Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Shine a Light... Save a Life

This segment of the Today Show shines a light on domestic violence: Through the words of several courageous survivors we can better understand:
Tamron Hall Shines the Light on
Domestic Violence...
 in her sister's memory

  • how it starts
  • why women stay
  • how hard it is to ask for help ("If just one person had asked I would have opened up")
  • what middle school girls need to know
  • what to say to someone and how to help.
I don't need to say more... these survivors have spoken from the heart to help others.Watch it-- so we can all shine a light to end domestic violence. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

After a rape

If you or someone you know has been raped:
  • Go to a safe place
  • Avoid showering, bathing, eating, drinking, or urinating so that evidence can be collected in case you choose to report the crime to police.
  • Save the clothing you were wearing during the assault.
  • Do not disturb the crime scene.
  • Seek medical help at the nearest hospital. Contact  your local rape crisis agency for help.
In Saratoga County call DVRC's 24 hour hotline 518-584-8188

You are not to blame for being raped. 
Whether you were out late, drinking or whatever... you did not cause the rape. 
Someone chose to sexually assault you.
The decisions are yours to make:
  • You do not have to report the rape to the police to receive help.
  • The hospital can provide a sexual assault forensic exam (SAFE) to collect the evidence; you don't have to make a decision about reporting. They will hold the evidence until you decide.
  • A rape crisis advocate can talk with you to explain your options and will accompany you to the hospital for a SAFE exam or to the police if you choose to report.
You Are Not Alone

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Campus Responses to Sexual Assaults

By now the NY Times coverage of Hobart College's blundering treatment of a sexual assault is widespread. The assault occurred just two weeks after Anna, an eighteen year old freshman, stepped foot on campus. The article describes how friends became concerned when Anna, who had been drinking, went missing.  When they found her, she was bent over a pool table as a football player appeared to be having sex with her as numerous others watched, laughed and took videos-- later she couldn't recall that incident, but did recall being raped earlier that night in a residence. A sexual assault nurse 's records indicated “intercourse with either multiple partners, multiple times or that the intercourse was very forceful.”

The national that media coverage of this case has given us an unprecedented glimpse into campus judicial responses to sexual assaults, and raises serious questions about how campuses handle sexual violence...and what more can be done to prevent assaults.

In a landmark report, The Sexual Victimization of College Women, funded by the US Department of Justice, University of Cincinnati, Professors Bonnie Fisher and Francis Cullen researched campus policies to shed  light on how effectively campuses respond to sexual violence. The report, published in 2002, (admittedly when today's incoming freshmen were just  learning how to read and add) noted significant findings that can guide policy and prevention:

  • Remember that first responders aren't the only responders. "Only 3.2 percent of rape victims and 2.3 percent of attempted rape victims reported to campus authorities...Although women were reluctant to report their victimization to police and campus officials, they were likely to disclose their experience to non-officials, especially friends...this insight could affect sexual assault prevention and education programs on college campuses by revealing the importance of guiding students on what to do if a friend discloses a sexual victimization to them." 
  • Stalking was surprisingly common affecting 13% of the female college students sampled ans lasting on average 60 days, yet there's little awareness or even discussion on campuses about stalking. Given that stalking causes psychological distress and can escalate to other forms of violence, it may warrant more attention.
  • And perhaps most notable-- most sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the victim and happen at night in residence, often with alcohol as a factor.Getting this message out to student right away on campus is essential.

We Need More Red Pens

Yes there's a strong correlation between drinking and sexual victimization. However, the consequence of overindulgence should be a wicked hangover the next day... not rape. Why do we  blame or shame victims of sexual violence instead of focusing on the aggressor's actions? An important edit with a red pen really put this into perspective.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

"Words and ideas can change the world" Robin Williams

Tuesday is Good News Day

Today I was  having a hard time writing about good news related to the work of DVRC. With every mouse click I found stories about college sexual assaults, football players and MMA fighters battering their wives, and...  Robin Williams died. Cruising the top  stories at 5 am on my laptop screen,  it seemed like a hard day to be optimistic. But with a few more minutes reflection,  I was struck by one commonality- along with the bad news, the Internet provides links to support services, calls for increased awareness, and a collective voice to not allow tragedies to go unheeded.

Technology sometimes brings us information overload and compassion overload, but it's also a lifeline for people who feel alone, hopeless, and confused. And many reporters who are covering stories of tragedies are keenly aware that there are readers out there who are suffering too; through their writing they help us to understand the suffering, inspire us to reach out when we see someone in need, and challenge us to look past the bad news for solutions.

So if the bad news has you down, here's some of the positive takeaways from recent news stories:
  • While we're teaching our young athletes how to sprint, tackle and block, let's also teach them that strength doesn't equate with violence. There are programs to develop character and instill leadership values that on and off the field. Contact DVRC to find out how  to get a program for your team.
  • The issue of sexual assault on college campuses is a hot topic now (and with good reason as students are preparing to head to school-- did you know the first 4 semesters on campus present the highest risk of rape for college women?)   Despite valiant efforts to promote awareness that "no" means no, sexual assault continues. California lawmakers are proposing new legislation  requiring colleges to adopt policies that require consent, whether verbal or through clear nonverbal indicators.  So  the focus of determining consent isn't on a demonstrating clear refusal (which can place the burden of proof on a sexual assault victim), but rather for both partners to clearly communicate and receive the OK to proceed.
  • Robin Williams death has evoked grieving across the country and across generations.  He made us laugh, made us think, made us look deeper into ourselves, made us envision a better world... and  did I mention made us laugh uproariously for decades! For the millions who have enjoyed his talents but never met him, his loss is still profound and personal because he struck a chord within us. And the voice that resonated enough to wake up Vietnam is now bringing attention to the seriousness of depression. (If  you need help contact the Saratoga County Samaritans Suicide Prevention Center - 518- 689-4673 or  Saratoga County Crisis Line - 518- 584-9030)
Our  ever connected world exposes us  to the trivial and the tragic, but I through it we can also be  inspired to take responsibility for creating change and finding solutions.

No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.
Robin Williams

... and  if all else fails the Internet is full of cute animal videos like these 2 red pandas wrestling.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Study This Before Heading to College

College begins in just a few week. While it's not time to hit the books yet, here's a few facts to study before school starts:
Students experience some of the highest rates of sexual assault
  • Between 20% and 25% of women will experience a completed and/or attempted rape during their college career. US Dep't  of Justice
  • College freshmen and sophomore are at greater risk of  sexual assault. 84% of the women who reported sexually coercive experiences  the incident occurred during their first four semesters on campus (An Examination of Sexual Violence Against College Women)
  • 90% of women know the person who sexually assaulted or raped them. US Dep't  of Justice 2000
  • 90% of acquaintance rapes involve alcohol (National Collegiate Date and Acquaintance Rape Statistics)
  • The majority of rapes occur in residences.

The key things to remember:
  • Sexual assault is very prevalent in college.
  • The victim usually knows the assailant.
  • Alcohol is often a key factor.
  • If someone is too intoxicated to give consent... it's rape.
  • If you have been sexually assaulted, you are not alone and you are not to blame. There is help both on campus and through your local rape crisis agency.
If you or someone you know is raped:
  • The decisions are yours to make:
    • You do not have to report to law enforcement to get help.
    • You can have a sexual assault forensic exam (SAFE exam) to collect the evidence now, but don't have to make  any decisions about reporting. The evidence will be kept safe while you think about your decision.
    • To preserve the evidence, avoid showering, urinating, brushing you teeth, eating or drinking.
You are not to blame for the assault.
A rape crisis advocate can help you to understand your options and begin the healing process.

In Saratoga County call
DVRC's 24 hour hotline at

Thursday, August 7, 2014

I'm Glad They Made the Connection

The Princeton Review listed Syracuse University as the nation's #1 party school this year. Every year these decidedly unscientific rankings cause a buzz of attention, some welcome, and some cringe-worthy. These rankings can be a momentary PR nightmare, but can also be the impetus for  taking a serious look at  college  life beyond academics.

An editorial in response to Syracuse's ignominious recognition, notes Chancellor Syverud's admonition to faculty and staff to take seriously activities that derail student success, with high risk alcohol and drug use being the priority concern. Even more importantly, the editorial draws the link between alcohol us and sexual victimization,
"It would be easier to laugh off the party school ranking
if not for another troubling crosscurrent on U.S. campuses -
the issue of how colleges and universities handle reports of sexual assault.
A White House task force recently said
one in five women are sexually abused while at college,
and that the abuse often occurs while women were incapacitated due to alcohol or drug use.
While excessive drinking is never an excuse
for perpetrator to commit rape
or a reason to blame a victim of rape
- no always means no --
 its role in sexual assault cannot be ignored."

I'm glad they're taking this conversation to a higher plateau than whether the school is a party school to making the connection of a culture of alcohol excess and it link to sexual victimization. It's an issue that's increasingly of concern on college campuses. The summer vacation is winding to an end and many families are preparing to pack the car and take their son or daughter to college (some for the first time away from home), so this week's blog posts will focus on issues relating to college, safety and campus sexual assault. With all the new experiences college affords, sexual assault shouldn't be one. Before you pack up the car packing up the car, set aside time to have an open and honest talk about how to stay safe.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Their Courage Helps Us Understand

Tuesday is Good News Day

Think quickly. Who do you know who  has experienced domestic violence or dating violence?

You may think of a friend or relative. Perhaps you yourself have been (or are in) and abusive relationship. But many people will say, "I don't know anyone who has been a victim of  domestic violence.". For most, if not all of these folks, I think they do, and just don't know it.

Many survivors of domestic violence, don't talk about it when they're in it... or when it's over.  So if they aren't telling us, how do we recognize them?   Might I suggest we look for :
  • someone who is a confident, intelligent college-educated beauty pageant winner, or perhaps
  • a young woman who is a talented professional singer, or
  • a charismatic, articulate CNN news anchor?
I'd like to recognize the courage of three women who have told  their stories of being abused by a partner. I know how hard it is to tell anyone, even in hushed privacy, what it's like to be victimized by someone you  love. Yet these women have told their stories publicly so that we all can understand domestic violence... so that other women will recognize abuse and seek help... so that they can put a face on the social issue of domestic violence.

So I'd like to applaud:

Kira Kazantsev, 2014 Miss New York State who has tirelessly spoken out to raise awareness of domestic violence during her participation in the Miss America pageant, speaking out about the isolation, confusion and self-blame when she realized she was in an abusive relationship,
 " In college, I started dating a person who seemed great.  
He made me feel special. 
But six months later, when I looked around, I was isolated
from my friends and family and he had become my whole world."

Jasmine Villegas whose music video 'Didn't Mean It' reenacts  the violent physical and psychological abuse she  experienced in a dating relationship,
"Fortunately for me, I was able to get out relatively early,
 and now I want to let other women know that
you don’t have to feel ashamed or embarrassed
 about getting help"

Carol Costello, who in speaking about  the Ray Rice incident, told about a college boyfriend who in "a jealous rage threw me against the wall knocking me out.
 I always thought I was a physically strong woman,
but I could not defend myself against a man who outweighed me by 70 pounds."

It's difficult to overcome the stigma, self-blame and humiliation of being abused by a romantic partner, but these three women have had the courage to speak out. Domestic violence is a crime that happens behind closed doors; with their courage we are bringing the issue out of the shadows.

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 loveisrespect.org. 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