Tuesday, October 21, 2014

This Should Be All Year Long

WOW....it took just 15 minutes for me to be inspired, energized, and  and raring to speed back to my desk and get to work.That's what happened yesterday in Stillwater. Was there a nationally recognized motivational speaker there? NO, but there were 5 professionals I know  well talking about domestic violence. I've heard them all speaking for years, but their words and their vision, mine too, have changed. We weren't talking solely about helping survivors; we were talking about what we need to do to END it.

Since 2003 Sergeant Ray Cordani of the Stillwater Police Department has organized a cell phone drive
during Domestic Violence Awareness Month to provide 911 phones to victims of abuse. With the help of local businesses they've collected more than 4,000 phones that advocates have given to those in need.

With decades of experience in law enforcement, Sergeant Cordani knows the prevalence and effects of domestic violence, "There's rarely a shift we don't respond to a domestic incident." He set the tone for the rest of the speakers with a call to action that was echoed again and again" We need to change the culture to change the behavior." Shifting our thinking,  away from focusing on the individual (either the person who stays or the person who abuses) to looking at why abuse endures in our society-- that's the key to solving it.

With 2 full time attorneys assigned to prosecuting these cases, domestic violence is ever-present in our office" explained Acting District Attorney Karen Heggen, "Domestic violence is not a private issue; it is a community issue." Sheriff Mike Zurlo affirmed his department's commitment to battling domestic violence and protecting victims.

Senator Kathy Marchione, who has championed victim assistance and prevention programs, sounded a poignant call to action,
"We need to speak out with one voice and say No More to domestic violence...
No More...
Never again!"

Ten years ago when I began speaking about setting our sights on ending abuse, over and over again I heard this wasn't a realistic goal. Today affirmed for me that not only do so many others share that vision, but that we're committed to achieving it.

So we collected hundreds of cellphones to help in a crisis, but even more importantly we pledged a commitment to an even bigger goal...ending abuse.

Stillwater Supervisot Ed Kinowski lamented, "When I hear the stories and the statistics, I can't believe it still exists. Domestic violence awareness can't be just one month; it should be all year long." That's a great place to start.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

One is One Too Many

Mayor Yepsen presents Wellspring with resolution proclaiming October DV Awareness Month
Last night I attended the Saratoga Springs City Council meeting. I was invited to speak  for a few minutes about Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  Mayor Yepsen gave some statistics about the frequency of abuse that she deemed shocking:
  •  in the US we average 20 acts of violence per minute
  •  10 million victims each year; and
  • domestic violence accounts for 15% of violent crime.

I provided some local data from Saratoga County:
  • Domestic violence is the #2 violent crime in our county
  • Depending on the year it is either the #1 or #2 cause of homicide, and
  • It is also the primary reason for family homelessness in our county.
The statistics are sobering; the stories behind those statistics are even more concerning, but what I'd like to take away from the conversation is a  statement by Mayor Yepsen that sums up the vision and work of Wellspring, "Even one domestic violence victim is one too many."

We're working to increase awareness, help people in need get services before a crisis, and engaging our community to create social change so that no man, woman, or child lives in fear at home.  You can be part of that change by:
  • Ask Wellspring staff to come and speak at your workplace or community group about our services and how you can be involved
  • Volunteering- We have new volunteer opportunities assisting the agency with outreach and prevention activities
  • Helping us to spread the word- Share interesting articles or talk with friends about why you care about domestic violence.  Silence Hides Violence- let's break the silence.
"Even one domestic violence victim is one too many."
                                    Mayor Joanne Yepsen

Friday, October 3, 2014

Moving Beyond Ray Rice

Domestic violence isn’t going to disappear tomorrow or the next day. But the more that we choose not to talk about it, the more we shy away from the issue, the more we lose.
                                                                                                                       Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks quarterback

I've been wondering how it must feel to be an NFL player these days as public perception of the league is so focused on the actions of a few players. Players, coaches, and owners who do not commit or condone acts of  violence must feel scrutinized and sometimes judged as guilty by association. Today I happened across an article by Russell Wilson; his candor in speaking about his own history and reactions to the recent events gave me some insights into how players are affected by, "To be honest, many NFL players are reluctant to address such a sensitive issue. How do you fix a problem so big and complex? How do you speak about something so damaging and painful to families?"

Some of those sentiments and frustrations echo how advocates have felt for years. At Wellspring, our goal is to end relationship and sexual abuse, but that's a really big goal. How do we even begin? Like all journeys we begin with a plan and taking that first step.

Wilson did the same. He started the Why Not You Foundation and is asking for your support in Passing the Peace by making a $2 contribution to the National Domestic Violence hotline. As Wilson says, "All I can do is my small part. And I invite you to help me."

Thursday, October 2, 2014

I'm Not Wearing Purple Today

Yesterday I was wearing a red blouse and today I'm wearing green & brown. I'm not a celebrity and generally no one pays any attention to my fashion (I'm not even sure that looking in my closet the word 'fashion' come to mind). But my wardrobe has been a topic of conversation. "Maggie you're not wearing purple? It's October. It's Domestic Violence Awareness Month!" In the past I wore purple every day in October  and encouraged others to do so also to bring attention to DV Awareness Month... and I guess it worked as people remember. But this year I've decided wearing purple to bring about awareness isn't enough so I'm changing the game (and the wardrobe choices.)

I'd  like to ask people to take action against relationship and sexual abuse: start a conversation, educate yourself or ask Wellspring to bring a program to your workplace or community group, forward an article or a blog post that you find interesting.

Need some ideas? Here's a few:
... and if wearing purple helps start conversations, go ahead and take the purple clothes off the hangers.