Thursday, December 15, 2011

Allowing Past History to Shed Light On The Present:New York State Launches a New Approach to Domestic Incident Reports

Yesterday was a transformational day for domestic violence advocates, domestic abuse survivors, and the criminal justice system in New York State. The state unveiled a new Domestic Incident Report (DIR) Repository that will give immediate access to law enforcement about past domestic incidents, providing amore cohesive criminal justice response to domestic incidents. This information in a DIR is invaluable as it helps responders to better understand the pattern of abuse as they respond to an incident. It also provides judges with information about past course of conduct, thereby painting a picture so the judge can better understand the pattern of abuse.
The DIR report is nothing new. Police officers regularly fill out very comprehensive forms whenever responding to a domestic incident. The problem is that those forms, until now, have not been accessible to law enforcement and court personnel in other counties. So as District Attorney Murphy explained yesterday, a victim may live in Saratoga County and work in Albany. There may be a history of domestic incidents in the home, but when that victim is stalked in the workplace responding officers are unaware of the repeated police interventions at the home and the pattern of abuse and threats.  

The domestic incident reports are submitted to the Division of Criminal Justice Services where they are methodically filed chronologically. DCJS received almost 800 of these reports a day! They have an entire storage area filled with pallets, each pallet containing a quarter of a million reports!
And that’s the problem. Each report contains valuable information about whether the abuser threatened the victim’s life, whether a weapon was used, and whether there is an order of protection in place… but that information is buried in a mountain of other similar reports. It’s the proverbial needle in the haystack… at least until yesterday.
Now within seconds that information can be called up as the officer is heading to respond to the incident. Judges can access the past history when reviewing a case … and victims can be assured that when they are in fear or in danger and need to call the police, that their safety is the highest concern. Yesterday was a day to give thanks for the hard work being done to ensure safety and respond to domestic abuse.
My thanks to the many people who had this vision and who have been working for over a decade to make this happen!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Let Me Tell You About Teens These Days

We always hear grumbles about "teenagers... or...this generation"… well I’d like to give a big shout out for all the community-oriented good works that kids do, locally and globally.  This Saturday is a full day festival of youth-organized opportunities to celebrate the holiday season by giving to others. Come celebrate the Spirit of Giving by participating in the “Youth for Change: Community Giving Fair”. It is a fun and unique “Alternative Market” that encourages people, young and old to make a difference in their community through donations, wish list gifts and volunteerism.

I went last year. The fair touched my heart, opened my eyes to the problems globally, and gave me ideas for easy ways to give back.. plus I was entertained and fed yummy soup!  What a day- click here for my thoughts after last year’s fair.Youth2 Community Giving Fair 2010

So please support Youth2- Youth Helping Youth by attending this Year’s Community Giving Fair:.

Date: Saturday, November 20th, 2010
Time: 10am-3pm
Place: United Methodist Church- Fellowship Hall
175 Fifth Avenue, Saratoga Springs.
What to expect?
 Many free experiences-listen to live music, view performances of “The Giving Tree”, make “Smart Kits” and “ Good Health Kits” for children in need, play the Community Service Rewards Board Game, draw for the “Quilt of Visions”, pick the pocket of “Pockets”, Roll for Change. Free “Youth2cookies.” Buy delicious Thanksgiving Bake Sale items and enjoy a bowl of “Stone Soup”.
The Women in Business Committee of the Chamber of Southern Saratoga County has done it once again-- brought hope, compassion, and comfort to women and children fleeing abuse. On November 9th the committee assembled 167 baskets filled with personal care items to be given to clients at Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Services (DVRC). Over the years the group has donated 3,160 baskets to help abuse victims as they become survivors.
They’ve delivered a lot of hope, but their biggest hope is that someday…not tomorrow, but soon… there won’t be a need for more baskets. They’re helping DVRC to work toward this goal by bringing attention to the issue of domestic abuse and letting people know that places like DVRC exist to provide no-cost support.
Click the link to see these amazing women in action.Women in Business Committee distributes Baskets of Hope
At DVRC, we
dream of a tomorrow without relationship violence, and
achieve it by creating opportunities to …
transform lives.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What's NOT on the Thanksgiving Menu... drunk driving

I LOVE Thanksgiving.
Not only do I crave an excuse to spend hours in the kitchen, but I love the traditions. My husband and I have already had our annual kvetching about the menu. He’s a traditionalist: turkey, plain mashed potatoes with gravy, green bean casserole, pumpkin pie with homemade whipped cream and Ocean Spray jellied cranberry sauce from a can… “What else could you possibly need? “ I’m a vegetarian so the whole turkey thing doesn’t excite me… and if I’m going to spend a day cooking I like to try something different … or as my husband says, “You’re serving company things no one has ever eaten… ever.”  So along with the traditional fare we’ve had chestnut soup served in  mini pumpkins, salmon soufflĂ© in turkey molds, sweet potato biscuits , roasted vegetables (my brother in law quipped that the roasted turnips looked like shrunken heads so whenever anyone ate one the table erupted into  gales of cannibalistic laughter) and  sushi rolls. After 25 years of marriage we’ve worked out our differences about the menu… I just cook EVERYTHING and we have more food than imaginable. But out of respect for holiday traditions I vow to never even consider a tofurkey.

This year will be especially memorable as both sons will be home from college. It’ll be the first time in months we’ve all sat together at a table for a meal. I also know that my youngest just can’t wait to get home-- because as soon as the pie is served he’ll borrow the car keys and head out to spend as much of the holiday weekend as possible with all his friends, whom he hasn’t seen in months.

Did you know Thanksgiving is the #1 holiday for drunk driving? Not New Year's... Thanksgiving! We all know that teen drivers are at higher risk for drunk driving accidents and fatalities, but once the kids have gone off to school parents hesitate to lay down the ‘house rules’  as their teen heads out the door, since at school no one is there to nag them.

So as I hand over the car keys I will, as always, have the ‘no drugs/no drinking’ talk and hug my son and tell him I love him;  he’ll roll his eyes  and I’m sure the first words to his friends will be , “I can't believe my mother…” Hopefully they’ll all laugh and relate similar experiences.
So let’s be thankful we’re all together… and also safe and accident free.

So I'm committed to upholding traditions; I'll greet guests with a sushi roll appetizer (or something equally non-traditional), take the family picture early in the day and fill up the gas tank to make it easier for those home from college to escape, and won't hesitate to 'have the no drugs/no drinking talk' and give a hug.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Today the Stillwater Police Department distributed over 100 cell phones that they collected to local agencies that  assist victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.  Why is this important? Because:
1)      That old cell phone that sits unused in the drawer after we’ve upgraded to the new model is a lifeline for someone who lives in fear of an abuser. The ability to call 911 for assistance can literally make the difference between life and death. Each agency that received the cell phones knew of specific instances where a survivor is alive today because they were given a 911 phone.  
2)      Intimate partner abuse often happens at home where the only witnesses are the victim and the abuser. Thus our community often underestimates the prevalence of domestic abuse. In our day-to-day activities we tend to focus on what we see… by collecting and donating cell phones we are reminded that although we may not have seen it today domestic violence occurs at staggering rates. One in four women and one in four men are victims of domestic abuse in their lifetime.
3)      Unlike the general community, law enforcement officers do see the prevalence of domestic abuse. In fact, domestic incidents are some of the most common calls they respond to. At DVRC we recognize the efforts of our local law enforcement agencies in working to end abuse. When they  take that extra step to increase community awareness, they send a message that they respond to domestic abuse seriously. We thank them for the many ways they make this extra effort to promote awareness, e.g.,  the NYS Police and Saratoga Springs Police whose patrol cars have domestic violence awareness ribbons during October and the Stillwater Police department who have distributed over 3,500 cell phones to help victims become survivors.

Walking a Mile to Promote Safe People... and Safe Pooches

Last Saturday over 200 people and almost 100 dogs joined us in Congress Park for the Purple Pooch Parade. Why? To raise awareness about domestic abuse. We are a community that cares that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men are abused in their relationships. We care that abusers also often use our beloved pets as tools to exert power and control, e.g. "If you try to leave me, you won't like what happens to Scooter." People shouldn't live in fear at home and neither should pets. And we had 400 paws join us to advocate for safe homes for all family members.

Pooch Parade Videos

At DVRC we have a Safe Pet Partnership that provides medical treatment and either professional boarding or temporary foster homes for the furry (or finned or feathered) family members. Between 2005-2010 the Safe Pet Partnership provided:
  • crisis assistance to 101 pets 
  • veterinary care to 48 pets that had been injured or neglected due to domestic abuse
  • 467 nights of professional boarding valued at $15,000
  • 2,284 nights of snuggles and belly rubs with a loving family while waiting to be reunited with your own family once they get to a safe, non-violent home.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

To Some it's a Cell Phone... To Others a Lifeline

Did you know that each year the Stillwater Police Department collects and distributed cell phones for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault to use as 911 phones. In fact, they’ve distributed more than 3,500 phones since 2003! They also host a press conference each October to raise awareness about domestic violence. When I asked Sergeant Ray Cordani what makes the department go to all this effort he said one of the most honest, eloquent and heartfelt responses I’ve ever heard,
“ Hardly a shift goes by that we don’t get called to a domestic dispute. This is a really big problem and it’s not going away.  People that are supposed to respect each other and love each other are hurting each other… and they’re doing this in front of the kids.  It’s heartbreaking. We all need to work together to stop this”
Why is a cell phone so important to a survivor of intimate partner abuse?
An abuse survivor never knows what the abuser is thinking? Even after leaving the relationship, the victim lives in fear each moment of the day of being attacked. Fear that when walking to the grocery store, when picking the kids up from school, when sleeping at night-- that the violence that was left behind will return… without warning. Having a cell phone gives a survivor a sense of safety that help can be summoned in an emergency. It’s the peace of mind needed to begin rebuilding a life.
So how can you help?
1)      Donate your used cell phone, charger and accessories to the drive. The Stillwater Police Department and local businesses are collecting phones for distribution.
2)      Show your support by attending the Domestic Violence Awareness Month Event on Wednesday October 26, 2011 at 10:00am at the Stillwater Area Community Center located on Palmer Street in the Village of Stillwater N.Y.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Pooches for Peace

Recently I was talking with someone about how domestic abuse affects every member of the family and they stopped for a moment and said, “The pets… you never think about the pets, but nothing happens in our home that they’re not part of.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. 
My pup Andy, a golden retriever, is right beside me when I cook dinner (scarfing up any morsels I drop.) He’s on the couch with his head in my lap as I’m reading. Andy’s right beside my husband’s chair when he watches a Netflix movie (freshly popped popcorn being a favorite treat of both). He lays on his doggie bed beside the piano bench as my youngest practices scales. He’s at the door wagging his tail when I put on my shoes to go for a walk. And my favorite… snuggled beside me in bed on Saturday morning, trying to tempt me to wait until the sun rises before getting up.
And in homes where family members routinely feel as if they’re walking on eggshells in fear of someone becoming angry… their pets are there too… huddled under the table… watching...listening. In homes where people regularly lash out, verbally and physically, the pets are there too. In homes where children or adults regularly cry alone, consoling themselves after an abusive outburst, their pets are beside them too. And they’re not always just on the sidelines-- far too often the abuse also directly affects the pet. In a national study of residents in domestic violence shelters over 70% indicated the abuser had injured or threatened the family pet.  Many victims don’t leave an abusive home because they fear retaliation against their pet.
In Saratoga County, there’s a solution. DVRC’s Safe Pet partnership offers temporary foster homes to pets while the family relocates to a non-violence home… and then they’re all reunited. DVRC’s goal is that no one lives in fear at home… and that includes the furry, feathered and finned family members.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. So join us  at the Purple Pooch Parade to increase awareness of domestic abuse… so we can END it! And bring your dog along too…

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Did you see me today? I was right there.

“I’m not allowed to see my doctor… or my family.
My friends have all gone.”
       ...I stood behind you at the market yesterday.
“I have to check in constantly. I can’t focus on my job. I  bet you’re questioning my work ethic.”

 I'm ashamed to let anyone know how she controls me.
A man is supposed to be independent, be his own boss….” 

“I was thrown against the wall yesterday.
He said ‘you’re next’ to my Mom”.  
                                    ... I’m the adorable puppy next door.“

“I miss hanging out with my friends—but he gets SO jealous.
Is this really love?” 
                                            ….your teenager’s best friend.
What are some of the biggest misconceptions we regularly hear about domestic violence:
1)      Abuse has to be physical. (In fact some of the most prolonged, controlling, terrifying and humiliating abuse we see does not involve physical abuse.)

2)      Domestic abuse happens to ‘other’ people, not people like me. (‘Other ‘can mean older, younger, from another town, a different social, racial or economic group… but unfortunately at DVRC we know that as clichĂ© as it sounds, abuse happens to people of every race, ethnicity, income or education level, gender, sexual orientation, age and geographic community.

So during October, which is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we’re hoping to dispel these myths. Have you seen our silhouettes around the county? Each silhouette represents someone victimized by domestic abuse that you might encounter in the grocery store, at work, in your neighborhood, or sitting down with your family at Thanksgiving.
I’ve long felt that one of the greatest tragedies of domestic violence is that it is a crime that directly affects so many people, yet because it happens behind closed doors no one knows the prevalence. National studies indicate one in four women is victimized by domestic violence in her lifetime (and some studies indicate that they prevalence among males may be as high as one in six.) So no, it’s not just people somewhere else, nor is abuse only physical. Help us to bring abuse out of the shadows… because we need to recognize it so we can END it!


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Well Toto… Let’s Be Glad We’re Not in Kansas Anymore

Everywhere we look Americans are tightening their belts. From Albany and Washington, to the family grocery cart… to nonprofit agencies  like DVRC that face repeated cuts in funding  just when their clients needs for services increase.  It’s a reality; we need to cut spending… but when do spending cuts become so deep that they are dangerous? Some might say that just happened in Topeka Kansas.
A.G. Sulzberger reported in yesterday’s NY Times, "Facing Cuts A City Repeals Its Domestic Violence Laws", that the Topeka City Council repealed a local law that makes domestic violence a crime. Why? Because city and county leaders, driven by budget shortages, are disputing who is responsible for prosecuting misdemeanors in Topeka.  And like many communities, domestic violence accounts for almost half of all misdemeanor charges, so that’s a lot of court involvement.  Consequently, Topeka is focusing on felony crimes and choosing to defer responding to misdemeanors.
What’s the risk in not responding to a misdemeanor level domestic assault?  The risk is that domestic abuse is a pattern of power and control, and without consequences the severity and frequency can increase. Making an arrest after a domestic assault is homicide prevention… by decriminalizing domestic violence the community is tacitly condoning abuse and assault. By choosing to sacrifice safety for economy, Topeka may just find an increase in felony-level crimes... like brutal assaults and homicide. While there’s no question we need to make cuts… I don’t think this is the right one. I’m glad I’m not in Kansas.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Red Zone

Moving away to campus presents an exciting, but almost instantaneous, transition from the protected and familiar world of a teenager to that of a young adult. Mom simply isn’t there to provide an insistent nudge after the sixth cycle of the snooze button on the alarm clock. Nor does anyone provide reminders that the paper that counts for 50% of your grade is due in three weeks. But probably one of the biggest changes is being plopped into an unfamiliar world without an established social support system. High school students often have known many of their classmates since elementary school. While friends and interests may change, they’re still surrounded every day by familiar people.

On of the biggest adjustments in college is the necessity to fit in-- to very quickly make friendships and develop a new social network. For some this fresh start is a welcome opportunity and for others an anxiety laden necessity.  And sometimes the process presents personal risk and unwelcome life lessons. Making new friends often involves going to unfamiliar places, trusting people without knowing them for long and attending parties (where alcohol or drugs may be readily available).

And that’s why the first six weeks on campus present the highest risk of sexual assault for an incoming freshman. There’s even a term to describe for it… the Red Zone. The combination of loneliness, newfound freedoms, unfamiliarity, and vulnerability can lead to victimization. At least 1 in 4 college women will be the victim of a sexual assault during her academic career. While many people envision a rapist masked stranger jumping out of the bushes, 80% of all sexual assaults are committed by an acquaintance of the victim[1].

Alcohol is a powerful correlate with campus sexual assault. In addition to minimizing inhibitions, alcohol can dampen judgment, slow reactions and reduce identification of risks.  A national study of college students found that 74% of perpetrators and 55% of rape victims had been drinking alcohol prior to the assault. In fact, memory loss or uncertainly about the events can cloud a victim’s recall about a forced sexual contact. 48.8% of college women who were victims of attacks that met the definition of rape did not consider what happened to them rape1. Many people simply don’t realize that it’s illegal to have sex with someone who is too intoxicated to consent.
This week’s upcoming blogs regarding the Red Zone:
Minimizing risk of sexual assault
What to do if you are raped
How to support a friend who has been sexually assaulted

[1] Bureau of Justice Stats. “Sexual Victimization of Collegiate Women” 2000, US DOJ.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

"Look for the Helpers"

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping."

There are those moments in life that occur in the blink of an eye, but are replayed over and over in slow motion and become images frozen in our memories.  Sometimes these memories are personal; while others enter the collective memory of our country. Depending on your age you surely remember:
·         How you learned of the bombing of Pearl Harbor
·         How you felt when hearing about JFK’s assassination
·         What thoughts went through your mind when you saw the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger on TV
·         Your reaction as you saw the news footage of the Twin Towers collapse on 9-11.

And a decade later as we remember September 11, 2001 and as we continue to grieve 3,000 lives cut tragically short, our country still lacks closure; ten years isn’t enough time to find the answers and to find peace.

Yet we also remember the images of those who risked their lives to respond to the call: the firefighters,  the counselors, the rescue dogs, the people who housed families, the volunteers who set aside their lives to respond,  the businesses and community groups that collected supplies, and the individuals in our country and worldwide that sent financial assistance. In the aftermath of 9-11 we showed every raw emotion imaginable … but we also marveled at the generosity and unity in responding to the call for help. When tragedies happen, we are so often at a loss to answer, “Why...why did this happen?” But we can always look and see people responding with courage, compassion and generosity to help others in need.

Some of the images in our memories involve those heroes, the brave firefighters charging into the flaming inferno. The rescue workers searching for people trapped in the wreckage, and later for the remains that would provide closure for those grieving. We will always remember those pictures, but thousands of other heroes helped just out of view of the camera, and continued to help in the weeks, months and years that followed. We have no answers for why tragedies occur, but we can have gratitude that whenever there is need, “You will always find people who are helping.”

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Easiest Thing You'll Ever Be Asked To Do!

Do you wish you had more time to volunteer? More money to give to charities? That helping others could be just a bit easier?

While we're living far better than most places, Mom was right when she said, "Money doesn't grow on trees"; there isn't always enough left in the wallet to help as much as we'd like. And let's face it life is busy; sometimes helping those less fortunate doesn't make it onto today's To Do List.

Wouldn't it be great if as you went about your day, without even needing to think, you could help the issues you care about? Like every time you used the Internet to search for information... or anytime you shopped on-line. Guess what.... just use goodsearch.com and goodshop.com and that's exactly what happens.

Here’s how it works:
Goodshop.com works with more than 2,500 stores (including Target, Apple, Petsmart etc.) Every time you purchase something, a percentage will be donated to your favorite charity! And, they offer coupons and free shipping offers so you can save money at the same time. It’s win win.

GoodSearch is a Yahoo powered search engine which makes a donation to your favorite charity each time you do a search. Each search may only generate a penny or two.... but how many Internet searches do you do in a year?

It all adds up… so far Goodsearch's community impact is more than $7 million...and it only takes seconds to get started.

My charity of choice is Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Services of Saratoga County. If you want to help DVRC, raise money for our mission, just click the “Become a Supporter” button on our profile page here!

If you wish to support a different nonprofit go to goodsearch.com, name the charity of your choice and start making an impact for your favorite cause!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

From Diapers to Dorms

Almost  everywhere I go I hear, “the graduation parties finally ended and tomorrow we’re packing up the car and heading to college.” These words are inevitably accompanied by worried or bemused looks. So this blog is for the parents who are sending their children off to college. You’re worried… you’re not alone. To prove it, I conducted an absolutely unscientific poll of the top 10 worries of parents of teens.
#10 Will my child pull away from our family?
#9 Did I do a good job as a parent? Have I been a role model and instilled values?
#8  How will he/she be affected by media influences, social networking, or sharing too much information online?
#7 Will my child be safe and make healthy choices… or do something risky that has long-term consequences?
#6 Will he/she drive responsibly and be safe on the road?
#5 Will my child stay motivated and be successful? [...when I’m not there nagging-- or as we call it in my house ‘encouraging’.]
#4 Will he/she be successful in life? Happy?
#3 Drugs and alcohol… will he/she make healthy choices?
#2 Sex… will he/she make healthy choices?
#1 Negative peer influences … will he/she make healthy choices about friends? (it’s interesting that those ‘other kids’ are the real concern.)

So if you’re worrying about any of these things, rest assured,  so is every other parent!

If you’re about to pack up the car with the entire contents of his/her bedroom and send them off to school, here are my top 5 things to remember:
#1 He/she is headed off to begin the path to adulthoodCongratulations! You’ve done your job!
#2 Yes your child will still need you. I realized this the day my older son called me at work and said, “I’m going to an interview. Is there anything I need to know about ironing my suit so I don’t ruin it?” and then he followed up with another call 4 minutes later asking, “Which tie should I wear… and can I call back if I have more questions?”
#3 You will stay connected. Oatmeal raisin cookies are always appreciated… and he/she will need money or a new cell phone very soon.
#4 Your home will change. You can now take the basketball posters off the bedroom walls. You won’t trip on size 15 shoes when you walk in the door. And your electric bills will decrease dramatically with 20 fewer wash loads a week (OK maybe not quite 20)... but you'll also miss family movie night, those talks about everything and anything in the car on the way to and from soccer practice, Scouts, and violin lessons.
#5 If you need something to worry about, here’s a thought…when you finally adjust to their departure, just when that gaping void transforms into harmonious calm… he/she will move back home bringing exuberance, a new sense of maturity and a pile of dirty laundry the size of a Volvo.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Real Magic of the Closet

The Chamber of Southern Saratoga County has a little known secret:

Right in the middle of their office, there's a magic closet.

It began as an ordinary storage closet, but six years ago the Women in Business (WIB) Committee determined to help women and children and that’s when the magic started. The committee collected items to help women who are fleeing abuse.  Initially they collected personal care items for the Baskets of Hope program to give to women living in DVRC’s domestic violence shelter. As the committee heard about how hard it can be to start a new violence-free life, they decided to do even more. Each January they assemble New Beginnings Baskets filled with basic household items (can openers, dishtowels, alarm clocks, first aid kits, etc.) to help domestic violence survivors who are starting over. And each August they collect school supplies and assemble over 100 fully stocked back-to-school backpacks for the Backpacks of Hope. In six years the WIB committee has given over 2,500 baskets and backpacks to help survivors of family violence.

And back to that magic closet… throughout the year  Chamber members and individuals from the community generously donate all the supplies for these projects, The supplies are stored in that closet awaiting the meeting when the WIB committee assembles them in decorative baskets. Inevitably the month before the assembly someone peeks into the closet and like Mother Hubbard expresses concern to the WIB members that  the closet is nearly empty. But when assembly day comes, unfailingly the closet is bursting at the seams with supplies to help these families begin their new life.

WIB members are always astounded that supplies appear by the magic… but the real magic is the passion and dedication that every member of the Women in Business Committee has in helping other women to be free from abuse and to raise their children in a home without violence.

Liz Roggenbuck, of the Chamber talks about the recent Backpacks of Hope collection.   

Friday, August 5, 2011

So that No Child's Face Will End up on a Milk Carton

OK, the topic this week seems to be worried parents. As one parent I was speaking with recently said, “When they’re in school you know where they are and what they’re doing all day… during the summer there are just more opportunities for bad things to happen.”

Perhaps a parent’s worst fear is that their child will be lured away or kidnapped. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) opened a satellite office in Saratoga Springs to provide education to increase awareness about what we can do to prevent this happening in our community. Officer John Kelly who is familiar to many Saratogians from his work with the Saratoga Springs Police Department and as a DARE officer, is staffing the Center. He took a few minutes from his busy schedule to talk about the work of NCMEC and simple steps parents can do to keep their children safe.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Alcopops… Not Just Sweet and Fruity

       First, what are alcopops? It’s a coined word for bottled beer or other alcoholic beverages with fruity flavorings to make them more palatable (alcohol + pop).  
       Who drinks them? Teens are 3 times as likely to know about alcopop products and 2 times as likely to have tried them as adults are1.
       Why teens? Advertisers target young people with ads for these fruity, refreshing drinks. 81% of teens believe marketing these products to young people leads to underage drinking1.
      What’s the Attraction? They’re fruity, sweet, often brightly colored, premixed and look like a soft drink bottle. The sweet taste masks the alcohol flavor so they’re preferred by youth who may not yet have ‘acquired the taste for beer or spirits’.
      Are alcopops a problem? Yes! They are a gateway drug… creating a bridge for new drinkers to experiment. 90% of teens agree that alcopops make them more likely to try other alcoholic beverages1. 84% of teens say alcopops are always offered at parties*. Adults may not even realize these beverages contain alcohol; they look like soda or lemonade. Their fruity taste disguises the alcohol, but many contain 5-7% alcohol by volume… more than beer2.
What’s the risk? These beverages are particularly appealing to teenaged girls. For the first time in history, drinking by teen girls surpasses that of boys (59% compared to 52%3).Teen drinking can lead to: binge drinking, drunk driving accidents, earlier or increased sexual activity, increased risk of sexually transmitted infections, drug use, and sexual assault.

1 Center for Science in Public Interest
2 American Medical Association
3 Partnership for a Drug Free America

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Graduation… from school spirit to 40 proof spirits?

Graduation for teens means 10 weeks of graduation parties, sun, fun and freedom before college starts … life is good! As a parent, graduation means an end to nagging about homework and getting up on time for the bus… halleluiah! But parents, the job’s not done yet. A 2010 study by the University of Rhode Island warns parents whose teens head to college in the fall that that teens tend to increase their alcohol consumption in the summer months before school starts. 
Reason for concern? … Yes, here's why:
· teens often overestimate how much their peers are    drinking
· the legal drinking age may be 21 but most Americans start drinking at 15
· more than 1,800 college students die each year in car accidents
· more than 750,000 are involved in alcohol related physical or sexual assaults, and
· alcohol affects developing adolescent brains differently (some effects are long-term. Click  http://www.preventioncouncil.org/adolescentbrain for more info about adolescent brain development).
What can you do?
· Talk with your teen about alcohol and its associated risks

· Monitor your teen’s activities--where they are and with whom. (Yes, it’s still OK to do.
· Set a good example. researc shows that your attitudes about drinking have a stong impact on your child's behaviors.

Tomorrow: Alcopops... not just sweet and fruity

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Parent tips - keeping concerts about the music

Today’s blog is a follow up to yesterday blog about rock concerts and how to SPAC works with the local communities to minimize “out of control situations” that have caused problems in other areas at concerts.
So your kids have tickets to a rock concert. You know they're fans of the band and will love the music, but you want to make sure they're safe. Here are some simple strategies for ensuring the concert is about the music... not an out of control party:
·         Know what concert they are attending.
·         Make sure they do indeed have a ticket (hanging around in the park instead of at the concert can increase the probability of drinking, drugs and other risky behaviors).
·         Know what time the concert starts. If you are dropping them off don’t drop them off more than an hour before the concert starts.
·         Know who they are going with.
·         If you have any concerns consider attending the concert with them.
·         Make sure they have a cell phone so they can contact you (but be aware that the reception can be spotty at SPAC).
·         Talk with them about drug and alcohol use before the concert.
·         Know how they are getting home… many times a planned ride falls through and teens are left at the end of the concert without a ride or walking in the dark.

Now relax and recall how much you enjoyed going to concerts with your friends
when you were their age.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

SPAC concerts -- It's About the Music

There’s been a bit of a lapse since my last blog, but when I emerged from the cocoon I encountered a delightful sight-- summer in Saratoga.  Parking problems aside, I love all our community has to offer: the ballet, orchestra, track, boutiques, parks,  restaurants, and local musicians. In the past two weeks, eldest son and I have enjoyed spectacular performances by Opera Saratoga and Saratoga Shakespeare. There’s no question why Saratoga is a popular jaunt for locals on day trips as well as a vacation destination for people from across the country.

SPAC is certainly one of the jewels of our community, with concerts for every musical taste-- from chamber music to rap, and jazz to rock. My musical tastes have changedover the years, but SPAC has been a constant throughout. Many of us locals have fond memories of attending our first concerts at SPAC. Today I’m more apt to buy tickets to the ballet or orchestra, but  I see my kids saving   their money to buy tickets to rock concerts. The Live Nation concerts are a unique and valuable part of our summer scene here in Saratoga... BUT any rock concert that has 20,000+ attendees, many young, poses an opportunity for risky behaviors. We’ve all read the headlines about underage drinking, drunk drivers on the road after concerts, and assaults at concerts. Enjoyable evenings can progress from music to mayhem.

But that’s where Saratoga is different. For the past 3 years, SPAC, NYS Parks and Recreation, the district attorney’s office, law enforcement and community agencies like the Prevention Council and Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Services have strategized ways to prevent problem activities so everyone can enjoy the concerts. Last year’s efforts to aggressively enforce the no alcohol policy on SPAC grounds reduced overconsumption and underage drinking. That means fewer assaults, fewer medical emergencies and  fewer drunk drivers on the road. It’s not always a popular decision, but it’s about preserving a venue where fans can enjoy the music.  Bad behavior at rock concerts is not a new phenomenon, but in some communities tragedies have resulted in the bands being barred. Wall Street Journal- The Taming of the Fans

Tomorrow: Tips for parents about concert safety

Sunday, May 8, 2011

End of the Road... or First Step to a Dream?

The inspirational story of Theresa Taylor‘s four years that have changed her life, as reported in Saratoga Today May 6, 2011
March 17, 2007, 46 years old,homeless … living on the street for the past 6 months-- “I spent the St. Patrick’s Day blizzard, huddled in Congress Park, thinking I’d reached the end of my life.”

fast forward to
Friday May 6, 2011- preparing for her May 21st graduation from Schenectady County Community College and recipient of many honors including: one of 60 winners from across the country selected to receive $30,000 Jack Kent Cook Foundation undergraduate transfer scholarship, SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence, College Service Award, 2011 Phi Theta Kappa All New York Academic team, and listing in Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges. Saratoga Today quotes Theresa as saying, “A part of me always knew I had the ability to achieve this. I just never had the courage to go after it.”
How does someone get from being homeless, cold and “at the end of the road”… to success, achievement, and stability? … to echoing Theresa’s  pride as she says, “I’ve got a lot of medallions to wear around my neck when I walk across stage on May 21st.” Theresa credits Shelters of Saratoga for providing a safe supportive place to live. And she credits Project Hope and Power, a collaborative project between Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Services (DVRC) and Soroptimist International of Saratoga County for helping her to set goals and take action to achieve them.
Part of Project Hope and Power involved keeping a dream journal. Theresa visualized herself working on her dream and succeeding, and with much tenacity and hard work she’s making those dreams happen.  “Four years ago I could never have dreamt of this,” Theresa’s words echo the way many participants in Hope and Power feel at the start of the program. Their hopes seem too distant, so different from where they are now, that they can’t even take the first step. And that’s what Hope and Power is about… learning to set goals and small steps to take charge of your life. The program has helped more than 200 women take that first step to transforming their life. As Barbara Lombardo, managing editor of the Saratogian and a dedicated Soroptimist who regularly volunteers for Hope and Power said when asked about Project Hope and Power, “The program could not be more aptly named.”   
Congratulations to Theresa for her accomplishments and may her story be an inspiration to others, who for just this moment, share that feeling of despondency and desperation that they’ve reached the end… may they know that there’s help out there and with support and tenacity they too can have a new life.
For more information about DVRC or Project Hope and Power call 518-583-0280.
For information about Shelters of Saratoga call  518-581-1097
To read the full article about Theresa Taylor in Saratoga Today visit http://saratogatodaynewspaper.com/saratoga-today-newspaper.php page 33
For more information on Theresa's inspiring accomplishmants visit http://saratogian.com/articles/2011/05/08/news/doc4dc75ada4c7cd553006625.txt

Related posts:  
About Soroptimist:
 About Homelessness: