Friday, August 1, 2014

Singing It with Courage and Confidence

The song title is Didn't Mean It but singer Jasmine Villega means every word she sings.

You might think it's an odd choice for an entertainer to make a music video in which she's slapped, beaten and dragged, pleading for mercy. And you'd be even more surprised when she tells you this is her story. Now that's courage!

Jasmine Villegas's message at the start of her music video offers hope to other young women who are experiencing dating violence, "Never feel embarrassed or ashamed of any trials you have endured. Grow from it and never look back. You are not alone."

And those last words are so true. In fact, one in three teens is a victim of dating violence, but only about 1/3 of those teens ever report it. And, without support to overcome the abuse,  that experience can affect their future. According to the Center for Disease Control, "About 1 in 5 women and nearly 1 in 7 men who ever experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner first experienced some form of partner violence between 11 and 17 years of age."

Learn how to recognize an abusive relationship at They've got some great tools  like  a quick discussion on how to tell if those frequent text messages are about Checking In or Checking Up? and a quick quiz to see if you've been a good partner or perhaps have shown some abusive behaviors... and if so, what to do about it

Another Tragic Homicide in Saratoga County

On Thursday, Charles Wilkinson was indicted for the  death of his 65 year old wife.  Sadly, Saratoga County has seen too many domestic  homicides in  in recent years. Often after such a tragedy, friends, neighbors and family are shocked that the person they wave to  every morning could commit such violence against a partner.

Increasingly, we're viewing  domestic violence not as a private matter to be politely ignored, but as something we all need to be concerned about. Domestic violence  impacts not  only the victim, but our workplaces, our neighborhoods, and the people in our lives. If  you're  concerned  about someone who may be  experiencing relationship violence, talk to them, It's a hard conversation to start, but your caring words may save their life.

Thank You For Caring and Having the Courage to Start a Conversation!
Starting a conversation is difficult, but if you think someone is in trouble, unsafe, being controlled, abused, or dominated, then speaking up is the right thing to do.

What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic Violence is a pattern of behavior used by one person in an intimate relationship to control another through one of the following:
  • emotional abuse/controlling behavior
  • verbal abuse
  • psychological abuse
  • sexual control or abuse
  • threatening behaviors
  • economic abuse
  • physical violence
What are the Signs of Domestic Violence?
  • Is he/she nervous, jumpy, and walking on eggshells?
  • Does he/she seem afraid of their partner or overly anxious to please their partner?
  • Has he/she stopped seeing friends or family, doing the things they enjoy?
  • Has he/she stopped making decisions – leavings them all up to their partner?
  • Does he/she stay in constant contact with their partner throughout the day?
  • Has he/she become anxious or depressed, unusually quiet, and/or lost their confidence?
  • At work, is he/she often tardy, or miss work, get contacted all day by their partner, or have poor concentration?
  • Does he/she have any visible signs – bruises, broken bones, scratches, cuts, bite marks, other injuries (often with unlikely explanations)?
Why People Stay in Abusive Relationships:
Some of these reasons include:
  • Belief  that the abuser will change, that the abuse is their fault or that it is normal.
  • Fear of loneliness, economic hardship, losing custody of children or fear for safety.
  • Isolation from family, friends, community may leave the victim with no self esteem and/or feeling that she/he has no where to go.
  • Love and the desire to keep family together.
How you can start the conversation:
  • Educate yourself about domestic violence – review DVRC’s website; call DVRC and talk with an advocate
  • Tell them you care about them and are concerned about them
  • Ask if they are safe
  • Refer them to DVRC
  • Do NOT judge their situation and their choices, blame them, give them advice or tell them what to do – it’s their choice.
    If you or someone you know is experiencing relationship abuse, call now… to talk about what is happening… to find out your options… to develop a safety plan. We can help.
    Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Services
    of Saratoga County
    All services are free and confidential
    24-hour hotline 518-584-8188

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Ray Rice Called It By Name- Domestic Violence

If nothing else the Ray Rice incident has gotten Americans talking about domestic violence. Today, as Rice held a press conference to talk about what her called the "worst mistake of his life", what he reports was a one time incident "that was inexcusable". He states that after he works on his own response, he'd like to become involved in helping others to end violence of all kinds.

ESPN's Jane McManus has been outspoken about this incident and the NFL's response. When asked to comment  on Rice's press conference, her responses were cautious but hopeful, first citing that just by using the words domestic violence Rice "understands what he did in a bigger context." While she noted that the words are promising, waiting to see that Rice's actions in future months and years will show how sincere he is.

McManus noted that the incident might even be a catalyst for greater change as, "the NFL and Ray Rice have tried to understand this issue and the dynamics of domestic violence."  She envisioned that the incident and public reaction might even result in changes to the Code of Conduct as well as disciplinary standards for acts of domestic violence.

Let's hope and let's keep talking about how we can recognize relationship abuse and work together to end it.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

It's not all bad news

Tuesday is Good News Day

When writing about current events related to relationship and sexual violence it's easy to  become disheartened; campus rapes, domestic homicides... it can all seem endless. Literally each day new clients walk through our door, telling their stories of abuse. With funding from the Violence Against Women  Act intimate partner violence has decreased 67%  from 1993-2010 and there are more services to assist victims. More victims are reporting domestic and sexual violence to police, and reports to police are resulting in more arrests. There's also a change in society's tolerance about relationship and sexual abuse; news articles about sexual assault in the military, campus response to rape and social commentary when a celebrity commits a domestic assault  capture these changing attitudes.

Statistics indicate global violence attributed to war are also declining.There's no question that there's injustice, suffering, and violence...and that we need to work hard to address these issues locally and globally. But it's equally important to stop now and again to look at the progress we've made.

And if you're looking to carry on with these positive thoughts tomorrow too, here's a chance to join others in a Moment of Peace

Friday, July 25, 2014

Knocked Out By a Pro Football Player

I've been reading the recent press about  the NFL's response to a brutal domestic violence incident  Ray Rice committed against his then fiancĂ©e, now wife. Surveillance video shows him dragging her, seemingly unconscious, out of an elevator. There's  a positive note (miniscule but not insignificant); his violent and criminal conduct in his personal life was deemed a violation of the NFL's personal conduct policy (decades ago this would have been brushed aside as a private matter.)

I usually am reticent to read comments after articles, but this time I think the observations really key into some core issues related to domestic violence. Jane McManus commented, "Last month I interviewed NFL head of HR. He  told me we simply don't tolerate instances of domestic violence."  Sounds like a solid organization values right? But numerous people observed that their actions don't seem to uphold that value.

 Josh Gordon facing a year long suspension for smoking pot.
Ray Rice gets 2 games for beating up his wife. Unreal.
Michael David Smith
Apparently you get suspended longer in the NFL
 for beating a dog than beating a woman.
Jane McManus
Knock a woman unconscious; 2 game suspension.
Smoke marihjuana: 4 game suspension.
Alicia Jessop

Even though we longer tacitly condone domestic violence with the words, 'that's a private matter', I do think when we hear the words 'domestic violence' we still unconsciously reclassify these assaults as less criminal. Punching someone in the face and knocking them unconscious is a brutal act of violence; the brutality is in no way diminished by the fact that this is someone you love.

I wonder if NFL Commish would have been so lenient
 if it had been his daughter or sister
laying unconscious outside that elevator.
Jim Trotter

While many, echo Paul Kuharsky 's sentiments that the  NFL's response as appallingly inadequate,
"Rice suspension is insufficient
 and sends a terrible message about violence against women
 and where it stands in the NFL pecking order of trouble," 

but the NFL is not alone in this messaging.  In fact an  insightful comment by ESPN's Mike Sando, has been haunting me since I read it,
"The NFL's 2 game suspension of Ray Rice
is harsher than the penalty society leveled against him
in the domestic violence case."

Our justice system enabled him to avoid standing trail if he agreed to a diversion program. Perhaps that's  the real crime.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Is this what you picture when you think about someone who is homeless?

My dad worked for the railroad, so as a kid we'd go  to New York City once a month (mom loved bargain shopping, but that's a whole other story). I can still picture the rows of homeless people on the grates outside the train station, in the heat of summer and just as many shivering on the concrete in the winter. Adults often just walk by homeless persons without paying much notice. Maybe it's because we're busy and we've learned to not notice; but  I wonder if kids take more notice  because they're shorter and homelessness is literally more in their face.

Homelessness in upstate New York looks very different from street  homelessness in a major city. It's more invisible. Folks without housing often: couch surf (stay with friends for night  or so then find someone else who can put them up for a few nights), sleep in their car, or sleep in out of the way places. In more suburban areas, homelessness may not be as apparent.

But we do have homelessness... even if we don't see it every day. And it's not the only stereotype single male;  we have homeless families and teens who are living on the street or getting  by somehow day-to-day ... they may even be folks we interact with every day and don't realize they're homeless. Back in June, Diane Davis, the homelessness liaison for the Saratoga Springs School District said,
"Saratoga Springs City School District
had 157 homeless  students this year.
At graduation, 6 students will walk across the stage
and get their diplomas.
They will  blend in with the senior class, but at the end of the day they will return to a campground, a motel, or  a friend or relative's house not knowing how long they will be able to stay."

How can there be such an incidence of homeless families and teens, and we don't see it? Here's a video of a teen that help us us understand.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Aspiring Techology

In the victim assistance world, technology can be a challenge. New technologies can bring new vehicles for control and exploitation... and these days technologies change so quickly it's hard to keep up. Back in June at the Ballston Area Community Allies' Bullying Awareness March, several community leaders were talking with the kids about experiencing bullying when they were young. The kids then asked questions about cyberbullying. Our nascence was solidly established as sometime in the cretaceous period when we expalined that there wasn't  cyberbullying when we were young simply because we didn't have personal computers or cell phones.

Technology can be used to stalk, harass, or keep tabs on a victim.   But I'm not advocating we all unplug. Technology's flip side is its accessibility; for many victims a cell phone is a reassuring lifeline. That's why DVRC gives hundreds of 911 phones each year to survivors we work with...even if they have a cell phone. Knowing they could get help in a crisis, even if the abuser has damaged their cellphone, is reassuring (so if you've gotten a new phone recently consider donating your old cell phone to DVRC so we can provide that lifeline.)

Recently I posted about Kitestring, an app that can alert friends if you don't make it home safely. Today I read about another potentially life-saving app.  Robin McGraw, television personality, NY Times bestselling author and  founder of When Georgia Smiled, a charitable foundation to help women and girls, has launched an app that domestic violence victims can use to alert friends that they are in danger and need help. The Aspire News App functions like a regular app providing news stories... but has a special feature that allows domestic violence victims to alert friends if they are in danger.

Relationship abuse often happens in private; technology can help victims stay connected and safe.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Healing From the Ground Up

Tuesday is Good News Day

From the day he was born, there was one thing that soothed and restored my eldest son. Even when he was crying inconsolably, all it took to calm him was to pop him on my hip and go stand outside in nature for a few minutes. He didn't just like warm days with clear blue skies. He loved everything about nature. So sometimes we'd stand and bask in the sunshine, or maybe in February's biting winds and icy snowflakes. At times the rain would kiss us like a gentle mist... and other times we'd  look like soggy pooches after just a couple of minutes outside. Just being outdoors restored his peace and soothed his soul.

It was foreshadowing. As a teen he yearned for wilderness treks , week-long kayak trips, and hikes in the high peaks out west. Adolescent surliness would soften to gentle calm after a week in the wild. For nine years he has chosen to labor outdoors each day, felling trees,  digging all day in  summer's heat,  and occasionally battling poison ivy. It can be backbreaking work, usually figuratively (but a misstep a few years ago while digging an irrigation trench led to an excruciating ambulance ride and a more literal definition of 'backbreaking work'.) Even so, I understand why he chooses this work. He sees the sunrise every morning, notes the first blush of green as buds emerge on trees, and the crystalline constellations of frost in the grass as nature begins preparing for winter's rest. By contrast I've worked for over a decade in a windowless basement, doing a job I love... but without a daily conscious effort to seek green,  I'd only  know it's summer when the Saratogian's pink sheets  appear

This morning I read a blog post about how nature feeds our soul. It resonated. But #6 on the list also reminded me of a conversation I had several years ago with Margie Ingram of the Humor Project. At the  time the Humor Project's offices were in the same building as my office. In some ways our work could not be more different. The Humor Project focuses on the power of laughter and joy to transform the world. Our agency helps victims of relationship and sexual abuse  become survivors and transcend and heal for those experiences. Over a cup of coffee at Uncommon Grounds, Margie made a very sage observation, that showed that there was more commonality in our work than just sharing a building  "Sometimes our greatest suffering comes form the belief that everyone else has it so much better than we do. We often only see the positive  things in people's lives and have  no clue about their struggles, and what they have to overcome." 

So while the grass may look greener across the fence, if you're standing in grass appreciate how green it is and how the blades tickle your toes. It's a lovely summer day today; go outside and let nature work its wonders on  your  soul.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Guns, domestic violence, and mass homicides

A recent study off mass shootings revealed that there's a strong correlation with domestic violence; in fact, 57% of the mass shootings were related to intimate partner or family violence. Women in domestic violence relationships are eight times more likely to be killed if their partner has access to a gun. The greatest risk is when she attempts to leave the abusive relationship. That's why it's so important to work with domestic violence professionals to develop a safety plan

The Huffington Post reports that Kim Gandy of the National Network to End Domestic Violence says the report serves as sobering evidence of the need to improve gun laws. I agree, but I also think it validates the need to give serious attention to domestic violence-- before it escalates to this tragic level. Domestic violence prevention is homicide prevention.
Warning trigger alert- violence

Sarah Engle is working with Americans for responsible Solutions to enact legislation to bar convicted stalkers and all domestic abusers from owning guns. Her reason? Because she knows too well the tragic consequences of guns and domestic violence "I left my ex-boyfriend. In response, he broke into my mother’s house, and shot and killed her. Then he held me hostage, raped me, and shot me in the head, leaving me for dead. I believe that I survived in order to tell my story and help save other women’s lives.

My ex-boyfriend didn’t have trouble getting a gun, even though I had a domestic abuse restraining order against him. Thousands of women across the country live in fear of their abusive partners or stalkers who also have guns, or who can get guns easily. That’s not acceptable. There’s a bill in Congress that would help fix this broken system. It’s important that we show how many people support this common sense idea to save women’s lives."

If you or someone you know
is experiencing domestic violence,
contact DVRC 24/7 at 518-584-8188.
We can help with safety planning,
and crisis and support services.
All services are free and confidential.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Child Molester's Playbook

Oprah's interview with Matthew Sandusky about his adoptive father's repeated sexual victimization and oppressive control, exposes many of the typical red flags of abuse. That such a public figure, who was honored and revered for his work with at risk youth, could be a serial child molester over a 15 year period with multiple boys before his abuse came to light is tragic. Like many sexual predators, Jerry Sandusky cultivated a persona that afforded him respect and access to children. His power and protection came from this cultivated public image. In Matthew Sandusky's words,
"It is hard to for people to believe
that he could do these things."

That's all part of the process of grooming. It's a calculated pattern of building  trust, gaining access, establishing power, controlling secrecy, and eroding the child's credibility. 85% of child molesters are known and trusted by the family and have regular access to the child. How do they get away with it? How is it that 1 in 6 boys  is sexually abused during childhood? As Matthew Sandusky says,
"It comes down to children and victims
 not being believed."

Here's what you need to know about how predators groom their victims, so you can keep your child safe.