Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Need hope? Look around.

Commitment to social justice knows no age limits. On Monday, I attended a leadership training coordinated by Youth2. There I saw teens discussing concerns for the environment, women’s rights, poverty, homelessness and hunger, and global issues of injustice. They didn’t only talk about these concerns, but brainstormed ways they could take an active role in addressing these problems… learning how to be “solutionaries”.
I don’t remember, when I was 16, spending a school holiday trying to strategize how I  could make a difference in a global problem. Even walking out of the training, looking at the tee shirt on the Y2 member ahead of me in line, their passion inspired me.
This morning I opened the paper and read that Mary Jane Smith, one of the founders of  Unity House, had passed  away. I started my career in human services more than three decades ago (gasp- wow I don't often do that math!) at Unity House's sister agency, Mohawk Opportunities. While we met briefly many decades ago, Mary Jane didn't know me... but over the years I've watched Unity House grow and seen firsthand the positive impact their programs have had on so many lives.
As we look at the human service organizations locally, we often forget their humble beginnings 3, 4,or 5 decades ago. Many of them, Wellspring included, began because a few concerned citizens gathered and started talking about a  local issue and just like those teens at the  Youthtraining began brainstorming a plan they could implement to address a local need. It didn't escape my notice that the article about Mary Jane had a picture of her taken last year, still volunteering serving lunch to those in need at the age of 87.
Like so many of our inspiring local leaders whom we've recently lost, e.g., Denny Brunelle, former executive director of the Saratoga County Economic Opportunity Council (and leader on many of our local initiatives to help those in need), or Anne Palamountain, philanthropist and founding member of many local nonprofit initiatives, including Wellspring's rape crisis services, they began working to help others early in adulthood and continued to do so throughout their lives, never tiring in their commitment to those in need and to our community. I'm humbled by their compassion, generosity and leadership and grateful for their impact.  I'm also inspired as I look at a new generation of youth just as committed to making this world a better  place.
Reading the news every day, it's easy to feel hopeless. The headlines make me wonder if our challenges are overwhelming and our leaders aren't able to address the needs of the people... but when I look up from my computer screen at what people are doing, I'm inspired and hopeful. Together we can make a difference. 


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

What Can We Learn From Tragedy?

While 2017 started bright with promise for most of us, for five people the year ended tragically almost as soon as it began. When we're bombarded with news stories about mass violence, we can get caught in the details (e.g., how many people, how did it happen, what were the motives) and lose sight of  the human impact. The Washington Post presents a brief snapshot into the people who were gunned down in the shooting in Fort Lauderdale that took the lives of 5 people, among them:
a father of 2 daughters and 3 grandchildren who was a devoted husband of 40+ years
a great grandma with a lilting British accent who was active in her faith community
a business owner whose open heart extended to adopting a large active black lab  with a missing leg, and 
a mom of 3 and grandma to 6 who was just weeks away from her 51st anniversary.

These are such senseless tragedies and when they suddenly pop on our news screens, we're struck by the unpredictability of this type of violence.

Click here to view an interesting
animation of 9 key factors
While we may not be able to accurately predict when and where the next mass shooting will happen, there are some strong correlates... and a big one is domestic violence. Using FBI data and media reports, Everytown for Gun Safety did an analysis of mass shooting (click here to read the report or  here to view an interesting animation of 9 key factors).
Here are three correlates that may surprise you:

Domestic Violence- In 57% of mass shootings, the shooter killed a current/former partner  of family member, and in more than 15% of cases the shooter had a previous domestic violence charge.

Private Residence- 70% of mass shootings (defined as an incident in which 4 or more people, not including the shooter are killed with a gun) took place in private residences, not public spaces.

Percent and Frequency- Mass shootings represent less than 1% of gun  homicides and occur fairly regularly with no more than 3 months between tragedies.

And here's one correlate that's not as strong as many would expect:

Mental Illness- In only 11% of shootings had concerns been brought to a professional prior to the rampage... and in less than 1% was the shooter prohibited from owning guns due to severe mental illness.

What can we learn from this? While the large scale public massacres command media attention, gun violence isn't limited to these events-- in fact, many mass shootings take place in homes, against family members, and fairly regularly. The correlates between domestic violence and homicide are unmistakable. I've always viewed law enforcement's response  to domestic violence as homicide prevention. I'm not by any means implying that every instance of domestic violence may escalate to a homicide, but rather that taking domestic violence seriously, assessing the  pattern of power and control, and paying attention to key indicators (e.g., threats to kills the victim or instances of strangulation, i.e., "choking" the victim) that increase risk to lethality-- these are strategies that can reduce the  possibility that domestic violence will escalate to tragic, fatal consequences.

If you or someone you know
is experiencing domestic violence call Wellspring:
Office 518-583-0280
24/7 Hotline 518-584-8188

Know the tactics  of power and control that underlie domestic violence. If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse, talk to a domestic violence advocate to know your options. There's so much we can't predict ... here's one thing we can do to reduce the likelihood of mass violence.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Karma, Recycling, and Ending Abuse

Happy New Year. 

This could be the easiest New year's resolution ever!
Whether you are a resolution-maker or not, you're probably bombarded by articles about creating change: weight loss plans, fitness programs,  financial planning strategies, tips to get organized...  programs for every type of resolution. Yet by this weekend a quarter of folks will have lost the resolve in their resolutions. Why? Expectations too big? Not truly committed to the goal? Life provided a reality check? Seemingly overnight, big plans become no plans. Its good to think big, but maybe we get to the end goal quicker with small steps.  

Today a colleague shared a quote that made me stop and think about all those abandoned resolutions,

And that is how change happens. One gesture. One person. One moment at a time.”
Libba Bray, The Sweet Far Thing
 I do better making changes really stick when I pick something easily doable and make it an ingrained part of my daily routine. You all know I'm committed to ending relationship and sexual abuse. I'm also really concerned about our environment... but I'm not always 100% with the 'reduce, reuse and recycle' mantra. But every year I pick one practice I will commit to so I will be I kinder to Mother Earth. Several years ago taking the recyclables to the transfer station, I noted how many empty laundry detergent bottles we had and got to thinking about not only the toxic chemicals in those bottles, but the energy used to transport them, the processing to make the bottles, and the possibility that a portion of them wind up in landfills leaving a permanent legacy of disrespect for the environment. I started making my own laundry detergent and haven't bought prepackaged laundry soap in years. It takes only a couple of minutes and the only waste is a paper wrapper from the Fels Naptha soap bar and 2 cardboard boxes (one  Borax and one washing soda)-- these I use to start the fire in my woodstove that heats our house all winter. It's not much but over those years  I've reduced the number of plastic bottles passing through our house by hundreds...and I've kept at it because it was a simple commitment (bonus points because it's cheaper than bottled laundry detergent, has no perfumes or dyes and works just as well). 
Each year at Christmas I look at the pile of pretty wrapping paper that gets crumpled up and put in the trash (can't burn this because of all the glossy paper with colored dyes). So this year I 'wrapped' my gifts in reusable shopping bags. It cost less than fancy paper
and was a little extra 'gift' for the recipient. Perhaps they'll think of Christmas when they're grocery shopping. I had fun all last year picking up the perfect bag with decorations suited to each  person in my life... but on December 25th my supply was gone. Well Hannaford just came to the rescue.
Throughout January, at the Hannaford store located at:
95 Weibel Avenue, Saratoga Springs NY,
Hannaford Helps Reusable Bag Program has focused on supporting:
Hannaford is donating a portion of sales  of every good karma bag to Wellspring. So stock up- save the planet- and support our work toward community free of relationship and sexual abuse. "One gesture. One person. One moment at a time."
~ Every day counts ~

Monday, November 14, 2016

Make Each Minute Count

Saratoga Today reporter, Tom Dimopoulos, and I spoke recently about Wellspring's  work. Throughout our conversation  I talked  about our emphasis on prevention and early intervention. Our best hope for the future is that our shelter is empty and our hotline never rings... because we've ended relationship and sexual abuse. We're on the path, but we're not there yet. Our hotline answers ~1,400 calls each year, our shelter is almost always full, and our counselors see a steady stream of men and women  who have experienced abuse.
Dimopolous wrote about his conversation with, Tina,  a domestic violence survivor who had utilized Wellspring's services. Her story echoed the words we hear so often from survivors:
  • Tina endured decades of abuse before seeking help
  • Financial instability prevented Tina from leaving and her partner's economic abuse threatened her custody of her children.
  • Tina kept hoping that if she tried harder the abuse would end, "It took me a long time to realize I couldn't fix him, that my love couldn't carry it through."
  • Remaining in the abuse, Tina felt hopeless and desperate, "The psychological effect...spun me into a dark, life-threatening world of depression. I was in a state of turmoil and didn't know what to do."
By chance Tina happened upon Wellspring, called and began to forge a new life without abuse, "Immediately I felt there was a glimmer of hope."

So many people wait to seek help until a crisis forces action. Why?
  •  Sometimes they don't identify what they are experiencing as domestic violence, especially if they are not physically abused.  Emotional abuse, financial control, social isolation and sexual coercion are all forms of domestic violence.
  • Often they love the person, don't want to leave him/her... they just want the abuse to end. They think if they try harder it will stop. Domestic violence is a pattern of power and control... the behaviors are a choice the abuser makes.
  • They see so many obstacles that they can't even contemplate leaving. Wellspring offers a range of support services, e.g., emergency shelter, legal advocacy, subsidized housing, and employment assistance. Talk to us about your concerns; like Tina, you too may immediately feel a glimmer of hope for the first time.
Tina's story of hope, healing and transcendence is inspiring... but I also hear such regret that she endured 22 years of abuse, before seeking the help where she can now say, "Wellspring gave me a new lease on life and I'm going to take full advantage of it...I don't take for granted one minute of my life.
I'm so grateful that she's reached a point where she has power and joy in every minute of her life. I regret that she endured 22 years of abuse-- that's more than 11 million minutes of her life overshadowed by domestic violence-  before  she found the support to help her escape.

If you or someone you know is experiencing relationship or sexual abuse, call Wellspring. Cherish every minute of your life.


Sunday, November 6, 2016

When's the right time ot talk about consent?

Wellspring prevention educators spend a lot of time talking to high school and college students about consent. We're discussing consent in the context of dating relationships, but there's no reason to wait so long to talk to youth about consent... and in fact, it's much easier to practice the concepts with less emotionally charged situations than dating or sexual encounters.

I love that this comic  humorously demonstrates that it's never too early to talk to kids about consent. Illustrator Chris Brady explains how this comic came to be.


Friday, November 4, 2016

And the winners of the Purple Purse Challenge are...

The Purple Purse  Challenge has ended and Allstate announced the grand prize winners of the Challenge.
Allstate's excitement was evident in their words,
"The Allstate Foundation Purple Purse Challenge is officially over and all wrapped up. Such an exciting finish and over $1.2 Million was raised by so many amazing Division II organizations.  What an incredible Challenge."
At Wellspring we agree. We were astounded and continue to be so very grateful for the support of our community in the Purple Purse Challenge... and more importantly in being champions for our vision of ending relationship and sexual abuse in our community. Throughout October you made the impossible, possible.
Because of your support Wellspring placed 5th in the nation in Division II of Allstate’s Purple Purse Challenge. Our community contributed $51,315 to support Wellsprings survivor services, prevention programs, and community engagement activities. Your generosity earned us an additional $26,000 in bonuses from Allstate. 
The staff and board of directors offer heartfelt gratitude for your generosity during Allstate’s month-long Purple Purse Challenge… and for your support of our work throughout the year. Together we can end relationship and sexual abuse in our community.
Thank you!


Sunday, October 23, 2016

Your gift could win Wellspring $20,000

The leaderboard as of noon on Sunday

Help Wellspring win a $20,000 bonus in Allstate’s Purple Purse Challenge                      

 With only hours left in a month-long national fundraising challenge, Wellspring, has a tenuous hold on the 5th place slot. With your support the agency could capture 4th place and win a $20,000 bonus in Allstate’s Purple Purse Challenge. The Challenge continues through October 25, with the 5 top teams vying for grand prize cash donations totaling $325,000 from The Allstate Foundation.   Currently, Wellspring sits about $3,000 out of 4th place, which would earn them a $20,000 bonus.

I truly believe we can succeed in winning the Allstate bonus. In the week 1 challenge, Wellspring captured 4th place in the national competition earning that week’s $10,000 bonus. This incredible support reaffirms just how deeply people care about our work and support our vision of a community free of relationship and sexual abuse.

To help Wellspring’s Purple Purse Campaign, make an on-line donation before the Challenge ends at 1:59 p.m. on Tuesday. To donate, go to http://www.wellspringcares.org/give. You’ll be immediately redirected to the Purple Purse giving page.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Advocates Saved My Mother's Life

People are often surprised when I speak about the prevalence of domestic violence in Saratoga County. It 's the #2 violent crime in Saratoga County, the primary reason for family homelessness, and the #1 cause of homicide. But most domestic violence victims aren't even included in those statistics.

Many never contact the police, never call a hotline, maybe never even tell a close friend or family member about how their partner is treating them. Why not? Stigma? Shame? Disbelief? Fear that if they seek help the abuse will get worse? Desire to protect family members? Afraid they won't be believed? Hope that the abuse won't happen again... after all their partner has apologized and promised it won't? Not recognizing that emotional abuse, financial control or social isolation are also forms of domestic violence... even when there's not physical abuse? All these reasons... and more.

In any room when I'm speaking to a group, I know that there's someone, probably many people, who are or were abuse by a partner...or who have someone in their lives who was victimized. But  what I also know is that with assistance lives can change and abuse becomes a part of the past. I know this, because people come to me and tell me so, 
It's Domestic Violence Awareness  Month so this week I've been talking to a lot of groups. Let me tell some comments I've heard this week:

  • "You were talking about how financial control can keep someone trapped in an abusive relationship. That was me. I was afraid if I left my abuser would get custody of the kids because he had all the money. Wellspring helped me so much, and I was able to leave...thank you."
  • "When my son went to college a girl he'd dated a few times started stalking him and doing really scary things. My wife and I didn't know what to do; we'd never prepared him for this--we'd never even considered this could happen to a son. A friend said to call Wellspring. I thought, "Don't they just help battered women? I was so wrong.'  You helped us create a safety plan, get an order of protection, and the abuse stopped. I worry how bad it would have gotten without your help."
  • "Take a picture  with the advocates.
    Advocates saved my mother's life."
  • Taking photos with the speaker at the cell phone collection event I mentioned in yesterday's blog post one of the photographers said, "Let's get a picture with the advocates. Advocates saved my mother's life."
Each of those comments took less than 60 seconds... but they're the reason Wellspring advocates do this work every day. 

Here's something you can do that takes less than 60 seconds... and it will help Wellspring provide even more survivor services, and more prevention programs so we can hear more stories like there. Got 60 seconds?

Donate to Wellspring today and help us win a $20,000 bonus  In Allstate's Purple Purse Challenge. It easy click here to donate right now. You'll be directed to our Purple Purse donation page. The top 5 agencies in the Challenge receive  between $15,000 and $100,000  bonus next Tuesday . The competition is really intense (want to see how intense, check out the leaderboard here). Help us reach our goal so we can end domestic violence!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Can You See the End?

October is  Domestic Violence Awareness Month and I’ve been doing a lot of speaking to community groups this week. Yesterday as I was speaking to a group I suddenly had a profound realization; let me take you back to how it came about.

Sergeant Ray Cordani of the Stillwater Police Department is passionately committed to helping victims of domestic violence. Each year he organizes a cell phone collection to provide 911 phones to victims of domestic violence. Local Businesses like DeCrescente Distributing have championed the collection since 2003. In its first year 3 phones were collected… now more than 4,300 phones have been distributed to domestic violence victims to provide a lifeline to safety. 

Annually Sergeant Cordani organizes a press conference to recognize the program and to raise awareness of the need. Yesterday I had the pleasure of listening to a number of community leaders passionately articulate their profound commitment to this issue:

 Senator Kathy Marchione who committed to championing policies and funding protect victims and provide support services.

Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner who supports women’s issues, especially educational opportunities that promote gender equality in education and employment

Assemblyman Jim Tedisco who is a voice  for laws to  protect our most vulnerable family members- our pets. He understands too well the intersection of animal abuse and domestic violence, and Congressman

Paul Tonko who rallies for  employment issues affecting women, “Congress must step up to the plate and support our mothers, sisters, and daughters.”

Sergeant Cordani noted the Stillwater Police department responds to at least one, but sometimes two or more, domestic incidents every night,  "Unfortunately, domestic violence incidents are not going down." A glance toward Sheriff Mike Zurlo confirmed that this is true throughout the county.

District  Attorney  Karen Heggen has two attorneys dedicated full time to prosecuting so domestic violence crimes… yes it’s that prevalent.

Such inspiring speakers. What a depth of knowledge, compassion and dedication! 

And so it was then my turn to speak.  Walking  up to the podium  I truthfully wasn’t sure  what I was going to say. It’s not easy following a lineup like that.What more can you say?

Well I looked at Sergeant Cordani,we met back in 2003 when we first did this cell phone collection, and wondered aloud, "How many times has he responded to a domestic incident?" Then at Sheriff Zurlo who has been a law enforcement officer for more than 30 years; how many victims has he assisted? And District Attorney Heggen, how many domestic violence crimes has her office prosecuted?.Wellspring’s hotline alone answers 1,400 calls each year… and we’ve been doing this work for more than 35 years. Looking at my colleagues who do this work every day, I commented it would be understandable if we were tired, frustrated or disheartened seeing so many victims year after year. But not one of us showed any signs of resignation. In fact, strength and determination shone in our eyes. And standing at that podium I had a realization. Since I joined Wellspring 14 years ago, I’ve always had a vision that our agency could do more than help survivors… we could end domestic violence. For quite a while people questioned if that was a realistic goal. Actually that's now Wellspring's mission statement. Standing there I realized I truly feel that I'm not the  only one who sees that as our goal ...and we’re nearing that finish line. It’s no longer police offers, prosecutors and advocates that are doing this work. People throughout our community are joining us in that vision. Whether we’re watching a football game, visiting a college campus, donating to a workplace cell phone collection, or eating dinner with your kids, we’re all noticing, and talking about domestic violence. It’s moving out of the shadows and we’re all becoming part of a social change. So like Pandora’s Box, when hope is released good prevails. Together we can end domestic violence.

Feeling inspired? Here’s something you can do right now to help:
Help Wellspring win  $20,000 on October 25th
Wellspring, is close to winning $20,000 in the Purple Purse Challenge! Can you help them reach this milestone and support their clients and our community?  It takes just seconds.
Want to do more? Share the link with your friends and ask them  to be part of our vision of ending domestic violence.

Curious about Wellspring's standing in the Challenge?
View the leaderboard here


Friday, October 14, 2016

We Won $10,000 ... Because of YOU!


I wanted to update all those who donated to Wellspring for the Purple Purse Challenge that, because of you and about 200 individuals, businesses and organizations that donated, Wellspring won the $10,000 bonus offered by Allstate during the first week of the Challenge. 
That's right $10,000 from Allstate to support Wellspring's work in your community!

I was absolutely moved as our businesses and local individuals showed how much they care and want to be part of our vision to end relationship and sexual  abuse.

The Challenge isn't over yet! It continues until 1:59 pm on October 25th... and there are even bigger bonuses for top  performing organizations...from $15,000 to $100,000  bonus money  for the top  5 agencies at the need of the Challenge.
Here's how some folks are helping:
  • One local business invited our staff to speak during their lunch period and the company and employees were so committed to our vision of ending abuse that not only did  the company make a contribution, but many employees made personal contributions.
  • Another organization is having a casual dress Friday for employees who donate to the Challenge.
  • A local business is offering a percentage of sales one day toward the Challenge, and
  • Many people are sharing the message on their facebook pages and inviting others to take action against relationship and sexual abuse... and help bring more funds to our community to support survivor services and prevention programs.
  • To donate to Wellspring's Purple Purse Challenge, simply click on wellspringcares.org/give and you'll be directed  to  our Purple Purse giving page. It only takes a minute to make a help us advance  toward our goal of ending relationship and sexual abuse. Together we can do this!