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 cliché 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.