic violence and have seen the most tragic consequences. That's why our conversations turned from simply reporting about the name change to more in-depth discussions of the issue and what we can do to stop the violence.

You can see the clip here. with Mark Mulholland.

You can see the clip from  here with Look TV with Jesse Jackson.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

What's New?...Wellspring

It's Good Newsday Tuesday

In my mind's eye, I see the future... our future. I know that the future I envision isn't far away because the buildings, the people and the places all look familiar. But there's one big difference. No one lives in fear at home because of abuse. Fear of being raped doesn't linger as a haunting spectre when walking home after work or on a date.  Why not? Because we've eliminated relationship and sexual violence in Saratoga County.

We're not there now. Domestic violence is the #2 violent crime in the county and one of the top 2 causes of homicide. The number of sexual assault victims seeking assistance increases each year. But that's today. If I look really hard I see a different picture.

More than 30 years ago the agency I work for began as a small group of community members helping women who were abused. As they volunteered their services it quickly became clear the problem of domestic violence was bigger than anyone realized. Until they took action, no one knew the magnitude.

We know the number now... and we've met tens of thousands of survivors,  heard their stories and helped them through and beyond the crisis. Now it's time to take our work to the next level. We've got to turn our efforts to getting ahead of the problem...  holding offenders accountable...preventing abuse  before it happens... until it simply doesn't happen any more.

We'll always be there  to provide crisis and support services to help victims be safe, heal and seek justice. But we've got to ask the bigger question, "How do we keep abuse from happening." The question isn't," .Why does (s)he stay?"...it's "Why does a person choose to abuse.... and what can we do to stop this?"

At DVRC we're committed to the vision of achieving a
Saratoga County free of relationship and sexual abuse.
At a press conference today we invited key community leaders to join us in working toward that vision, through:
  • increased awareness and prevention efforts
  • earlier intervention
  • working for social change.
We're serious about this vision. We're serious about supporting healthy relationships and creating safe communities. In fact we're so serious, we've changed our agency name. So as of today , DVRC is now Wellspring. The name resonates with hope with potential and a vision for the future. Help us achieve this vision; there's a role for you in it. Look ahead... do you see the future I see?... it's just up the road.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Stay Blessed

Between Labor Day and Columbus day there's a holiday that doesn't get enough recognition, World Gratitude Day. It's September 21st and it's been recognized worldwide since 1965. So take a minute today to give thanks for what you've got. Just last week my coworkers were all talking about gratitude. One of them starts each day counting all her blessings on her fingers before she even gets our of bed (and the two pups snuggled beside her in the bed are always in the count). What a great way to start the day. Another said that she started consciously practicing gratitude during a particularly difficult period in her life as she was caring for a loved one... gratitude helped her through her grief. Clearly, I work with some very wise folks. They don't reserve just one day a year for gratitude, but practice it every day.

If you need more inspiration, watch this experiment about how gratitude affects happiness. You'll see them laugh, cry, fidget and squirm...  and you'll find it's never too late to express gratitude.

And to all the regular readers of this blog, thanks for joining with me to think about what we can do to shine our lights a little brighter in this world.


Saturday, September 20, 2014

It's On Us... All of Us

Domestic violence and sexual assault have long been hidden epidemics. Not so much anymore. In recent months both issues have come out of the shadows, and are getting major attention on campuses, in boardrooms, and by our government. They're talked about around the dinner table, at the water cooler, and during the pregame commentary.

And all that talk is making a difference. Today the White House launched It's On Us, an awareness campaign to end campus sexual assaults. In Denver Vice President Biden also held a roundtable discussion about domestic violence.   "It’s on all of us to change the culture that asks the wrong questions, and our culture still asks the wrong questions." That's right, we've got to stop asking questions like , "Why do they stay?" and "What did she do to lead him on?" or "Why didn't  (s)he report it to the police?" Instead let's ask why they choose to abuse. But we can't stop with asking questions.

The It's On Us video states "It's on us to stand up, to step in to take responsibility...to stop sexual assault" and they provide tools to get you started.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Shatter the Silence

I'm always amazed by the power of one. One person speaking up. One person telling their story and making us think. One person choosing to do something. It can make such a difference.

I'll admit I'm not always the one. I've sometimes left a situation wishing I'd said something or had offered help. Why don't I? Sometimes I couldn't think quickly enough of what to say or do. Sometimes I questioned whether my actions would be helpful. And sometimes I just lacked the courage. And after I felt disappointed in myself and thought about what I could so better next time.

Taking action takes forethought and practice... and a really compelling reason that motivates us  to action. Ready to make the change? The Shatter the Silence PSA will  inspire you. And if you want the backstory on how this all got started, Sharon Love tells about how she turned tragedy into a vision to recognize domestic violence and stop it.