Thursday, November 29, 2018

Always... show them what it means to perform 'like a girl'

I'd rather regret the risks that didn't work out,
than the chances I didn't take at all."
Simone Biles
You go girl! Simone Biles is not only one fierce athlete, she's also a great role model for young girls about strength, commitment and passion. Remember that famous Superbowl commercial in 2015 by Always that asked young people to do things “#LikeAGirl?”


The idea for that groundbreaking commercial was developed after Fama Francisco, vice president of Always, and her colleagues analyzed consumer research.  They found that young women experience a significant drop in self-confidence upon reaching puberty (Huffington Post, 2015). 


The Always commercial was powerful for many reasons – not only did it demonstrate the power of our words, but it also reminded us that these types of messages are learned and internalized over time. 


Young girls who were prompted with phrases such as “show me what it means to run like a girl” demonstrated running as fast as they could – they demonstrated actions with power, strength, and athleticism in every prompt.  However, older girls (and boys) given the same prompts did not show the same enthusiasm, but instead showed comedic attempts at completing the activities.


When femininity becomes synonymous with weakness, embarrassment, and fragility, it is no wonder Francisco and her team found these results among girls reaching what is commonly regarded as a significant symbolic marker of “womanhood”.


As demonstrated through the commercial, these messages can profoundly shape our perspectives on gender equality: when we treat girls and women as if they are weak and fragile, we begin to believe that they are inferior.  And as this perspective becomes reinforced over time through social norms and gendered expectations, violence against women and girls often becomes normalized, excused, and justified.


Intimate partner violence occurs when one person has the desire to gain or maintain power and control over their intimate partner.


While anyone can perpetrate or be a victim of intimate partner violence, this issue disproportionately affects women and girls because it is a manifestation of how, we as a society, view women and girls.


Ending relationship violence in our community requires a strong commitment to challenging and changing the social norms that allow relationship violence to continue.  


In conjunction with Coaching Boys Into Men, Wellspring coordinates a similar program for high school athletes on girls’ sports teams: Athletes As Leaders aims to empower female-identified youth to take an active role in promoting healthy relationships, build a positive culture within their team, and end sexual violence. Throughout their season, athletes discuss the root causes of violence and work to generate new social norms for their team, and their school community.


Results from a national evaluation on the efficacy of Athletes As Leaders are incredibly promising: after completion of the program, participants showed statistically significant improvement in their ability to identify abusive behaviors, improvement in their beliefs in gender equity, and increased self-image and confidence.


“Girls are, and can be, more than what stereotypes say.

You have a bigger voice than you think.”

–Participant, Athletes As Leaders


Ending relationship and sexual abuse starts with engaging our communities to change what it means to do things #LikeAGirl.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

What's Happening This October?

As many of you know, October is Domestic Violence awareness month – and last October there was a strong Purple Purse buzz flowing throughout Saratoga County. A buzz that resulted in our community raising more than $80,000 in one month for the families that Wellspring serves daily. Because of your generosity, Wellspring placed #3 in the nation… thank you! 

A lot of you have been asking about Purple Purse this year? Because of the amazing amount of time, effort, resources and support that you all showed Wellspring last year, we have decided to take a break from Purple Purse this year as a way of saying thank you. That being said, there are still plenty of opportunities for you to help us raise awareness about our mission and the work we do every day.  

We are always looking for community partners to help support our events – through sponsorship, tickets, and spreading the word to your families, friends, and colleagues. As the school year begins, we are eager for more community partners to engage in our Coaching Boys Into MenR and Athletes as LeadersR programs. In addition to that, we are always willing and excited to come to talk to anyone about our programs and services – whether it is your youth group, your book club, your sales team etc. we are here for you as a resource and friend. 

Our vision is a community free from relationship abuse – a vision that will only be made possible by the support of a community like ours. Thank you for all you have done and for all you continue to do. 
And because you folks really rocked October last year, let's have a throwback Thursday moment and revisit some photos of our Purple Purse Champions. Want to see all our Champions and hear their words about why they care so deeply about Wellspring's work? Just click here
And you don't want to miss two exciting events:

On September 29th grab a leash and your favorite pooch and join us in Congress Park for the kickoff to Domestic Violence Awareness Month at the 7th Annual Pooch Parade.

And call up your favorite gal friends and join us at Longfellows on October 11th for Girlfriends  Helping Girlfriends.

For more info on both events click here

Thursday, July 19, 2018

"You cannot silence the strong forever"

At last night’s ESPYS 140 survivors of sexual victimization joined hands as they accepted the Arthur Ashe Courage Award on behalf of hundreds of child athletes who have been victimized. Their presence represented more than 30 years’ of violation. Olympic gymnast, Aly Raisman, cited the years that athletes tried to tell people about Larry Nassar’s abuse, and no one listened… 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2004, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016. She noted their intent was to silence the athletes “in favor of money, medals, and reputation.” As the audience members stood in solidarity with the athletes, there were nods, tears, smiles of support… and a shared realization that we’ve entered an era when silencing victims isn’t acceptable.
Noting how much has been taken from the athletes, many just children when they represented their team, their support and their country. Former Michigan State softball player Tiffany Thomas Lopez, noted that , “Tonight we stand here and it feels like we’re finally winning…. You cannot silence the strong forever.”
The athlete’s gave thanks for honoring their voices. I’d like to give thanks for their courage. Courage that has broken the code of silence and deception. Courage that has made us all understand. Courage that will create change so that other women, other athletes, other children may never experience the same violation and so that we all will realize our part in ending abuse. Raisman noted. “Predators thrive in silence; whether you act or do nothing you are shaping the world you live in.” She noted that if just one adult had listened, had believed, and had taken action…. the athletes standing on that stage… and many others…. would never have met Larry Nasser.
It’s a call to action to all of us.
Watch the powerful video here

Friday, June 29, 2018

#MeToo- What They Heard After Finding Their Voice

Yesterday's New York Times featured an article titled "How Saying #MeToo Changed Their Lives". It featured 20 men and women who spoke about about their  experiences of sexual assault or harassment and the positive, negative, unexpected, and healing emotions and interactions they encountered as a result of publicly saying #MeToo.

All over the nation, conversations are happening about formerly taboo topics, about social norms that we never questioned (even when they felt really uncomfortable and hurt people we cared about), and about what our personal role is in this highly charges social issue. 

Some people find liberation and support as they tell stories that they've kept secret for weeks, years or decades about being victimized. Some find confirmation as others say, "That sounds just like what he did to me." Other  experience judgments, "How did you let that happen to you?" Or isolation, "No one reached out" or "I was shunned in my workplace/career." Some begin to probe the depths of how their victimization and silence has affected their lives, "[it] opened up other issues that were exacerbated by the abuse, though not directly related. Issues such as my own sense of confidence, and why I was one of the ones chosen."

Or as Drew Dixon  stated to reporter Joe Coscarelli,  

It’s very hard as a black woman to call out powerful black men because we have no heroes to spare. We are always, still, fighting this uphill battle, always trying to overcome this myth of the predatory black man. So the last thing you want to do is contribute to that in any way. It’s complicated as a black woman — do you take it for the team? Which is what I did for 22 years. Or do you insist that you, too, deserve dignity, physical safety and respect? That was very hard for me and it’s literally why I kept the secret for all these years. I didn’t want to tear down a black man, let alone two. But what they did was wrong.

And many found strength, support and hope, like Deborah Harris who felt berated and humiliated by the sexual harassment. She stated,

After the article, my daughter posted on Facebook: ‘My mother, social justice warrior.’ I really kind of got elevated in her eyes. I’m proud of myself.

We honor the courage of the many women and men who have shared their personal experiences of victimization.  In order for change to happen these issues need to come out of the shadows and we need to hear  the pain and injustice that survivors have encountered... but hearing those stories an feel poignantly raw and real. If the recent media attention about issues of sexual  harassment has affected you or someone you know, call Wellspring we understand and we're here to help.
Office 518.583.0280
24 Hour Hotline 518.584.8188



Friday, December 29, 2017

Let’s Create a New Vision of “Me Too” in 2018

Looking back at 2017, it’s impossible not to notice how issues of gender inequality, harassment and sexual violence were in the forefront of our consciousness throughout the year…culminating in mid-October with a viral #MeToo twitterstorm that was a rallying cry against gender based violence. #MeToo didn’t emerge from a vacuum… for several years there’s been a steady increase in our society’s awareness and concern about sexual violence. The accounts of sexual assault, harassment, groping, and discrimination have garnered headlines. The names and stories of respected men who are also perpetrators remain in our consciousness because we’ve given these issues more attention than ever before— Ray Rice, Bill Cosby, Brock Turner, Jameis Winston, Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Bill O’Reilly, Brett Ratner, Louis C.K., US gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, Bryan Singer, Kevin Spacey. Concepts like “locker room talk”, consent, intimidation, power and privilege have migrated from HR offices to boardrooms, to locker rooms to water coolers and to the family dinner table…and the magnitude of this problem is shameful. 

The voices of courageous survivors sharing their experiences has made it clear that sexual victimization is more pervasive than we’ve ever acknowledged. It’s not the occasional perpetrator who ‘behaves badly’. We’ve got people in positions of power in sports, education, politics, entertainment, tech-everywhere- who routinely commit acts of gender based violence…. and we look the other way. There will always be people who choose to victimize; our problem is that we are a society that tacitly condones these behaviors when the person committing the acts is well-liked or important or talented or successful. Where we go from here?

The solution lies with all of us. We have the power and responsibility to change the norms that allow sexual violence to continue. As these public figures have been exposed for harassing, intimidating or perpetrating sexual assault, it’s also come to light that their colleagues were often aware of these behaviors… but rarely confronted them. Even if they personally abhorred these behaviors, their silence condoned them. Imagine if instead, they’d confronted or exposed the behaviors….there might be far fewer individuals responding with #MeToo. Imagine if fathers, coaches, and friends gave voice to the importance of respect and consent. Most men do not commit acts of sexual aggression… yet we tolerate a social norm of toxic masculinity that reveres the conquest. What if instead, men and women fostered positive social norms that celebrated equality, choice, and communication as hallmarks of masculinity?
One of my favorite symbols of hope in the path toward social change comes from a recent rape case. Brock Turner, better known as the Stanford swimmer, was in the process of sexually assaulting an unconscious young woman behind a dumpster. Two men on bicycles saw the act, interrupted it and chased him down. The young women who survived his assault sleeps with a drawing of two bicycles over her bed… a reminder that any one of us can be a hero for someone.

Together we can end relationship and sexual abuse. The MeToo I’d like to see in the future is not the voices of more courageous survivors telling their stories… but a commitment from each of us to say “Me Too” in taking action to end sexual violence.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

To the god of doorways... and noticing the silence

The Roman god Janus was the god of doorways, transitions, and new beginnings. It's fitting that the our first month was named in his honor, because we spend those first days of the new year contemplating where we've been, where we'd like to be and sometimes making resolutions to help us achieve those goals.

Looking back at 2016, I'm struck by how much the issues of sexual harassment, domestic violence, and sexual assault have dominated coverage of news, sports, Hollywood, politics, even the tech world. These conversations aren't totally new; 2014 seems so long ago when Ray Rice's infamous act of domestic violence was captured on video, doesn't it? Yet, the cadence and depth of covering these stories seemed to increase significantly in 2017, culminating with the #MeToo campaign that went viral with thousands of women disclosing their own stories of sexual harassment or sexual victimization. 2017 was a year of reducing the silence and stigma of sexual victimization, and recognizing the strength of survivors who are willing to tell these very personal and traumatic stories to help us understand the magnitude of the problem, so we can create change.
In fact, Time's person of the year is a group of women whose courage in discussing their own experiences of victimization, opened the floodgates on twitter as other women told their stories. MeToo isn't new; Tarana Burke created the MeToo campaign back in 2007. What's different is the willingness to tell these accounts, to listen nonjudgmentally, and to accept that we all are a part of the problem when we don't notice, speak up, or intervene. So Time is heralding the courage of those voices create change... but look closely at the bottom right corner of the magazine cover.  Did you notice the elbow? Melissa Chan of Time explains,  

"It belongs to an anonymous young hospital worker from Texas — a sexual harassment victim who fears that disclosing her identity would negatively impact her family.
She is faceless on the cover and remains nameless inside TIME’s red borders, but her appearance is an act of solidarity, representing all those who are not yet able to come forward and reveal their identities."
And that's the doorway we are all standing in. We've brought the issue of gender based violence into our consciousness...  many survivors still are haunted by their victimization... but the fear that constrains them today is what would happen if they gave voice to their stories of victimization. Those who nod knowingly, but who don't tell their own stories outnumber the many who have said #MeToo. May 2018 bring us out of the doorway to a place where They Too can feel safe.
If you or someone you know
has experienced relationship or sexual abuse,
or if you or someone you know is struggling because of the media coverage of sexual violence, talking to an advocate can help.
Call Wellspring's hotline at 518.587.8188

Friday, October 27, 2017

26...3... 3.5 ...70,000... Infinite

I've got a lot of numbers in my head today.
26   It's been 26 days since the launch of the Purple Purse Challenge.
3  We're currently in third place in the nation. 
3.5 We've got 3.5 days left in the Challenge.
70,000  We're about to reach $70,000 in funds donated to Wellspring by our community since October 2nd.

 Infinite. How grateful I feel by the overwhelming support of our community.. and inspired  that by working together we truly can end relationship and sexual abuse. From local businesses (an extra  big thanks to the members of the Saratoga Springs DBA), to the community leaders who gave voice to why our work is so important, to faith organizations , and individual people who gave so generously from their hearts.

What I've really enjoyed throughout this month is hearing all the reasons people care: children, women, safety, financial stability, hope, empowerment. Yesterday the folks at the Saratoga Casino and Hotel were sitting around the table talking about Wellspring's Purple Purse Challenge and they pulled out their phone, made a video and sent it to me. Click here to see what they had to say.

I don't think there's been anyone more excited about the Challenge than Jesse Jackson at Look TV. He's had me as a guest on the show so many times this month that he's seen my entire purple wardrobe... and  has a new moniker for me. Click here to find out what Jesse has named me now and hear what we talked about today.

So Jesse is reminding folks to support the Challenge by making their gift online before 1:59 October 31st at wellspringcares.org/purse

Thanks Jesse... and thanks to all of you! Together e we can reach all our goals.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Because She Sees Wellspring at the End of the Poem

In the past few months I have been highlighting some incredible people in our community who were gracious enough to work with us in our Purple Purse Leaders campaign.  Now that October is almost over and the campaign is winding down, I wanted to highlight one group that holds a special place in my heart. 

Soroptimist International of Saratoga County is an organization by women, for women.  Their mission is to improve the lives of women and girls through programs leading to social and economic empowerment.  I’m proud to have been a member for 11 years  and am constantly amazed by all of the things my sisters do.  Let me introduce you to Marie Buckley Hoffman, the current President of our chapter.  For 35 years she has been working as a teacher for hearing impaired children.  Yesterday, she shared a poem with me because she believed it related to our work. Click here to hear why she cares and how the  poem below inspires her commitment to Wellspring's work.
Children Learn What They LiveBy Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D.

If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live. 


If children live in homes with domestic violence, they learn unhealthy habits that will follow them through life.  But Marie told me the other day she sees Wellspring at the end of the poem.  Wellspring shows children and victims of domestic violence compassion, acceptance and kindness.  Because of this, they learn so many important skills that will serve them throughout their life. 


All of my Soroptimist sisters have found their reasons for supporting Wellspring. I’ve been  showing the reasons so many of our community leaders care as well.  I've truly been moved hearing people talking from the heart about why they care.  But what about you?  Why do you care about Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and the work Wellspring does to end these issues?  Please let me know, either in the comments below or just if you see me in the community.
Do you want to help us make this world a nice place? Give today to the Purple Purse Challenge at
We've got just until 1:59 in the afternoon on October 31st to reach our goal in the Challenge, raising more funds for prevention so that all children live with honesty, security, friendliness, and kindness.


Sunday, October 22, 2017

Savvy Women on the Importance of Supporing Each Other

In her work as a life coach, Carly Hamilton Jones has seen the effects of domestic violence. Click here to hear why she thinks Wellspring's work is important for our community.

Brandon Dewyea , founder of the women's network, Savvy, shares her thoughts on the important of women supporting each other to achieve their  personal and professional goals.

Many victims of domestic violence suffer in silence without ever telling anyone what's happening in the relationship; often they maintain this silence because they're embarrassed to admit they're being abused by a partner. It's not unusual for us to hear, "I don't know anyone else this has happened to." Actually one in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. Ending domestic violence... and the stigma of it, starts with talking about the prevalence, the challenges, and owning that it's up to all of us to  create the change to end abuse.

Many folks have told me they had no idea about the scope of Wellspring's programs until they read the blog over the past month. So for a bit of fun, here's a little crossword challenge highlighting info about some of those lesser known programs.

Answer Key:

4. Safe
7. End
9. Dilemma
10. October
11. View

1. Allstate
2. Maggie
3. Keshi
5. Broadway
6. Zero
8. Hope

Friday, October 20, 2017

Safe Harbour-- reaching out to each Jane Doe

In helping domestic violence victims, we often interface with other related social issues. Dave DeCelle of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, talks about how domestic violence intersects with their work.

This year, Soroptimist International of Saratoga County is working to raise awareness of trafficking issues. Our theme for the year is Talk About It! Before a Club meeting a month ago, members asked me for statistics on trafficking in Saratoga County... do we even have any trafficking that happens here? Yeah we do. John Kelly oversees the Saratoga County Safe Harbour Program, a community response to sex trafficking. He provided the following statistics since July 2016 in Saratoga County:
  • They've worked with  13 confirmed Trafficking Victims . 
  • There have also been 62 individuals under the age of 21 who have scored a “High Risk” level on the screening tool for trafficking during the same time period.
I might also add, these are just the number of trafficking victims under the age of 21; Wellspring also assists trafficked persons  over 21 years of age... so the problem is even greater than those stats.
At our monthly Soroptimist meeting, members were shocked at the numbers... in Saratoga County?! Frankly 4 years ago, before CAPTAIN and the Center for the Family collaborated to launch the Safe Harbour Program,  these vulnerable youth probably wouldn't have been identified... or helped.  What's happened in the past few years? We've all gotten training so we're better able to recognize trafficking... and know what resources there are to help a victim. We've developed teamwork between agencies so that we can pull together our resources to help vulnerable victims. CAPTAIN, the Center for the Family, Wellspring  work together to increase awareness and provide crisis services and support. Wellspring hosted a training for first responders where CAPTAIN's street outreach team talked about the  needs of vulnerable teens on the street-- how they get sucked into a world of sexual victimization... just to survive.
Most folks wouldn't imagine trafficking happens right here in our community... and wouldn't recognize it if they saw it. So how can we help? Let's increase our knowledge. Awareness is the first step to solving the problem. Here's an opportunity. On Thursday October 26th at 4 pm, Bow Tie Cinema at 19 Railroad Place in Saratoga Springs will have a showing of the film, I Am Jane Doe. The film has been described as :
a gripping legal thriller” (Esquire); “a powerful call to action” (The Los Angeles Times); “viscerally emotional” (The Washington Post), I Am Jane Doe chronicles the epic battle that several American mothers are waging on behalf of their middle-school daughters, victims of sex trafficking on Backpage.com, the classified advertising website that for years was part of the iconic Village Voice.  Reminiscent of Erin Brockovich and Karen Silkwood, these mothers have stood up on behalf of thousands of other mothers, fighting back and refusing to take no for an answer.

Reservations are available on line. Click here for more information. Watching the documentary and starting a conversation... it's an easy way to start tackling a tragic problem that affects our youth.

And here's another easy way to make a difference for victims. Wellspring has just 10 days left  to raise funds in Allstate's Purple Purse Challenge. It takes just seconds to make your donation online and help place first in the nation earning the $100,000 bonus from Allstate. Go just a few seconds to get us one step closer to ending relationship and sexual abuse in our community... click here to donate.