Saturday, December 1, 2012

December 1- World AIDS Day

AIDS first entered our world back in the 1980's.

 I was working locally in human services at the time (it was actually called GRID back then.) As devastating as a HIV diagnosis can be today, it was worse then. The stigma was oppressive (even family members were fearful of those afflicted), treatment was at best only palliative as death was almost inevitable, and information and support services were lacking. We still don't have a cure, but  both medical professionals and the general public have much more knowledge about the illness.

We're doing a much better job educating people about risk prevention strategies. Our community has a wealth of support services (with many dollars for local services raised by our community through AIDSWalk), but still more work needs to be focused on prevention. I was shocked today when I read some statistics on AIDS; in the US, 1 in every 200 people over age 13 is HIV positive... and 20% of those are not aware of it because they haven't been tested. Minorities and those disenfranchised from health care are particularly hard hit.

We're talking less about HIV today; medications are increasing the life expectancy and quality of life for people living with AIDS... but our work isn't  done. The impact of AIDS is even greater in less developed countries. Africa, with less than 15% of the world's population accouints for 70% of AIDS-related deaths.

To learn more or find out what you can to do help visit World AIDS Day.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

An Idea Worth Talking About

I love holidays but think sometimes the holiday frenzy takes over. Between media messages and our own consumer peer pressures, it's easy to forget the reason for the season. This year the turkey and stuffing were barely back in the fridge when the malls opened up on Thursday night… shortly followed by Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Linus tried to remind Charlie Brown and the rest of us about the true spirit of Christmas... but I think we missed the message. While the image of his blanket around the tree is iconic... somehow even it became commercialized.  In fact, you can buy a replica of the Charlie Brown Christmas tree at a variety of retail stores (prices range from $15.74-$49.95- Good Grief!) But today I heard about a new movement that's interesting.

#Giving Tuesday encourages people to give to charitable organizations, but giving isn't just about writing a check... it's about telling people why you're passionate about a cause. # Giving Tuesday encourages people to give to select charities using social media. That's where this movement loses me... not because it's a bad idea... only because I'm a social media dinosaur. But I like the idea of giving, telling others about what's important to you... and learning about the good works others are doing. I’m inspired when friends tell me what they care about.

So today … or  someday soon… think about what you're passionate about, think of how you can help… and share that story with someone you know (or with all of  your Facebook Friends list if you’re more social media savvy than me.)  

Today I’m donating to three organizations;

Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Services of SaratogaCounty because I truly believe that we can END abuse if we all work together.

The Boy Scouts because this great program provided my sons with experiences that built confidence, leadership, and a commitment to community service… along with inspirational male role models who generously (and with infinite patience) gave their time and talents to nurture these young men, and

Care Links in memory of my mom who gave to help seniors every holiday season. Her favorite charity has since disbanded, but there are lots of seniors in need. CARE Links helps seniors live independently, in the homes where they've made a lifetime of memories. 

So what are you passionate about? I'd love to hear.
Wishing you joy and peace!

Friday, October 12, 2012

BULLY at the Saratoga Film Forum

I’m really committed to community level change. So many of our prevention efforts focus on helping individuals to make changes, but I think working to get communities to make changes is far more effective. So last night I was thrilled to be sitting in a room with 40 people of all ages who attended the Saratoga Film Forum’s showing of the film BULLY. All these people were there because they want to find solutions to this critical problem that affects our schools.

There are two more chances to see the film this weekend. Make time… go see it! It’s a powerful insider’s view of how bullying affects our youth. As an adult, the big wake-up call for me was hearing from youth (those in the movie as well as local youth who attended the discussion panel after the movie) that kids don’t trust that if they tell adults about bullying that we’ll do anything to help (and sometimes they feel that way because of experience). If I took nothing away from the movie, it’s that a kid being bullied is so vulnerable and we  adults need to  listen better and act. This isn’t a pretty topic, so at times the movie is graphic.... and heart wrenching.  I saw some parents attended with their kids; what a great way to really open those lines of communication about what happens when our kids aren't with us; let's face it, that's most of their waking hours. I also spoke with couples who attended together. They said the movie really got them having an in-depth conversation about this subject. Great! And I also heard that some local schools are encouraging their teachers to watch the movie, because they want to do more to eliminate harassment and discrimination in our schools.
After each showing, there’s a panel discussion. Last night a courageous 8th grader told the intensely personal story about how it felt to be bullied and cyber-bullied throughout 7th grade.  Another  eight grader has been working toward social change by assisting in creating anti-bullying messages in his school. I wish I could attend again tonight as the panel will be presenting anti-bullying strategies.
It’s a busy weekend for everyone, but carve out a couple of hours this weekend to attend BULLY. It will make a difference for a child right here in our community.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Saratoga Springs City Center Goes Purple... Why?

Saratoag Springs City Center goes purple for Domestic Vioelnce Awareness Month

One quick look in my closet and it’s clear I’m partial to the color purple. Why? Purple has long symbolized the effort to end abuse in relationships, standing for courage, honor and survival. October is a time to raise awareness of domestic violence – to get everyone talking about “purple” as a way to open a conversation about domestic violence, and to let victims know they’re not alone.
Each year, DVRC organizes a Color ME Purple awareness campaign. When I alone wear purple . I look like a woman who likes the color purple. But when many people wear purple: purple dresses, purple ties, purple scarves, purple awareness ribbons… it makes a statement. It conveys that this is a community that cares about safe relationships.  Throughout October I encounter people who say, "I’m wearing purple today"; and more importantly  they’re talking about why they’re wearing purple. It's heartwarming to how much our community cares about ending realtionship abuse.
But I was blown away when two nights ago I saw a really big purple statement. I was leaving work at 7:30 and the City Center was magnificently illuminated in purple. WOW! Now that’s Color ME Purple!
And later this month on October 30, the City Center is the location of DVRC’s 30th anniversary recognition event, where we’ll be honoring 2 individuals and 2 organizations that have had a transformational impact on DVRC throughout the agency’s 30 year history. Look for more posts in the next 2 weeks about these amazing supporters.

And please  join us for our 30th anniversary event:

Leadership Saratoga
Soroptimist International of  Saratoga County
Saratoga County Assistant District Attorney Lyn Murphy
Home Instead's NYS Senior Heroes 2012 Awardee Katharine Winderlin
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
6:00pm - 8:30pm
Saratoga Springs City Center
We hope you'll join us to honor the dedication of all those who have assisted victims of domestic and sexual abuse AND share in our vision to reach and earlier serve all friends, neighbors, family members, and coworkers in need of our help.  
Complimentary hors d'oeuvres and beverages
Tickets are $75 per person; $35 of each ticket is tax deductible
RSVP to DVRC  518-583-0280
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Wear your PURPLE. Help us END domestic violence in Saratoga County.




Wednesday, October 10, 2012

When Teaching Our Kids Isn't Enough

In the wake of the Sandusky conviction, I think we all have to shake our heads in disbelief that children could be used and violated in such a way by someone in whom we placed such trust. That Sandusky founded his charity Second Mile, with a mission to help at-risk kids, but instead preyed upon these vulnerable children is appalling. Unfortunately, all too often sex offenders who prey upon children aren’t the villainous masked stranger we’d expect. They are often well known to the parents, respected, and trusted. They use this trust and easy access to the kids to groom them (i.e. prey on the child’s vulnerabilities and ‘pave the way’ before sexually violating them).  In a  study  :
· 46% of sexual predators were family members
· 48% were well known to the family (friend of parent 26%, trusted person in authority such as clergy, teacher, coach 22%), but a mere
· 5% were strangers. (Huot 1999)
Sexual predators are often rational and calculating in how to gain parental trust and access to the child. Historically we’ve focused our prevention efforts on educating children (e.g. good touch/bad touch programs.) Studies indicate that these strategies are insufficient: 
·“Most children do not know, remember or feel empowered to try prevention strategies.”
·Child focused sex abuse prevention should be our “last focus of prevention.”
·We need to “make prevention a national priority where the burden of safety is shifted from children to adults.“  (Kaufman et al 1999)

Sexual abuse of children; it’s something we don’t even want to imagine… but it happens. For more information onwhat parents can do to keep their children safe

Friday, September 14, 2012

18 Candles on the Cake, But More Growing To Do

September 13, 2012 was a milestone-- eighteen years… not a birthday for a young adult, but for VAWA the Violence Against Women Act. Never heard of VAWA? In short, VAWA made it clear that violence against women was a priority issue in the US. Here’s the history. VAWA is a US federal law signed into effect in 1994 by President Clinton that provided funds toward investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women. VAWA also established the Department of Justice’s Office on Violence against Women. Vice President Joe Biden eloquently summarizes its purpose, “[VAWA] was founded on the basic premise that every woman deserves to be safe from violence.” Statement by the Vice President on VAWA's 18 Anniversary
What’s VAWA’s impact?
VAWA created funds for victim-assistance services, improved prosecution of crimes against women, prevention initiatives, and coordinated community response that encouraged representatives from the criminal justice system, human services and community organizations to work together to end domestic and sexual violence. VAWA has resulted in increased access to services and improved victim-centered services, better protections for immigrants, and decreased rates of crime. Our criminal justice response to intimate partner violence has improved immensely. But there’s still more work to do. DVRC’s hotline still responds to almost 2,000 calls each year. Our shelter is often at full occupancy. People in our community still endure relationship and sexual violence abuse every day.

Eighteen years later VAWA is still needed… but we’ve grown a lot in 18 years. Let’s work toward keeping all relationships safe. Let’s end violence against women… and violence against men… and violence against children. I fully support all the work VAWA has launched to make our communities safer… let’s expand the vision. May I paraphrase Vice President Biden and suggest a basic premise that every human being deserves to be safe from violence. That’s a really big vision. Let’s start with ending relationship and sexual violence.
Peace Begins at Home.
Live it… model it… support it… let’s make it happen!
Want  more information about VAWA? National Network to End Domestic Violence

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Sincerely, by Erin Billings

About 2 weeks ago I wrote about 15 year old Erin Billings who wrote a book to bring awareness about bullying. I was impressed with her initiative even though I hadn’t read the book yet and immediately submitted my book order online. I had a brief (and blissfully enjoyable vacation) and came home to find Sincerely in my mailbox. It’s a really quick read, but at times powerful kick in the chest, as the reader sees how multiple injustices, insensitivities and sometimes malicious cruelties can demoralize a child. But what I really take away from the book is the opposite message… that the positive actions of one person can become the lifeline that changes a person’s life.

In the beginning of the book, Lucy , a 16 year old wheelchair-bound with cerebral palsy is mercilessly taunted by her classmates… and shamefully even adults in her life. But the friendship of one girl gives Lucy a sense of belonging. In time there are other friends and supporters who mitigate the devastating effects of bullying with just a kind word or action. These allies weren’t always perfect; betrayal by someone you trust and count on can be more devastating than intentional cruelty.  I won’t say more and spoil a good read. But more importantly, throughout the book Erin illustrates how truly life changing small kindnesses can be.

What a great take away message to carry with us… that a simple word of  encouragement or positive comment may mean so much more to someone than we can possibly imagine.  What a powerful message for a little book… and what sage advice offered to us all by 15 year old, Erin Billings.

Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness.

Every act creates a ripple with no logical end. ~ Scott Adams

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Sincerely Inspirational

Well yesterday I wrote about actor Patrick Stewart’s courage in telling his very personal story as a child growing up in an abusive home. He tells his story for the simple reason that as a child he wished some adult had stepped in, spoken up and helped. May his stentorian voice help to break the silence surrounding domestic violence.

Shortly after writing yesterday’s post, I ran across a story of another person who is giving voice to the experiences of a child … this time a child  who is bullied relentlessly. This inspirational author is not a renowned Royal Shakespearean actor and movie star, but rather a local teenage girl who wanted to give voice to how it feels to be a kid who is bullied. Fifteen year old Erin Billings, wrote Sincerely in the form of a diary written by a bright girl with cerebral palsy who is targeted and ridiculed by her classmates.

I haven’t read Sincerely yet.  I’ve just placed my order for it via Open Door Publishers, but I’m already impressed by the tenacity of a 15 year old who spends 5 months writing a book  in order to raise awareness about bullying.  Stayed tuned for more thoughts after I’ve read Sincerely (but in the meantime purchase your own copy and let me know your thoughts.)

Monday, August 6, 2012

Patrick Stewart...Speaking out for the Next Generation

Actor Patrick Stewart, provided one of the most compelling examples of leadership I’ve ever seen. But it wasn’t on the bridge of the Enterprise as Star Trek’s Captain Jean-Luc Picard, nor was it playing Macbeth on Broadway.  Instead it was simply Patrick, the man, engaging in a conversation, dressed in a black sweater and button down shirt, speaking about his childhood and being raised in a home where he felt frightened and helpless as he watched his mother repeatedly brutalized.

“I needed someone else to take over
and tell me everything was going to be all right and that it wasn't my fault. 

“ I felt responsible.
The sense of guilt and loneliness provoked by domestic violence is tainting – and lasting.”

What resonates with me most, is that he speaks without anger or drama, but he still carries the memories  and the scars of a seven year old watching his mother being abused day after day. More than 6 decades have passed since he was that frightened child. The anger has burned to cool embers, but it is clear that being a witness to his mother’s abuse had a lifelong impact on him and his relationships.
I also think of  the courage of that small boy who stepped in between his father’s fist and his mother to protect her, a child stepping between a military man, a regimental sergeant, and a terrified woman to protect her. He speaks about how everyone knew, but whether from shame, or embarrassment or the sense that it’s a private matter, no one intervenedNo one came to help. No adult stepped in and took charge. Today we’re much more sensitive to these issues, but not sensitive enough. Still these things are hushed up… still the violence is allowed to continue.
I applaud Patrick Stewart for speaking out, for telling his intensely personal story so that others may also find their voice. Because no child should bear witness to such abuse… and only when each of us speaks up, will we as a community value home as a safe place for every child.  Silence hides violence… if you too find Patrick Stewart’s words moving please forward them to someone you know. Speak out about relationship abuse… so we can end it…
“Still the Violence is Allowed to Continue”

Friday, August 3, 2012

One More Step toward a Safer Community

Governor Cuomo recently signed legislation requiring all Level III sex offenders to submit to new photographs if they alter their appearance. Level III sex offenders are considered higher risk for reoffending. The new legislation, which takes effect in 30 days, reduces the likelihood that a convicted high risk sex offender can alter his/her appearance to become less identifiable. The NYS Sex Offender Registry provides New Yorkers with information on Level II and III sex offenders living in their communities, including: residence and employment address, photographs, and conviction history.

During the past year, this administration has implemented several initiatives that protect our communities from sexual and relationship violence:

·         The All Crimes DNA bill expanded the crimes that qualify for  evidence collection of convicted offenders to include all  felony and misdemeanor crimes.

·         The NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services launched  a domestic incident repository that gives law enforcement immediate access to information about past domestic incidents. See Allowing the Past to Shed Light for more info.

·         On August 2, 2012 Governor Cuomo also signed new legislation providing additional safeguards by 1) requiring law enforcement to notify the State Education Department’s Office of Professional Discipline if they are investigating alleged sexual misconduct by a licensed  health provider and 2) requiring the Board of Parole to submit release interviews to the NYS Office of Mental Health to make informed judgments about sex offenders being released to the community.

Monday, July 23, 2012

It Takes Just a Minute to Help Local Veterans

Think back to elementary school and the American Revolutionary Wars hero, Nathan Hale, whose final words as he was executed by the British were purported to be,
 “I only regret that I have but one life
to lose for my country.”
Why is it that more than 200 years later, we still teach that quote  to our youth?  I think it’s because those 14 words so poignantly illustrate the enormity of sacrifice given by soldiers for their country. But I think it’s a lesson that’s too big at too young an age. At 10, a kid can’t feel what it means to willingly lay down one’s life at just  21  to die so young for something you believe in.
I shudder when I think of war –of soldiers- young men and women the age of my sons bravely risking their lives for their country. I’ve seen the faces of parents, proud of their child’s valor and patriotism, but living in a continual state of unease praying for the day their child returns safely. And I’ve seen many times, the struggle to reintegrate back once home… a young man or woman forever changed by war expected to fit back into the life they knew before.

I know I’m not alone in wanting to help but not knowing how. But here’s a chance to help an organization that every day helps veterans, Saratoga County Rural Preservation  Company.

SEFCU is supporting Capital Region men and women in our armed forces and local veterans by donating $30,000 from SEFCU’s 24th Annual Labor Day 5k race to three non-profit organizations chosen by the community. The non-profit with the most votes will receive $15,000, the non-profit with the next highest number of votes will receive $10,000, and the third place finisher will receive $5,000. The Saratoga County Rural Preservation  Company is one of the finalists. You can help veterans in Saratoga County by casting your vote at SEFCU 5K Vote 2012    for the  SARATOGA COUNTY RPC– VET HELP PROGRAM .

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

7 Red Flags of Dating Abuse

When we think about relationship abuse, the mental image that comes to mind is a black eye. But physical violence occurs far later in an abusive relationship… or relationship abuse may never involve physical violence at all. To complicate matters, some of the early red flags of abuse may bear some similarity to early stages in a healthy relationship, e.g., social isolation can initially be misinterpreted for just wanting to be together or jealousy can start out looking like flattery. So what are some early signs to look out for?
·         Jealously and possessiveness
The individual may question their partner about time spent, conversations with or just looks at other men or women. This can seem sweet or harmless in the beginning, “You’re so good looking. I bet you turn heads whenever you walk into a room.”
·         Social Isolation
Limiting access to friends or family. “Your friends are trying to break us up. They’re just jealous of what a great relationship we have. I don’t want to hang with them. I just want to be with you.”
·         Moving the relationship too fast
“From the minute I met you I knew you were the one.”
·         Frequently calling or texting
        Initially this can look harmless, “I’m just calling to say I’m thinking about you”, but over time can increase to monitoring the partner’s every move.
·         Controlling behaviors
Criticizing how the partner dresses or acts, limiting his/her ability to engage in favorite pastimes. Put downs, criticisms or blaming the partner.
·         ‘Play’ fighting or ‘playful’ use of physical force
·         Rigid gender-defined roles
·         Hypersensitivity or threats to harm self if the partner doesn’t act as expected.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Is Fox News Right? Schools Don't See Dating Violence as a Priority?

The Fox News article begins, "Despite research showing up to a third of U.S. teens experience dating violence... a majority of high schools don't have procedures or trained staff to deal with the issue."

The article continues that counselors want to help but lack training. In fact researchers found that when given a test about knowledge about dating violence, counselors only answered about half the questions correctly… even though in the past two years 61% had helped a teen dating violence victim.

It’s easy to jump to the conclusion that schools aren’t doing their job. I disagree. The burden on schools is enormous; academics can be overshadowed with ever increasing demands to educate about: drug abuse prevention, healthy eating, not texting while driving, the importance of civic engagement and volunteering, pregnancy prevention, global warming, and general character education. Who has time left for chemistry, calculus, Shakespeare or critical thinking?

Yet kids spend a large part of their lives in school; the researchers’ finding that kids “are more likely to reach out to peers or perhaps an adult at school… than they are to parents” makes sense. So what’s the solution? Let’s talk about dating violence with teens… not just when there is a concern, but as part of our everyday conversation about relationships. These conversations can happen in school, but also at home, in the media, as part of Scouting, in Church or synagogue, between friends. Talk about it today... need help starting the conversation? Here’s two short videos to watch the discussion.

As always DVRC provides no-cost assistance to help victims of relationship violence as well as support for parents, friends or others who are concerned for someone who is experience abuse. Call our 24/7 hotline at 518-584-8188 … we can help.

Tomorrow’s post:
Red flags that a dating relationship may be abusive.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

You Don't Have to Wait for Summer for Dog Days

I’ve got a standing date every Saturday and Sunday morning with the most adorable guy in my life… my pooch, Andy, and I are regulars at our local dog park (my other special guy, my husband of 25 years who is more distinguished than adorable, joins us there most days too—I’m a lucky gal). However, this Saturday we’ve all got different plans. We’ll be at Impressions of Saratoga for Dog Days.

They’ll have fun activities for pups, kids and adults, as well as pet adoptions, photos by Tracey Buyce, and barrels of doggie biscuits. DVRC will be there promoting our Safe Pet Partnership. Marianne Barker and her whole staff at Impressions have been long-term supporters of DVRC’s Safe Pet Partnership, which helps the furry, feathered and finned family members who also suffer when there’s abuse in the home.

Stop by this Saturday and say hi (and give Andy a tummy rub) at

Impressions of Saratoga
368 Broadway, Saratoga Springs NY 12866

From Academics to Art to Social Action

To me, one of the greatest tragedies of domestic abuse is that it happens in private and no one talks about being abused in their intimate relationships. As a result, victims often think they, alone, endure verbal, emotional or physical abuse by someone who purports to love them.

I think increasing awareness is the key to not only helping survivors, but more importantly, to changing the norms in our society so that we can END abuse. And DVRC recently found a terrific partner to help us do this. Skidmore College's Spring 2012 Feminist Theories and Methods class, led by Professor Mary Stange, partnered with DVRC of Saratoga County to research, design, and produce 3 video vignettes which communicate the prevalence, dynamics, and impacts of domestic violence. This group of talented and enthusiastic Skidmore College students help viewers to recognize the signs of domestic violence early in relationships through powerful depictions of the impact of abuse in real life scenarios.

What a project… taking classroom learning and applying it to create social change! Help us to increase awareness by sharing these videos. Together we can END relationship abuse! I invite you to watch the videos and share your thoughts:

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Sexual Assault... It's not very common, is it?

Here are the fact. You decide:

According to new findings by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), on average, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States. Over the course of a year, that equals more than 12 million women and men. Those numbers only tell part of the story – more than 1 million women are raped in a year, and over 6 million women and men are victims of stalking. These findings emphasize that sexual violence, stalking, and intimate partner violence are major public health problems in the United States. In addition, they underscore the heavy toll that violence takes on Americans, particularly women.

·         Nearly 1 in 5 women have been raped in their lifetime while 1 in 71 men have been raped in their lifetime.

·         Approximately 80% of female victims experienced their first rape before the age of 25 and almost half ex­perienced the first rape before age 18.

·         About 35% of women who were raped as minors were also raped as adults compared to 14% of women without an early rape history.

·         28% of male victims of rape were first raped when they were 10 years old or younger.

  • Only 30% of sexual assaults are ever reported to the police (Source: RAINN). Even so, that means somebody reports a forcible rape every 6 minutes in this country (Source: FBI).
  • The majority (73%) of sexual assaults are perpetrated by someone the victim  knows or is acquainted with. 40% of sexual assaults take place in the home. (Source: RAINN)

Friday, April 20, 2012

This Definitely Isn’t Casual Dress Friday

Next Friday, April 27 all over the world people wear jeans to work in recognition of Denim Day. They’re not paying tribute to Levi Strauss or enjoying a dress-down Friday; they’re taking a stand against sexual violence.

Here’s the story:

In 1988 in Italy, a teenaged girl was picked up by her 45 year old, married driving instructor for her very first driving lesson. He drove her to an isolated road, dragged her out of the car and pinned her to the ground.  As she fought him off, he got one leg out of her jeans and raped her…then made her get back into the car and drive home. He threatened her life if she told anyone. She had the courage to tell her parents and report the rape to the police. The driving instructor was arrested, convicted and sent to prison.

He appealed the decision and a male Supreme Court judge overturned the conviction reasoning, “…because the victim wore very, very tight jeans, she HAD to help him remove them, and by removing the jeans it was no longer rape but consensual sex.”

This decision enraged the public.  Women in the Italian Parliament wore jeans to work the next day to express their outrage. More than two decades have passed… but, sadly, sexual assault victims still encounter stigma and victim-blaming.   

Please take a stand to raise awareness about sexual violence on April 27th, 2012. Wear jeans and something teal  (e.g. a t-shirt or scarf) to support survivors and rally against sexual violence in our community. 

Send pictures of your group to dvrc@crisny.org as we recognize on our website our community partners who are taking a stand (in denim) to end sexual violence.