Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Focusing on the Quick Fix... Not the Real Fix

Why do we put our focus on the victim in abusive situations rather than the abusers?

It happens in domestic violence cases. We ask, “Why does she (or he) stay?” instead of “Why does the partner keep abusing? It recently happened in an Albany middle school where a girl was so bullied that  she hid in a bathroom terrified she’d be beaten and called her parents on her cell phone to rescue her. The bullying was not a one-time incident. The Times Union’s , Scott Waldman, reports the biracial girl’s tormenters, fellow honors students, had donned KKK hoods and made comments about her skin color and family during classes.

The school officials viewed this as a “joke gone bad’ and solved the problem by promoting the girl to the 9th grade, with a transfer to the high school away from her abusers, three months before the end of the school year, and offering her the option of talking about how the incident made her feel in a ‘sensitivity circle’. The harassers were not disciplined. However, the US Department of Education had a different view of this. They felt the school officials should have recognized harassment and implemented corrective actions, including disciplining harassers or finding a viable alternative.

It’s a common problem. We think that if we can just remove the victim from a situation the problem will end. But that’s only a temporary remedy. Relationship violence of all kinds: bullying, dating violence, sexual assault, stalking, are not one-time incidents. These behaviors are often a pattern of power and control; until we focus on the root case, working with the abuser to stop the behaviors, they’ll just find another victim.

The positive take-away from all this is that because of the Dept. of Education’s investigation, Hackett Middle School now will have racial discrimination training for all staff, a student led committee to address harassment, and counseling for students who previously complained of racial harassment.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Wild West... Again?

Imagine being the 911 dispatcher who receives a call that an ex con who is wanted by the state police for parole violations is trying to beat down the door to attack his former girlfriend. It's not the first time; just 2 weeks ago she was hospitalized because of him. She's scared and calls 911 for help…. and is told,
I don't have anybody to send out there.” 

 A few minutes  later as he’s breaking down the door before beating and raping her, 
“Once again, it's unfortunate you guys don't have any law enforcement up there.” 

That’s what happened in Josephine County, Oregon. State budget cuts to public safety have left some Jefferson County citizens without adequate police protection. Things are bad when the Sheriff advises domestic violence victims to consider relocating to an area with adequate law enforcement services and says
“There isn't a day goes by that we don't have another victim… There are absolutely no consequences to committing a crime today given the fact that law enforcement is as weak as it is.”
You can hear the recording of the 911 call on NPR’s All Things Considered; when I hear it I think about two things:
1)      How difficult it must have been for that dispatcher to sit there listening helplessly as a brutal crime is being committed…and not be able to dispatch police to assist, and
2)      That a tragedy needs to happen to bring to light how budget cuts have devastated the most basic public safety responses. Clearly from the sheriff's comments, this is not the first time the Oregon criminal justice system victim has abandoned crime victims.
I'd believe a situation like this might happen back in the days of the wild west... but today? 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Talking to teens about sexual assault

So how do you even start that conversation? And what do you say?

Here's a few facts and a innovative way to have an candid talk about how commmon situations can lead to sexual assault. 

Did you know?
·         Most rape victims know their rapist.
·         Teens and young adults experience sexual assault at higher rates than the general population.
·         Alcohol is the most common ‘date rape drug’. 

Teens- parents... Here’s a movie you can watch together to start the discussion.  

Rape or Regret – YOU be the jury….

“Rape or Regret: A Jury’s Dilemma”, a locally produced film (“Law and Order”-style), will be featured at the Saratoga Film Forum on Tuesday, May 21st at 6:30 pm. All are invited to attend the film and mock-jury deliberation to determine the guilt of the fictional 18 year-old defendant, Ryan Kelly.

Over the past few months, the Saratoga Community has been repeatedly reminded that sexual assault does, in fact, happen here. In 2012 alone, Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Services of Saratoga County (DVRC) served 123 victims of sexual assault. This 1 hour film shows, in understandable detail, how teenage sexual assault can happen. It promises to be an eye-opening lesson. Check out the film’s trailer on YouTube (“Rape or Regret? A Jury’ s Dilemma Trailer 2012).

“Rape or Regret” was produced by the Ballston Area Community Allies to be used as an educational tool to help students better understand sexual assault and learn some prevention strategies. Viewers hear testimony of Tonya (the complainant), Ryan (the defendant), their attorneys, and many witnesses as the case unfolds. Feedback from recent viewers: “it was very realistic” and “I liked how it took a situation that could very easily happen to kids our age and showed a very real consequence”.

Come to the Forum on Tuesday and bring your teens (or parents). This is your chance to open an important conversation with them and in your community.



Please pass this e-mail on to anyone who may be interested.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Thank You For Everything

"Thank You For Everything"
NYS Assemblyman Jim Tedisco
At today's press conference at the Guardian House in Ballston Spa, Assemblyman Tedisco used these words to convey how we should honor our veterans. Part of our gratitude should include providing the support to help vets recover physically, psychologically and spiritually from their combat experience. Assemblyman Tedisco and Senator Farley have proposed a bill allowing New Yorkers to elect to donate to veterans' services simply by checking a box on their tax returns.
The press conference was held at Guardian House, an innovative residential program run by the Saratoga County Rural Preservation Company (RPC) to help female vets heal and reintegrate when they return home.  If you’re looking for another way to support vets here’s something you can do today:
The Guardian House was the $25,000 regional winner in Home Depot’s Aprons in Action contest. Now they are in the running for the grand prize of $250,000. You can vote to help our local female vets simply by visiting the Aprons inAction web page
It only takes a minute. Please vote daily throughout the month to support the Guardian House. It’s one way to express to our female vets for risking everything to defend our country and our ideals. It's one way to say, “Thanks for everything!”


Thursday, May 16, 2013

When Bullying Grows Up

You remember the picture book image of a bully-- a big boy wearing a ‘tough guy hat’ looming over a smaller child. It's easy to identify the stereotyped playground version of bullying: hitting, name calling, stealing lunches, and ostracizing. These behaviors are hurtful and damaging, but they're not subtle. Kids who are bullied often don't tell anyone right away, but some  behaviors are easy to spot if we're looking.

As kids mature the techniques of bullying become more sophisticated and covert. Adults also often think bullying was kid stuff and goes away as they grow up. Since they were small we've talked to our kids about bullying and given them tools to let someone know if they're being harassed, so we're less vigilant about protecting our kids from bullies once they're adolescents.

But as the techniques of bullying change it's harder for our kids (an us) to recognize bullying, The abuses may target sexuality, popularity or body image-- acutely sensitive issues for adolescents. Also kids’ increasing independence in using of technology allows bullying to become not a face-to-face exchange, but a form of humiliation that is anonymous and follows them from school to home and all their social networks.

So how is a parent to know if their child’s withdrawal, surliness, or silence is normal or if it may indicate difficulties related to bullying?  Here are 14 signs that your child may be bulliedor is a bully.

Friday, May 3, 2013

You... Your Kids... and The Great Escape Lodge Water Park

Take 25... just take 25 minutes to talk to your kids about safety today. 

That's the advice of the National Center  for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). Click on the link below as John Kelly, former policeman, school resource officer, and current director of the Saratoga branch of NCMEC, tells why this is so important and about a great opportunity to spend a fun day with the kids this Sunday at the Great Escape Lodge Water Park for a fun and informative family day. 



Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Parents, Have You Had the Prom Talk?

At heart I'm an optimist... but sometimes reality dashes my optimism. Probably my career choice doesn't help; every day is a reality check. At DVRC, we see the aftermath when relationships morph from dreams to bad dreams and sometimes to nightmares. But I know those stories are far from the norm. So many of our clients say, "I never imagined something like this. I was way into before I even realized what was happening." 

For that reason I'm a believer in talking about the bad stuff, so we're aware of the red flags and can avert the disaster. Talk about it... cover the bases....then move back to optimism and live those dreams. 

So here's the reality check about prom. For most teens it's a magical night with memories they'll be sharing for decades. For some, alcohol, sexual opportunity and relaxed curfews can sour that night. So parents take five minutes and talk with your son or daughter about how to stay safe on prom night.  Not sure how to start? Carlton Kendrick has made it easy for you...in 4 simple steps you can cover all the bases to keep your son or daughter safer on prom night. Take the time to read his article... then have the talk. 

Then get the camera ready so you can take pictures of that magical night (besides it's always fun to laugh about the hairstyles 20 years down the road.) So help me nurture my inner optimist. Got a fun prom memory? Comment back and share it...keep the magic going.