Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Right to Be Miley Cyrus

The press seems over deluged with stories of stars and starlets behaving really badly. The past couple of weeks seem overrun with gals going out in public dressed like Fredericks of Hollywood models. Rihanna's barely there plunging necklines and open sided outfits often leave me wondering how they stay on in a light breeze. Lady Gaga went to dinner in a shockingly see through outfit that exposed her bare butt; I'm not sure what kind of dining warrants a dressed up thong.  But Miley Cyrus's MTV performance topped it all with not only revealing fashion, but a 'dance routine' that was tasteless and near pornographic.

These are all talented women, but instead of promoting their hard earned musical skills they're flaunting their assets (pun intended). I was tiring of reading stories about promiscuity and even more concerned that these women are our young peoples' role models, when I ran across a news article that put all this silliness into perspective. In North Korea Hyon Song Wol and 11 members of the Unhasu Orchestra were executed by machine gun fire as their families were forced to watch. Why? For allegedly making and selling a sex tape. While there are possibly political reasons underlying the execution, the fact is that creating pornography was reason enough for the government to assassinate these 12 performers.

That story quickly reminded me of the freedoms we have in America and what stark differences there are in our treatment of women as compared to many countries. Violence against women worldwide is epidemic, and in some countries punishment for unacceptable behaviors like talking back to your husband or being seen without a head cover are cruel and torturous. In fact according to UN Women it's a major cause of death and disability; rape and domestic violence are more dangerous than cancer, motor vehicle accidents, war and malaria.

So while I may find Miley's performance vulgar, perhaps racist and decidedly entertaining, it's good to live on a country where the only backlash is bad press. Many women sacrificed much  so we'd have the rights we do... how we use  those freedoms is up to us.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Setting us Back 30 Years

Historically in  rape cases the tactic of blaming the victim (she was promiscuous, wore tight clothing, was intoxicated, shouldn't have been there) was used to rationalize the reason for the rape and absolve the offender of accountability. After all, if the victim doesn't have a stellar reputation it's OK and understandable to rape her, right? 

Well it seemed we were making strides in this area. In the Steubenville rape case, teenagers who were  high school football heroes were found guilty of rape of an intoxicated girl.  The US armed forces are under scrutiny for failure to adequately respond to sexual assaults. So just when you think things are improving, a Montana judge  proves you wrong. Judge G Todd Baugh gave minimal jail time of just 30 days to a middle aged teacher  who had sex with a 14 year old student. Why only 30 days? Because the victim, whom the judge had never met,  "acted older than her chronological age...and was as much in control of the situation" as the offender. 

A child, not even old enough to drive,  was on a level playing filed with her middle aged teacher? She was legally not of age to consent to sex. And he was a trusted authority figure. Perhaps the most tragic evidence that she was not in control of this situation is that the victim committed suicide as the case progressed.  

While Judge Baugh apologized for his insensitive words he defends his sentencing. He  has been on the bench almost 30 years. While our society has become less tolerant of sexual violence in those 30 years, it's clear he's still living in the past. 

How devastating for the girl's parents. First they find she was raped by a teacher. Then they lose their daughter to suicide. And now a judge trivializes the sexual assault, placing the blame on their deceased daughter instead of the adult male who knowingly violated a 14 year old child. Our society is better than this judge's decision. The parents of this girl deserve better from our criminal justice system.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Friend Zone... redefined

Life is filled with opportunities to make a difference. Some are public and life transforming, like Antoinette Tuff's heroic conversation that deescalated a would-be shooter in a Georgia school. Other opportunities are nestled quietly in our daily lives, the way we think, interact, and voice our values.

Here's a video of an amazing guy, talking about women, sex, and what it means to be a friend. He challenges us to take a hard look at our social values and how they contribute to sexual violence. We all fear the masked stranger in the bushes, but most sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows. Or in Dylan Garrity's words, "The stranger in the alley is real, but not as real as we are." As  He's redefining the Friend Zone...and what it means to be a friend.

Watch this video. It's funny, edgy, and powerfully insightful. Dylan Garrity is a  stand up guy and a role model for what it means to be a man.

Warning, mature content...but the message at the end of the video is priceless.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Everlasting Love... Step by Step

What  do you do when  your happily ever after ends in divorce after 16 years together? Do you replay over and over the coulda. woulda, and shoulda scenarios...and to what end? For Gerald Rogers that introspection evolved into a touching letter about how to truly love someone. These lessons learned the hard way, are a reminder that love grows when we nurture it. It's great advice for newlyweds, but also a wonderful reminder to anyone in a relationship.

Gerald Rogers' words of wisdom are heartfelt and touching. Number 20 pretty much sums it up, but the nineteen preceding tips provide the step by step manual. It's written for guys, but applies equally to both genders. If everyone followed this sage advice, we wouldn't need agencies like DVRC. Thank you Gerald Rogers for this eloquent advice.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Talk About This on the Drive to College

I remember my parents driving me to my freshman year of college. Their rust colored  Fairmont was packed with everything I'd need from August to May. Dorm fridge, bike, Apple IIe computer with dot matrix printer (no compact laptops or tablets- it was about the size of the dorm fridge), 5 pound dictionary, shorts and tank tops, winter boots and coats...everything! I barely fit in the back seat.I had 8 hours on the ride to D.C. to ponder what college would be like, and if I'd ever be able to stand straight again after being contorted around all my belongings for so long. We sang along with 8-track tapes of the Carpenters and Barry Manilow, talked about what I may have forgotten  and whether I'd be able to resume my waitress job at Hoffman's Restaurant when I returned in the summer (I'd been there two years and that job was paying for college). We talked about the exciting changes and the importance of doing my very best, but we didn't talk about:
  • how scary this big change was for me... and for my parents as their only child moved so far away
  • my cat. She was a gorgeous grey Persian who had been my constant  companion since I was 8 years old...and she was decidedly a one person  cat. I wondered how I'd survive without my closet companion and my mom wondered how she'd even get Missy to come to her to be fed (but cats are practical, they'll tolerate you if you're the only one who can use the can opener), and 
  • sexual assault.
One in four college women are sexually assaulted during their college years. About 1/3 are freshmen. In fact the period from orientation to Thanksgiving is the Red Zone on campuses.Talk to your daughter or son about sexual assault. Talk to him/her about the correlation between alcohol use and sexual assault. And talk about what the options and resources are after an assault. It's a difficult topic, but open those lines of communication now. Here's what you need to know to have that talk.

Related posts:
Whatyou need to know after a sexual assault

Sexual assualt facts

Friday, August 23, 2013

Two Local Kids Died in Two Weeks... and You 'd Never Imagine Why

The article calls it Suburbia's Deadly Secret. This happened just 15 miles and four turns off I-87, in a suburban community in Rensselaer County. As the writer describes the landscaped flower beds, local stores and backyards with pools where neighbors socialize, this could be almost any community in Saratoga County. You know these kids too, or a kid who looks just like them. The 23 year old who died in July, staggered into a Stewart’s Shop as locals were having their morning coffee.  Just a couple of years before, he  played sports, was a Boy Scout and an "All American kid.' The mom of 2 other kids says, " “My kids were each the average child. They played baseball, my daughter did bowling, we went on family vacations. I went to all the school meetings like parents do.” Sound familiar?

So what is the one threat you'd never imagine would be creeping into our local suburban communities and threatening our teens and young adults- it’s  HEROIN. On her talk show Katie Couric said that “thirty-four thousand kids between the ages of 12 and 17 will start using heroin this year. Over the last 10 years, teen heroin use has increased 80 percent from coast to coast.” Rensselaer County District Attorney Rich McNally says, “ You’ve got to be aware of the change in the culture, the availability of things kids get high on. It’s everywhere, and you’ve got to know about it.” 

Really?! What’s going on here? Teens are increasingly experimenting with OTC and prescription drugs (heck, the Internet has plenty of articles offering advice on how to get high with what’s in mom and dad’s medicine cabinet.) When that thrill fades, snorting heroin is a cheap next step. And it seems heroin is no longer only in the realm of the inner city, drug culture… it’s moving to the burbs.

What’s the take away for parents?  Even good kids can get mixed up in things beyond their control. Our increasingly mobile society is breaking down barriers quicker than ever seen before. You are the biggest influence in your kid’s life; talk to them about drugs and keep those lines of communications open. This is one fad we don’t want to see gaining momentum. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Back to School 101- Bullying

Bullying. It's a big issue. 74% of 8-11 year olds say bullying happens in their schools. It's in the news all the time...from the positive (e.g., the Dignity for All Students Act and  the 'Be an Ally' campaigns to encourage us all to stand up and speak up) to the negative (e.g, girl on girl bullying and cyberbullying.)

What do you need to know?

  • How can you tell is your child is affected by bullying? Here's an article that covers all you need to look for, 14 Signs that Your Child is Bullied or Being  a Bully.  
  • This is a normal part of growing up... like all stages, this too will pass, right? Nor really. Studies show that the behavior patterns we learn as children tend to 'grow up' with us as we assume more adult relationships. So for both victims and kids with bullying behaviors, there's a greater incidence of dating violence, relationship abuse and sexual violence later in life. 
  • Bullying behaviors may be a gateway to criminal behavior? Wow...that's a reason to take it seriously.  According to the aforementioned 14 signs  article, Some consider adolescent bullying a “gateway” criminal behavior. According to the National Education Association’s position statement on Bullying and Harassment, “Boys identified as bullies in grades six through nine had one criminal conviction by age 24. Forty percent of those identified had three or more arrests by age 30. Bullies are at even greater risk of suicide than their targets. Bullies often grow up to perpetuate family violence.” 
What can you do?
The National Crime Prevention Council has these tips for parents if their child is bullied or is showing bullying behaviors.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

23 + 22 = 121 That's Right!

Before anyone questions my second grade teacher's abilities, I rocked at math. So what's with the unbalanced equation? We're just  missing some words . Let's try this:

23 business women + 22 minutes= 121 backpacks

That makes more sense.

Today, 23 women from the Chamber of Southern Saratoga County's Women in Business (WIB) Committee  collected  supplies to fill 121 Backpacks of Hope to assist families receiving support  from Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Services of Saratoga County.


"The Chamber of Southern Saratoga County Women in Business Committee strives to help women both professionally and personally. Supporting DVRC with both Baskets of Hope and Backpacks of Hope every year has been a great partnership – a way we can leverage our connections in the community to gather and provide items DVRC clients so greatly need - and a way we as women feel good about supporting each other. It has also been a fantastic way to bring much needed awareness to this important issue." Wendy Wilms of Cengage Learning and Chair of the WIB.

When  domestic violence  survivors leave the abusive home, they often struggle just trying to provide for their families' basic needs (rent, food, health care.) September can bring overwhelming financial demands as they need to purchase school supplies for one or several children. That's why the WIB has sponsored the Backpacks of Hope project for several years, collecting school supplies  to be distributed by DVRC so that families can focus on what important... building a new life so their children can live in a home without fear and violence.

"Imagine the trauma of leaving an abusive home with none of your personal items as well as no money and your child needs back to school supplies. With the help of many who gather supplies, giving back to the communities that they live and work in, these children get to go to school with a backpack full of supplies, being able  to just be a kid, without feeling different!" Mary E. Stokes, Stokes Wealth Solutions and WIB member


This year, the group assembled 121 backpacks for distribution. The WIB is impressive not only for how much they care, but also how efficient they are. it took just 22 minutes from the moment these women walked in with bags filled with assorted school supplies, to sorting, filling and loading the backpacks up for DVRC to distribute. Those 22 minutes will make such a difference for families struggling to break free from abuse.

If you're interested in helping, it's not too late. You can drop your donations off at the Chamber of Southern Saratoga County located at  15 Park Ave., Ste. 7, Clifton Park.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Back to School- 101 Drinking and Drugs

You've checked out the sales and bought a closet full of clothes to replace summer's shorts and tank tops. You've dropped a small fortune on spiral notebooks, highlighters, calculators, and backpacks. You've  picked up the books your child needs to read for his/her summer reading assignment. You've been to the doctor for the annual physical and any needed  immunizations. You're talking about making bedtime earlier so they'll be able to get up for the bus on time... but really, it's just to nice to give up those beautiful summer evenings just yet, so let's wait on that one. You're ready, right?

This week I'll be posting about a couple of necessary conversations to have with your kids to prepare them as the school year starts. First, the talk about drinking and drugs. Yeah, you've talked  with them about drugs before and your kids are good kids who know what your values are. Have the talk again. Why? 
  • Think peer pressure is a big influence? There's something bigger... You! Three out of four teens says parents on their #1 influence on their choice whether or not to drink. You may think they're tuning you out, but your values matter to them.
  • September is a clean slate... you can influence what gets written on this slate. Every September is a fresh start in a  new grade, new classes, teachers, and friends. You purchase  daily organizers to foster good study habits and better grades.  Talk about alcohol and drug use too.
  • They're growing up but they're still kids. Adolescent brains are still developing so alcohol and drugs affect them differently and may cause  long-term changes in brain development. Kids may think, 'everybody's doing it, so what's the big deal?' In fact most kids aren't drinking or using drugs regularly. Talk with them so they get the facts and make better decisions.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

911 to the Rescue

Anyone who responds to crisis calls can relate. When the phone rings you never know what will unfold. All you know is someone needs help, and you're their link. When you're new at it, every time the phone rings (any phone!) your heart rate momentarily bolts like a thoroughbred just out of the gate. So why do people do it... because they care.

Here's a heartwarming story about a 911 operator who saved the day for a distraught bride. I'm sure they didn't cover this kind of assistance in dispatcher training, but her kindness will always be remembered. I hope someone saved her a piece of wedding cake.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Looking for New Solutions

Intimate partner violence is nothing new. According to the Colorado Bar Association:

"Women have been speaking out about the assaults that other women have suffered since 1405"... in 1848, in the United States, women spoke out about “male brutality” and later that century Susan B. Anthony helped battered women to escape from their abusers."

Our current domestic violence model emerged as part of the women's movement in the 1960s and 70s. It focused on helping female victims to flee abuse and start over. Advocates have helped many victims and undoubtedly saved countless lives. But at a very basic level we've failed. After 40 years:
  • 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men still experience domestic abuse in their lifetimes.
  •  since 2011, total assaults increased by less than 1%, but intimate partner assaults increased by 6% (NYS DCJS)
So we've failed at ending domestic violence. Why?  Domestic violence is a unique crime. I just read an article from Law Enforcement Today that explores how domestic violence is different and why we may need to alter our approach. It covers really salient factors like:
  • Our criminal justice system is reactive; we need a proactive approach to keep domestic violence from escalating.
  • Abusers may appear more likeable or pulled together than trauma-affected victims, thus law enforcement and the courts may have difficulty relating to the victims' decisions.
  • Contrary to most victims of crime, the abuser and the victim have a unique and continuing relationship, "In a cruelly ironic twist, a victim’s physical safety may depend on her (or his—many victims are male) ability to keep the abuser happy. Calling 911 can make a dangerous situation worse, not better."
The article doesn't just articulate the problems, it proposes new strategies for addressing intimate partner violence... and they're cost effective. Maybe it's time to fund some new approaches?

Friday, August 16, 2013

Parents: Here's Your Back to School Reading Assignment

Parenting during the high school years isn't easy!

On the once hand your teen will have to  function without you in the very near future, so you've gotta let go and give him/her autonomy. Your child may be in college in a year; he or she needs to learn how to function without you. There will be colds and flus, breakups, parties, missed buses... and mom or dad won't be there to help them through those daily challenges.

On the other hand, as they experiment with this newfound freedom one bad decision, e.g. driving drunk or using drugs can have serious, even life-ending, consequences. And with Internet activities and designer drugs it's hard to stay ahead of dangerous trends.

How many patents keep cough medicine  in an unlocked medicine cabinet?  How many wouldn't bat an eyelash if their 16 year old had a cold and self-medicated with cough medicine. Probably most.

Would you provide your child a drug so he/she could experience  visual and auditory hallucinations and out-of-body dissociative sensations? What if that drug also may cause confusion, rapid heart beat, vomiting, dizziness and loss of motor control if misused and taken in excessive doses. 

One in 10 youth ages 12 through 17 reported that they abused OTC cough medicine to get high.... and it's right in your medicine cabinet.

Here's what you need to know to prevent teen cough medicine abuse. It's a quick read, but it could save your teens life. Make this your summer reading assignment, and pass it along to any other parents of teens.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

What's your secret?

Here's a topic I've never written about... happy marriages!

Why not? I can't imagine.  I've been very happily married for over a quarter of a century (yikes, we sound ancient when I word it that way.) My parents' waking hours were devoted to each other until death altered their daily routines. My husband's parents celebrated their golden anniversary and led their lives with the love and devotion to rival any 1950's  family TV show. Many of my friends have been happily married even longer than my hubby and me. I believe in happy marriages, and I've seen many of them.

But, it took reading this delightful advice from a couple celebrating their 70th anniversary for me to realize  it's about time to give happy marriages a moment in the limelight on this blog. Kath and Bill's advice made me smile. It's not really relevant to my relationship (they estimate 25,550; my guy and I have had about 5), but that's the key. Every relationship is different... and every happy couple's secret to success is different.

So what's our secret?

My advice- Accept the person you married for who they are... you're not gonna change them, nor should you. It's funny, the very qualities that made you fall in love with him because he so perfectly complemented you-- are the very same traits that will perplex, challenge and annoy you a few years down the road when infatuation's 'fresh off the shelf' glossiness softens into a patina of familiarity and predictability. It's the same guy. No changing the rules mid-game.

My husband's advice? Start off right; be thoughtful and choose your partner wisely.  Know when to say "yes dear' and leave it at that.

Works for us.

So what's your secret to a happy relationship?

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

All it Takes is a Few Good Men

I just read an interesting op-ed column  in the NY Times by Frank Bruni, Tackling the Roots of Rape, that links the pervasiveness of sexual violence to the messages we give boys about what it means to be a man. Be strong, fight for what you want, don't act like a girl, etc. I think he's right. Those messages do set up a mindset that men can use to justify sexual violence. They also set up a mindset that justifies excusing such behavior as 'boys being boys' grows from pulling ponytails to sexual violence. Those messages are the social norms that become our measure of a man. If we want to eliminate sexual violence we need to change our messaging.

What I think he missed is that while the majority of men have been exposed to these messages, if asked to think about it, don't feel that way. The overwhelming majority respect, value and treat women as equals. The majority of men would be opposed to any acts that degrade, harm or violate women.

If we want to empower men to create change among their peers to eliminate sexual violence, we need to  give them the message that a man stands up for what he believes in and speak out when he sees injustice. Even if his teammate, best friend, co-worker or college pal is the one committing the injustice. We need to practice those words not just when an egregious act is happening, but when we see any injustice.  That's leadership. That's manliness. That's what creates social change. All it takes is a few good men standing up for what's right to turn the tide from the negative messaging. Most men would follow that lead.

Want to know how to do it? Watch this video. It's really this easy!

P.S. The same applies for women. It's just as important that we look, speak up and step up. Think about the negative social messages we inadvertently communicate and speak out.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Drinking, drugs or wife beating... which will it be?

Oh Pete Rose. He should have just left it at 'I screwed up. I should have done better.I should have told the truth.' During a radio chat with John Phillips, Rose was lamenting his compulsion to bet on games that cost him his career. He opined that if he'd picked a better vice... say wife beating... he would have been given a second chance. But gambling- no wiggle room on forgiveness there.

It's  a sad commentary on our social values that assaulting your partner is seen as  a forgivable little vice. Pete, I appreciate your willingness to pass along hard earned lessons about honesty to young athletes, but I think you struck out as a role model once again.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Want to Feel Better Today... Try One of These

Helping others fosters happiness. If you want to be happy, do something to make someone else happy. it's that simple... and the effects are long-lasting. Need some ideas? Here are 25 to get you started.

I have a silly ritual. Whenever I see a penny on the ground, if it's tails up I flip it over and leave it
there. I like to think that the next person who happens by will not only be one cent richer, but their walk will be a bit jauntier because they've found a lucky penny. And because accepting what's given to you with grace is also important, if the penny is head-ups up, it's mine and I say thanks to the universe for offering me a small blessing. Now I don't have any superstitions that a penny wrong side up is bad luck (a penny is a penny); but I like to think that a tiny gesture may bring a smile to someone's face.

Need more reasons to help others? Did you know volunteering is linked to better health, happiness, self-esteem, and even longevity. One in three adults in the US volunteer, giving us one of the world's highest rates of volunteerism. And according to US News and World report, "communities with lots of volunteers are more stable and better places to live, which in turn further boosts volunteerism." . Click on the link to US News to find out how helping others makes us happy.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

It's a National Problem that's Only Getting Worse

It's basic, waking up and knowing nothing bad is going to happen to you.
There is elder abuse occurring in every zip code in the US.
Elder abuse is a national problem that's only going to get worse with the aging of the population.
Those are the opening word of this eye-opening video about elder abuse. As the documentary shows, family members and caregivers are often perpetrators of elder abuse... and the it's often difficult to identify when an elder is being abused. An elder may become a prisoner in their own home... captive and abused or neglected by a child or grandchild.
To identify it, we first need to understand what it is. Watch this video; it's the first step toward ending elder abuse. We owe it to them.

Friday, August 9, 2013

2 Sons Plead Guillty to Murdering their Parents... Within the Same Week

Just one week ago the Saratogian covered the story about a son who bludgeoned his mother... and I remarked we're fortunate these types of crimes are rare in our area. Maybe not as rare as we'd hope... today's Saratogian reports that a son in Rensselaer County pled yesterday guilty to bludgeoning his mother and father.

Any death due to abuse is one death too many. But let's not be complacent about elder abuse until there's a horrific incident like the two that have been adjudicated in the past week. Many more elders live in fear, are neglected, are financially exploited... but we're unaware because their stories do not become headline news.

Earlier this year Leadership Saratoga explored the issue of elder abuse in Saratoga County and launched an initiative to increase public awareness. Click below to hear what Jackie Hakes learned as she participate in the project.

What can you do?
Educate yourself about elder abuse.

Be aware of vulnerable elders in your community. Check in on elder family members and be alert for signs of neglect, financial control, or isolation. Often we assume that as long as there's a family member looking out for them, all is well. It may not occur to us that the family member may be abusing them... but 90% of elders are abused by family members.

Let's also remember that most family members who care for an elder are concerned, kind and supportive; they are doing an act of love. So you can also show your support by offering caregivers respite. Even an hour or two is a welcome break.

In their words. Stories  from elders about how they were abused.

Related Posts:

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Skip the Sale; Don't Buy the Economy Size

Here's a parenting message you may not have heard . 
This information could save a teen's life.

Seasoned hikers know he importance of carrying a light pack. An old hiker's adage is "An ounce on the scale is a pound on the trail." I've known several hikers who've found that that a few pounds and an extra decade or two also take their toll on the joints after a couple of days on the trail. And some of those hikers have ended up in the emergency department with stomach and liver problems from accidently popping too much Tylenol to combat aches  resulting from the nexus of middle age and mountain miles. So I'm well aware that acetaminophen can be dangerous when misused. But until today I thought the risks were from accidental overdose. I never imagined this medicine cabinet staple might be the drug of choice for a suicide attempt.

The Times Union's Claire Hughes, reports that despondent teens often turn to acetaminophen when attempting suicide because it's readily available in sufficient quantities, inexpensive, and  right there in the family medicine cabinet. Her report quotes Dr. Heather Long of Albany Medical Center Hospital, "Acetaminophen is the most frequent pharmacological agent taken in intentional overdoses." 

Desperate actions are sometimes impulsive; don't have supplies on hand, unlocked that could be lethal.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Men's Issue... Women's Issue? Not the Point

Statistics. Sometimes they reveal the truth. Sometimes they obfuscate. Sometimes they're just confusing.  

Over the past few days I've blogged about male domestic violence victims and the unique challenges they face. I've also blogged about domestic homicide. For years domestic violence advocates have stated that domestic violence disproportionately affects women. Some people question that assertion... and cite valid data. In a landmark study, The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, notes that 53% of persons who had experienced physical violence in an intimate relationship were men. Whoa… so is this a women’s issue or a men’s issue?  

The study cautions about making assumptions across groups based on one single data point, because “the contrasts between the experiences of men and women sharpen when we look at the specific forms of IPV, the severity of the physical violence experienced, and the impact of the violence:

·         While 92% of male victims experienced only physical violence, 36% of women experienced more than one form, including 12.5% of female victims who experienced all three (rape, physical violence, and stalking by an intimate partner). 

·         1 in 4 women have been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner, while 1 in 7 men have experienced the same.  

·         1in 6 women have been stalked during their lifetime, compared to 1 in 19 men.  

·         Over 80% of women who reported rape, physical violence, and/ or stalking by an intimate partner also reported one or more negative impacts (e.g., fear, injury, missed school/ work, etc), whereas, about 35% of men who experienced these forms of violence by an intimate reported an impact. 

So severity of abuse and the impact of the violence factor in. Are there gender differences when we look at the issue with these factors in mind? Or as the NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services 2012 reports, of the:
104 female homicide victims 57.7% were domestic homicides, compared to
532 male homicide victims, only 2.6% were attributable to  domestic violence. 

Michael Virtanen of the Chronicle sums it up the report more succinctly, 

“ the person most likely to kill a woman in NYS is
 her partner or ex.” 

So is this a women’s or a men’s issue? That’s not the point.  It’s a social issue that affects us all. There too much relationship abuse, too many victims, and it's not about gender.
No one deserves to be abused.
All victims deserve access to support services.
Let’s work together toward a community free from relationship or sexual abuse... for all people.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Nothing Would Indicate that She Was In Danger

Carol Stanford and Joshua McWain. They took long walks together. He had problems, but she looked after him. She was the mother of this 27 year old man. Some neighbors say they fought; others say they were close.

No one expected that he would bludgeon her to death and bury her body under the shed. That doesn’t happen in Saratoga County. But it did in October 2012. The accused pled guilty last Friday and will be sentenced in September. The murder happened after a fight about chores.

About chores ! Sound unbelievable? According to the NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services, 58% of the 171 domestic homicides in 2011 resulted from an argument.  From the report we also learn that:
· Among all domestic homicides, females accounted for 60.8%  of victims.

· There were 23 elderly victims of domestic homicide, seven were killed by an intimate partner and 16 by other family members.

· The total number of domestic homicides ranged from a low of 131 in 2007 to a high of 171 in 2011

While Saratoga County’s homicide rate is low compared to other counties, we had 2 homicides in 2011, both attributed to domestic violence. 

I was speaking with a friend about a homicide case in an adjacent county. She said, “You talk about domestic violence, but I never imagined it could lead to murder.” Saratoga County District Attorney James A. Murphy III said the evidence against Joshua McWain was overwhelming and he “had some history of violence, but nothing that would indicate his mother was in danger.”  

And that’s the problem. So often we can’t recognize the danger until it’s far too late. Fortunately domestic homicides are not daily headlines in Saratoga County, but they happen.  Often there have been red flags along the way. Sometimes there’s been a long-standing pattern of abuse. Sometimes the homicide happens when the victim tries to leave the relationship. We never know for certain when an abusive relationship will become lethal.   

I recently read a shocking blog. It’s called Intimate Violence Deaths in the News,  and it tells the story of victim after victim who has been murdered by a partner. It’s haunting reading. And I’d bet every community says “we never thought that would happen here.” As I read those stories I’m saddened that we didn’t so something earlier to end relationship abuse before there’s such tragedy.  How can we be so complacent about abuse until it reaches the level of murder? The blog opens with a quote that resonates as you read the stories,

Tolerance becomes a crime when applied to evil
~ Thomas Mann~

Please find out what you can do to help us all to realize the vision of a community without relationship or sexual abuse. Because the unthinkable does happen... even here.

Related posts:

Be  a friend... Help a friend

Monday, August 5, 2013

She's Hitting HIM... What Would You Do?

In the jargon of the domestic violence field it's called bystander accountability, but I think the airlines say it much better, "If you see something- Say Something." When DVRC staff are working with kids in prevention education programs, we teach the importance of being an ally and what that means. It doesn't just mean not committing abusive behaviors, or being there when a friend needs to talk. Sometimes it means making the hard decision to publicly intervene when you see injustice. The kids get it... sometimes more than we adults do.
Have you ever walked by a bad situation and just pretended not to notice even when you could have done something to help? Why? Lots of reasons. I'm not sure what to do. I've never considered this situation and in the moment indecision leads to avoidance. Sometimes my brain's objections override  that feeling in my gut to do something. Typically my brain says something like:

It's not my business. That's a private matter; I shouldn't get involved., or
What if I do something that makes the situation worse, or
You think somebody would say something. I can't imagine why no one is intervening.

You get the idea. I'll admit I'm as guilty as the next person. I'm embarrassed to say it, but if I see injustice, I  sometimes walk on by. Then I'm often haunted by the lingering feeling of failure... failure to do the right thing to help someone in need. Here's an interesting question. Is my willingness to help gender biased? Here's a video that raises the question is justice gender-biased?

It's shocking to watch. Perplexing to hear the rationale. And  something to think about and remember.

Related Posts:
I Need You to Step In  http://maggiefronk.blogspot.com/2013/03/i-need-you-to-step-in.html

Saturday, August 3, 2013

It's the Same Old Domestic Violence ... Or Is It?

The exchange, videotaped on the victim's phone, lasted more than two  minutes. Throughout the incident the victim was yelled at, pummeled, grabbed by the hair and slapped, All the while the victim pleads," Please stop. Stop, you're hurting me. Just let me go home..."

You can picture the scene, can't you? Without knowing more you can fill in the details of that incident...the story is all too familiar. Well, this time there may be some details that you hadn't considered.

Are you surprised that the batterer is an Iraq war veteran? Are you surprised to learn that the batterer is an NFL cheerleader? That's right, in an alcohol-fueled, jealous rage she unceasingly assaults her boyfriend, who eventually calls the police. Was this the scene you pictured?

It's a fact, domestic violence occurs in all types of intimate relationships, and occurs in the same frequency in gay and straight relationships. And even though it challenges our basic understanding of intimate partner violence, in some relationships the abuser is the woman and the victim is a male. Sometimes the abuse is physical, sometimes emotional, psychological, financial or sexual. It's the same dynamic of power and control.

What's different?
Stigma can be an even stronger deterrent to a male victim seeking assistance. It's hard for a male victim to say, "I'm being abused by my girlfriend." Male victims wonder if they'll be believed, or will they get the reaction "You're bigger and stronger than her. How could she hurt you?" For the same reason, they're often afraid to fend off the blows, lest they be accused of being the aggressor. If they call the police will they end up being arrested? Many male victims report they've been told since they were children, "Men don't hit women." They've never been told what to do if they're being hit by a woman...and because it's rarely spoken about they're too embarrassed to ask.

Lack of awareness of resources can prevent men from seeking support services. As domestic violence advocates, we've fallen short on letting male victims know that we can help them (and, in fact, unlike DVRC, some advocacy programs only assist female victims.)

Call it what you will, relationship abuse, power and control, domestic violence. The message is the same. No one deserves to be abused. All relationships should be safe. For men and for women.

At DVRC we say:

  If you're a woman who is a victim of abuse, You are not alone...we can help.

And we also say:

If you're a man who is a victim of abuse, You are not alone...we can help.

Related posts:
For more information about domestic violence

Friday, August 2, 2013

Your Kids Are Watching

Would You Step In?

Cyberbullying, what are these kids thinking?! Where did they learn this? Have they become so focused on their electronic devices that they’ve forgotten manners?The answer might just be closer than we think. We talk about how kids are so attached to their devices that they’re losing the art of person-to-person communication. HMMM... Step away from the Instagram and look in the mirror. Then watch the video at the end of this post.

Several times a week I watch a family of three talking a long walk together. They’ve been doing it for years. I watched them when their son was learning to ride a new bike with training wheels, and still see them now that he’s taller than dad. What a great sight; a family doing things together, exercising out in the great outdoors, planned quality time.  Norman Rockwell , here’s a  true picture of Americana. But something changed over the years. They used to talk and laugh… these days  mom and dad are both occupied on their cell phones and Jr. lopes along behind them, for all practical purposes on a solo walk… every time. What would Norman Rockwell think? Admittedly,  I do it too. I’m in the living room chatting with my son and my cell phone vibrates, and like Pavlov’s dog that sound stops me midsentence and I  pick up the phone.  

We tell our kids bullying is bad. Do they see us watching TV shows where contestants backstab others in the hopes they’ll raise in the ranks? Ever read the comments section after an on-line news article? Different opinions and spirited debate are healthy. But how often do the commenters take cheap personal shots at other commenters? Would they speak to someone so disparagingly in person?  Or does the cover of anonymity give license for sniping and barbed rudeness? High school students attend assemblies where the DA and school officials tell them how a knuckleheaded teenaged decision to send a revealing pic to that special someone can lead to exponential humiliation when that pic is shared electronically… and can lead to criminal charges, and sometimes personal tragedy.   Where do they learn this? Could it be from reading headlines about both local professionals and leaders as well as celebrities who regularly send such pics. Yeesh mom, everybody’s doing it!

How do we teach our kids to do the right thing? The answer is simple… let them see us in action. Schools  and groups like DVRC’s Ballston Area Community Allies have character education programs to teach kids  to step in when they see someone harassing another person …to “Be an Ally”. Be honest… would you step in or would you stand by uncomfortably,  watching silently? Here’s what happened when an undercover camera explored  just that dilemma.