Monday, December 28, 2015

It Just Takes One Person to Light that Candle

Back to work today, still coated with the sparkling glitter of a family Christmas, I opened my e-mail and a friend had sent me an article he read about child abuse. His comments piqued my interest, "... a truly incredible story... his thoughts on courage towards the end of the article are inspiring." I thought, maybe this will be a good blog post, let's see.  Within a nanosecond of reading Black and Blue, and the opening words, "My father used to beat the shit out of me," that holiday glitter tarnished instantaneously and I nixed the idea of this as my first post-holiday blog entry.
So why just hours after returning to work from a holiday weekend am I writing about National Hockey League's Patrick Sullivan's account of his abusive childhood? Because unlike Norman Rockwell's depictions of holidays forever memorialized in 2D with with abundant feasts, loving families, and magical wonder, many of our favorite holiday stories are indeed stories of transcendence from challenges, deprivation or even evil. The true glitter of our holiday season comes from light... a light that shines from within and radiates outward.  For centuries religious traditions have glorified that light in their teaching:
  • the star of Bethlehem, leading the wise men to a savior
  • the sacred oil that miraculously burned for not one night but eight, providing hope in a time of darkness and persecution
  • the light of the new moon signaling the start of Ramadan and a commitment to self sacrifice, purification and good acts, and  
  •   a more recent addition, Kwanzaa, to celebrate the strengths,  values and heritage of people for whom community was ripped apart due to slavery and for whom safety and equality are still a daily struggle. 
Hollywood and Hallmark have managed to morph the resonant Halleluiahs  into a more enjoyable Hootenanny, but like Rudolph's blinking beacon the stories that resonate with us often explore the struggle between the darkness we all see daily and the possibility of light entering and transforming that darkness:
  • Charlie Brown (struggling for acceptance)
  • Rudolph (bullying and ostracism)
  • Miracle on 34th Street (depression, suicide), and
  • The Grinch (greed, jealously, vengeance).
So back to Patrick Sullivan and child abuse... and how in the world the story of a small child struggling desperately to be good enough, not to earn his father's love, but rather good enough to be momentarily spared from a beating at the end of the day that connects to my post holiday glow and the work of Wellspring. Sullivan's message is not for the people who are like his father- they're too far gone. His message is for the parents sitting next to him in the bleachers, for the neighbors who worry about what they hear, for the family member who wishes things were different; his message is for you and for me, and for all of us who are standing in the parking lot and can't find the courage to say something. He's telling us it's ok to make a sound. And if we do, we too may find that our small quivering voice will be joined by others resonating throughout Whoville with  true light. I recently read a quote from a security consultant who formerly worked in law enforcement and the Secret Service, "You don't rise to the occasion; you sink to your level of training." he was talking about violent intruder situations, but I think his observation holds equally true as we're watching our kid's hockey practice. I imagine Sullivan at 5 years old wearing his first pair of hockey skates. Now I'd like to imagine how different his life would have been if someone- anyone- would have spoken up. Read his story, imagine what you wish someone would have  done. And maybe when the chance presents itself you or I will be ready with a better response.

Wellspring provides prevention education to approximately 6,000 youth and adults each year. A core value in our prevention education is empowering bystanders to take action  to intervene when they see a situation, but also to create social change to end relationship and sexual abuse. If you're interested in learning more about how you can bring these no-cost, interactive programs to your youth group, faith organization, workplace or other group give us a call at 518-583-0280.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

That's Not Love

I'm often asked, "Why do people stay in abusive relationships?" The simple answer is that if the coercive control was apparent from the first date, they wouldn't. Instead the power and control sneaks up insidiously. Sometimes it even creeps in disguised as love, rescue, devotion, or praise. Only later in the relationship does the target of the abuse get a sense that something isn't right. By then they're often deeply into the relationship-- maybe fearful of what would happen if they left, maybe embarrassed that they're being abused.  While physivcal absue is easier to identify It can be hard to explain the slippery slope of emotional abuse, but One Love's #That'sNotLove campaign has a series of short videos that show us how that 'wonderful relationship' can quickly slide into abuse.

Watch the videos so you'll recognize the early signs... that way you'll be able to help someone before things get worse.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Meathead Movers- Inspiring Others to End Domestic Violence

I'm overdue for posting a 'Good Newsday Tuesday' blog post, so here's a moving story (dreadful pun intended)  to highlight the good being done in the world. When they were just starting their business (charging $20 and a pizza), the owners of Meathead Movers would drop everything and help domestic violence victims move their belongings so they could be free of abuse. Eighteen years later, and with more sophistication (they involve the local domestic violence agency to provide safety planning and support) they're still helping families break free from abuse.

And they're inspiring others to do the same They've launched #MovetoEndDV to inspire businesses to offer their services (e.g., haircuts, dog boarding, oil changes, security systems) at no cost to help domestic violence survivors. What I love about this concept is;
  •  Businesses don't have to do special collections. They are simply providing their skills and expertise- what they do best- to someone who desperately needs this assistance
  • Domestic violence agencies can provide their client with  the donated service when it's needed. So many nonprofits struggle with donation management. For example, we ask for a specific donation, e.g., winter boots, because we've had people who have needed them recently and we didn't have them. Our generous caring community responds with loads of winter boot donations... and no one who comes to us needs winter boots for the rest of the season. But we've got several people who need food... or help putting gas in the car so they can get to their new job... or a cell phone because their partner purposely broke theirs.
Offering to provide a specific service when it's needed or providing gift cards that we can give to our clients to help them through times, affords agencies the flexibility to provide help how and when it's most needed.

People often comment to me that it must be so depressing working at an agency that assists with such traumatic issues as relationship and sexual abuse. It's true that each day we encounter some of the worst examples of humanity. But not a day goes by that we don't experience caring, compassion, and generosity. So we also see the very best of humanity... people giving selflessly to help others achieve a better life. So to all of you who champion our vision to end relationship and sexual abuse, thank you.

Friday, December 4, 2015

100 Years Have Changed How We Respond

Reading the '100 Years Ago' section in today's Saratogian, I was struck by how little some things change. Referring to a social issue in Mechanicville the article states, "The hobo problem is becoming serious in the city... Last month 111 'Knights of the Road" were lodged at the local jail, released in the morning and ushered out of town." As I read other articles in the Saratogian, Racino Helps Out Local Program and Saratoga Business Journal, Shelters Of Saratoga Gears Up Its 'Code Blue' Program and Has New Plans In Coming Year, I was struck by how much our response has shifted from a punitive response to trying to provide compassionate intervention to help people overcome challenges and get back on track. 

codebluelogo2Mike Finocchi, the executive director of Shelters of Saratoga, who oversees Code Blue, the homeless shelter, the  adult and youth drop in program and street outreach program, explained that  homeless people are a tight knit group who look out for each other and recommend Code Blue to their peers when the temperature drops,  "No one wants to see someone they know freezing to death." It's not just homeless persons looking out for each other. In Saratoga, I think we can change that sentence to "No one wants to see anyone freezing to death." We remember that Code Blue started with a tragic death on a cold December night. Code Blue would not exist without the immense community support: donations from local restaurants to provide meals, community volunteers staffing the shelter throughout the many cold nights over the past 2 winters, businesses like Cudney's donating services, the generosity of the Salvation Army providing space for Code Blue, as well as generous financial contributions that sustain this humanitarian intervention.

Reading the '100 Years Ago' article I realized some things haven't changed. There were people struggling with homelessness then and there are now too. But today the police don't lock them up and then put them on a rail out of town. Today they bring them to Code Blue, where they are treated with dignity and offered  not just a hot meal and safe night's sleep, but the resources and assistance to overcome their current challenges.

                Interested in volunteering for Code Blue? 
Click here for more information

Monday, November 30, 2015

Tuesday is the Day for Giving

So the turkey leftovers are all gone. Hopefully between Black Friday and Small Business Saturday, you've gotten a start on your holiday shopping.  And if you're like me and prefer to skip the crowds, today's the day to sit on the couch and take advantage of the Cyber Monday deals; then wait for the packages to arrive on the porch in a few days. 
But before you put the list away, there's one more important item. Don't forget about #GivingTuesday, a global day dedicated to giving. So think about the causes you care about. While you’re making the season brighter for friends and family, you can also make an impact by supporting the nonprofit agencies dedicated to that cause. While you may not get the immediate thrill of seeing joy on someone’s face after they tear off the wrapping paper, you’ll know that you’ve made a difference. 
If  you’re interested in helping to address Saratoga County’s the #2 violent  crime, #1 cause of family homelessness, and top cause of homicide,  might I suggest a donation to Wellspring. 
  • $20 provides taxi fare for a domestic violence victim to get to court 
  • $50 helps a family with their first week of groceries as they move into a violence-free home 
  • $200 provides legal advocacy so a domestic violence victim can access an order of protection, and  
  • $500 provides 3 days of prevention programs in a local high school reducing the incidence of dating violence and sexual assault for our youth.  
Click here to make a one-time or a recurring donation to Wellspring.

Whether you care about saving the manatees, bringing music to disadvantaged neighborhoods, or ending relationship and sexual abuse, thanks for caring and sharing this holiday season by supporting your favorite charity.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Orange is the New Purple?

In the past, I've asked you to wear purple during October (Domestic Violence Awareness Month), teal in April (Sexual Assault Awareness Month) and denim on Denim Day. I  hope you've got a rainbow of colors in your closet because tomorrow I'm suggesting you wear orange. Why? In 1999, the United Nations' General Assembly   declared November 25th as the International Day for the Awareness of Violence Against Women. Here's why:

  • 35% of women and girls globally experience some form of physical and or sexual violence in their lifetime with up to seven in ten women facing this abuse in some countries.

  • An estimated 133 million girls and women have experienced some form of female genital mutilation/cutting in the 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East where the harmful practice is most common.

  • Worldwide, more than 700 million women alive today were married as children, 250 million of whom were married before the age of 15. Girls who marry before the age of 18 are less likely to complete their education and more likely to experience domestic violence and complications in childbirth.

  • The costs and consequence of violence against women last for generations.

  • As I'm thinking of all the things in my life to be thankful for, I'm glad I live in the US. While we certainly have problems with gender based violence, the magnitude pales in comparison to other parts of the world. Want to learn more? Take a moment to view this infographic about worldwide violence against women.

    Join me tomorrow in raising awareness so we can achieve peace and equality for women worldwide.

    Wednesday, November 18, 2015


    Imagine what it feels like to not trust that your thoughts, observations and recollections of events are true. Imagine the embarrassment of having a loved one regularly correct what you say explaining what really happened.

    Now imagine that the trusted loved one is deliberately manipulating the truth to cause you doubt, psychological dissonance... and to control you. That's gaslighting... and it's a common form of psychological control used in abusive relationships. To learn more about gaslighting click here.

    Alone,  gaslighting itself is damaging, destructive and frightening, but it rarely occurs as a sole abuse tactic. Often it's combined with social isolation, where the abuser gradually and insidiously decimates his/her partner's social support system.  Sometimes this is subtle;
    " Let's not go out; when I'm not at work I just want to be with you... no one else." or
    "Are you going out with friends again; what about me?"
    Gradually it may become more insistent,
    "Your sister keeps trying to come between us; I don't like it when you spend time with her." 
    Sometimes, the abuser may physically separate his/her partner from social supports, e.g., by taking a job and moving the family to a distant location and limiting contact with friends or family.

    When gaslighting is combined with social isolation the domestic violence victim's world may shrink down to only the input of his/her abusive partner. Without others to provide feedback, the abuser's voice becomes the only source of feedback... and as he/she regularly denies and contradicts their reality, the victim starts to question every thought. This psychological abuse doesn't happen overnight, but over time becomes absolutely crippling as every thought, decision or action is questioned.

    Often people think of domestic violence as physical abuse. The 'black eye poster', the dramatic movie with a terribly bruised woman, and yes, even the recent elevator video... these are the images that inform our concept of domestic violence. In the absence of physical abuse, victims often minimize the abuse. So even though we understand that domestic violence also includes emotional and psychological abuse, social isolation, economic abuse and sexual abuse, too often when physical abuse is lacking we fail to identify domestic violence... and fail to seek help.
    If you or someone you know experiences any form of abusive power and control, call us...we can help.

    24 hour hotline 518-584-8188
    Office 518-583-0280

    Saturday, October 31, 2015

    Even Green Became Purple this October

    Karen Totino, of Green Conscience,
     presents Maggie Fronk with pillows for the shelter
    Karen Totino's not letting the awareness stop just because October has ended. For the next year!... she's providing each of Wellspring's emergency shelter guests with his/her own Savvy rest pillow to use while in shelter and take with them when they leave. On October 22nd she hosted an awareness event. Approximately 25 community members joined the event in support of the Safe Sleep program... and engaged in a passionate and thoughtful conversation about each of us can work to end domestic violence.
    Asked about the Safe Sleep collaboration with Wellspring, Karen said, “I am excited to partner with my clients and Wellspring to offer something that is needed.To even bring a small comfort to those receiving our products gives me a reward no money can buy.”
    Stop in to Green Conscience to learn more about the program. And while you're there check out their organic, chemical-free mattresses, pillows and linens. Perhaps it's time to treat yourself to a better night's sleep too!

    Friday, October 30, 2015

    Looking Back on October

    While Domestic Violence Awareness Month hasn't ended yet, I thought I'd take the next few days to look back at how our  community members joined with us to increase awareness about domestic violence and to support Wellspring's work. Domestic violence advocacy is serious work, but we also managed  to have quite a few smiles throughout the month.

    As always we launched DV Awareness Month with our annual Pooch Parade. People are often shocked to learn that pets can be impacted by abuse in the home, either through neglect or  violence launched directly at the pet or through coercion, i.e., threats to harm the pet used as a means to control the victim. 
    Assemblyman Tedisco and Gracie
    enjoy a quick break by the duck pond
    before the start of the Pooch Parade
    Wellspring's Safe Pet Partnership offers vet care and temporary foster homes to keep pets safe while the family finds safety and support. Our foster families  realize how hard it is to place a furry (or feathered or finned) family member with a stranger, even if only temporarily... you can tell how much they love pets when they tell us stories about the pet.

    Assemblyman Tedisco and His pooch Gracie, both tireless advocates for animal rights, joined us for the Pooch Parade and presented Wellspring a citation recognizing the agency's 30+ years of service to the community and our Safe Pet Partnership's impact in reducing cruelty to pets in homes with domestic violence.

    As you can see, they weren't  alone in wishing for an end to domestic violence against all famil membes. 

    Add Gayle LeSalle and Maestro, representing
    the Saratoga Spring's Mayor's office,
    discuss the importance of services ot help all domestic violence victims

    Maibeth Wallingford DVM,
    coordinated this year's Pooch Parade

    Loretta Somerville delivered a blessing
    to all the pets who so our lives.

    Pooches impressed us with their skill so the agility ocurse

    Wednesday, October 28, 2015

    Saratogians Sounding Off about Affordable Housing

    Reading some the Saratogian's Sound Off  comments over the past month, it's clear the issue of affordable housing is ever-present in peoples' minds. Here are some of the comments from Saratogian readers in the past month: 
    Am I the only one who remembers that the Bonacio Apartments at 2 West Avenue were supposed to be for seniors and affordable? They’re not affordable apartments. 700 sq. feet for $1,300 a month.

    To the person who said you shouldn’t live in Saratoga Springs if you can’t afford to live there, some people have lived there all their lives, but their lifestyle changes and they need subsidized or low-income housing. They worked their all their lives, so that’s not the answer.

    Wow. To the nasty caller who says we don’t need low-income or subsidized housing in Saratoga because it’s a beautiful city, and that if you can’t afford it you shouldn’t live here. Really? Well, Saratogians could afford it before all the rich people decided to move here and housing prices escalated. I refuse to move from my hometown, so get used to it.

    I guess a lot of people thought that the apartments on West Avenue were going to be for lower income housing, under $1,000. We don’t have enough places for seniors to live in Saratoga, or for the common everyday working person. If you’re not a professional you can’t afford to live in Saratoga and they can’t afford to drive long distances. So there should be some more subsidized and low-income housing.

    I was just wondering. They have built so many hotels, they’re building more stores all around, but did they ever of building anything for senior citizens? A nice little building for us would be perfect. We would have all the stores, we’d have the Northway close to us. It’d be perfect, but they just want to build high-rises, and we can’t afford that. Just a short not so maybe somebody might think of us once in a while.

    Some of the people struggling with  housing costs in these comments were; seniors, long term residents of the city, and everyday workers. What wasn't mentioned in these comments was the population that represents the largest segment of family homelessness-- domestic violence survivors. Wellspring can help with that. Our NewView Housing program provides subsidized rent and in-home support services for individuals and families that flee abuse with no other options for safe housing. Last year alone, because of the NewView program 51 adults and children with 10,750 nights of safe slumber in their own apartment free from domestic violence. But even though we have the money to provide rent subsidies and the staff to provide support services, Wellspring struggles to place people in apartments simply because we lack enough affordable rental units in Saratoga County, especially family-sized units that are accessible by public transportation.

    Communities thrive when there are adequate and affordable resources to meet the needs of all people, seniors, veterans, families, and the local workforce. I look forward to the day when our planning process includes mixed use housing  and opportunities for affordable housing for all our citizens.

    Tuesday, October 27, 2015

    This Thursday... tickets selling fast

    Fashion show, shopping, chair massages, makeup application, hair consultations, wonderful hors d'oeuvres... and a night out with your girlfriends. What more could you want?

    Monday, October 26, 2015

    You Can Call Us Too

    In last Friday's Saratoga, the advice column, Annie's Mailbox, responded to a questions I'm asked about often... what to do when a friend is in an abusive relationship.

    Dear Annie: Two nights ago, I witnessed my best friend being verbally abused by her boyfriend. The boyfriend was drunk and probably doing something illegal.
    I listened to him yell at her on the phone all night while we were supposed to be spending time together for her birthday. It was 3 a.m., and he was demanding that I pick him up on my way to take her home. I told him no, because I didn't want him being drunk and possibly violent in my car.
    I let my friend know that she can call me if she needs anything, and dropped her off at their house. Although I'm sure her boyfriend will eventually get himself arrested for violating his probation, I feel it is up to me to report him. But if I do, I will lose her friendship. Should I turn him in for the sake of my friend's safety or mind my own business? — Unsure in Ohio
    Dear Unsure: We aren't certain what this man was doing that violated his probation. Yelling at his girlfriend isn't enough to warrant a report, unless there is a restraining order preventing him from phoning her. Does his probation state that he cannot drink? If so, you should report him and let the chips fall. But a suspicion that he might have been doing something illegal is not sufficient, and the police likely would not pick him up for that unless you could provide proof. And without any evidence, he could accuse you of harassment.
    Please be careful. This guy sounds like a loose cannon. Your friend should call the National Domestic Violence Hotline (thehotline.org) at 1-800-799-SAFE and ask for help.

    While I agree with their answer in that the friend is in an abusive relationship and should seek help, I'm also aware that often the victim doesn't seek help right away and the friend is then left worried,  sometimes frustrated, often fearful for their friend, but sometimes also fearful for their own safety and that of their family if their choices to help their loved one flag the ire of the abuser... and most often...wanting to help but not knowing what's the right thing to do. It's such an uncomfortable place to be, as you are indirectly exposed to the trauma the domestic violence victim is facing, but don't have control over the choices that are made. There's even a  term for anyone in the position of having someone they care about, a son or daughter, relative, friend, employee or neighbor; they're referred to as secondary victims.

    Wellspring offers services to help secondary victims. To help them understand the dynamics of abuse. To help them talk about how to support their loved one. To help them be mindful of their own safety and how to set loving boundaries. To help them be compassionate and supportive, yet safe. Like all of Wellspring's services, these services are free and totally confidential.
    If you, or someone you know is experiencing an abusive relationship, call us.
    We can help.
    During business hours call 518-583-0280
    or call or Wellspring's 24 hour hotline at 518-584-8188

    Friday, October 23, 2015

    "What is good for women is good for New York"

    Beverly Neufeld, President of PowHer New York said it best, "New York women have new tools needed to fight discrimination and combat obstacles to personal and economic security. This historic accomplishment also spotlights that what is good for women is good for New York.” She was referring to  the historic Equality Act Legislation.
    In a major show of support for Domestic Violence Awareness Month, earlier this week Governor Cuomo signed into legislation new laws designed to protect and promote women's equality. These laws will help achieve pay equity, strengthen human trafficking laws and protections for domestic violence victims and end pregnancy discrimination in all workplaces. These laws support basic needs and protect fundamental rights such as: equal pay, fair housing, accommodations during pregnancy, reproductive rights, and freedom from sexual harassment in the workplace.  "Many women’s lives and financial livelihoods depend on the passage of these bills." Senator David J. Valesky

    For many domestic violence victims the  biggest obstacle to breaking free of abuse is economic stability; they're afraid that they will be unable to put a roof overhead, food on the table and provide medical care for the kids if they leave the abuse... and are even more afraid that they might lose custody of their kids because they lack these resources. Poverty doesn't cause domestic violence (dv affects all socioeconomic groups) but there's a correlation. An Allstate Foundation study concluded that 50% of women participating in TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) had experienced domestic violence – more than double the percentage in the general population. Abusers use financial control (including preventing or interfering with their partner maintaining employment) to promote dependence. Economic stability is essential to reducing domestic violence... and since domestic violence disproportionately affects women, laws to promote pay equity and end workforce discrimination are key to reducing abuse.

    Gary Dake, CEO, Stewarts Shop, said, "As a family and employee owned company we know the importance of long term relationships. Discrimination or exploitation are in direct opposition to the principles of long term strength and stability. Our work force is about two-thirds female and the stronger that group is, the stronger the company as a whole is."

    Locally Soroptimist International of Saratoga County, an international women's service organization dedicated to improving the lives of women and girls, advocates nationally and globally for women's rights and equality...but they also roll up their sleeves to actively work for these goals here in Saratoga County through Project Hope and Power, a financial literacy program to help women attain economic stability. Now in its 11th year, Project Hope and Power has helped more than 500 women become more financially knowledgeable and self-sustaining... and in the process they've helped those same women reduce their risk of domestic violence. In the words of  the women who attend the class:
    ”Hope and Power has given me the strength and, as the name implies, hope for my future"

    As a result of taking this class, I plan to be more confident in myself and always remember that I’m not alone.  I will get stronger as the weeks go by, emotionally and physically.  Nothing will ever stop me again.  No one person will ever bring me down again.”

    Local Soroptimist members attend a training to facilitate Project Hope and Power financial literacy classes


    Wednesday, October 21, 2015

    Creating change while curled up on the couch

    People often say to me, "I want to be more involved in Wellspring's mission, but I'm not sure I want to volunteer for a hotline." There are myriad ways to  help and you'd be surprised how easy they are.

    As the nights get colder it's the perfect time to curl up under a blanket with a cup of tea and a good book. How about reading about intimate partner violence to increase your understanding? Sound intimidating... boring... academic? You'd be surprised the array of really great reads, ranging from fiction, to autobiography, poetry, feminism, and inspirational books.

    Once you're done you'll be more aware and have a great conversation starter. Better yet, start the conversation. Do you belong to a book club? Perhaps your book club could choose this topic for their next book choice.

    If you're wondering what to read, just stop in to Northshire Books. In recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, they created a display with suggested titles. Just look in the self-help section. They said these books have been flying off the shelves, so start a conversation about the book you're reading-- there's a good chance the person you speak with has been reading about the topic too. 

    And as you're curled up on the couch reading might I suggest a nice cup of tea with a touch of chocolate honey from Saratoga Tea and Honey (I like my Golden Retriever, Andy,  snuggled up next to me too). Here's a suggested reading list to get you started;

    Black and Blue: A Novel, by Anna Quindlen
    The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
    Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe: A Novel, by Fannie Flagg
    Secrets of Eden: A Novel, by Chris Bohjalian
    Vinegar Hill (P.S.), by A. Manette Ansay
    Crazy Love, by Leslie Morgan Steiner
    A Natural Woman, by Carole King
    The Woman Who Walked Into Doors, by Roddy Doyle
    Torn From the Inside Out, by Josephine Thompson
    The Burning Bed, by Faith McNulty
    I Closed My Eyes: Revelations of a Battered Woman, by Michele Weldon
    I, Tina, by Tina Turner
    The Gift of Fear, by Gavin De Becker
    Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men, by Lundy Bancroft
    Next Time She’ll Be Dead: Battering and How to Stop It, by Ann Jones
    The Stalking of Kristin: A Father Investigates the Murder of his Daughter, by George Lardner

    Tuesday, October 20, 2015

    Here's What To Say This Thursday

    I started the month talking about domestic violence awareness being about more than wearing purple. But if, like me, you've collected a lot of purple items in your closet here's the opportunity to show them off. According to the National Network to End Domestic Violence, this Thursday is Purple Thursday. So don that purple... but don't stop there. Tell people why you're wearing purple and take a moment to educate them about domestic violence. Wondering what to say? Here's a few conversation starters:

    Domestic violence is the #2 violent crime in Saratoga County.
    1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men are victims of domestic violence in their lifetime.
    We often think of domestic violence as physical abuse, but domestic violence is more complex. It's a pattern of power and control that can involve emotional and psychological abuse, threats and intimidation, financial control, social isolation, and sexual victimization.

    And the most important talking point. Help is available. If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, call Wellspring, we can help. All our services are free and confidential.
    During business hours call 518-583-0280
    or call our 24 our hotline at 518-584-8188 

    Thursday, October 15, 2015

    Peaceful Dreams

    We all know what it feels like to awaken relaxed and refreshed  after a good night's sleep.  And we all also know what it's  like to spend a night tossing, turning, worrying and morning finds us exhausted and overwhelmed.  I wonder how many of us know what it's  like to lie awake at night in fear?

    When domestic  violence  survivors  enter shelter, they still have many worries  that keep them awake at night... but many say to us it's  the first time in a long time they could  sleep  without fears  for their  own and their children's  safety.

    Karen Totino, owner of Green Conscience, understands the value of a safe home and those peaceful dreams and is committed to raising awareness about domestic violence and supporting survivors. In August of this year she announced that for every bed sold by Green Conscience she would donate two pillows to Wellspring's domestic violence shelter. “I am excited to partner with my clients and Wellspring to offer something that is needed,” Totino said, adding, “It is not uncommon for the victims to come to the shelter with nothing but the clothes on their backs. It is our goal to give every person who takes residence at the shelter their own pillow to keep and take with them. .To even bring a small comfort to those receiving our products gives me a reward no money can buy.”

    Join Green Conscience and Wellspring on October 22  for mixer, which will be held at Green Conscience,  to celebrate the launch of the Safe Sleep program.  Pillows will be available for purchase both at the mixer and throughout the year going forward. Anyone in the Saratoga Springs community who isn't in the market for a bed, but wishes to support the partnership and the efforts of Wellspring can do so by purchasing a pillow for donation for a cost of $25.

    Saturday, October 10, 2015

    An Unrecognized Risk

    Today I was reading a story about a tragic domestic homicide in Ohio. What struck me is what's all too common--this looked like the perfect family from the outside. Even the victim's sisters weren't aware of the extent of the abuse. Often we think that the telltale signs of abuse will be all too evident; black eyes, anxiety, depression. Monica Weber-Jeter's story artfully illustrates how violence rages unseen and unheard behind closed doors.
    Even though police were aware of a long pattern of verbal altercations, because Ohio does not recognize strangulation as a felony level offense they missed a critical indicator of lethality risk. Abusers frequently put hands on a victim's neck. It's a terrifying feeling, but  this risk is often minimized. Gael Strack, a national strangulation expert, challenges this minimization, "The minute you put pressure on someone's neck, you are announcing you are a killer." 
    New Your State has laws against criminal obstruction of breathing and strangulation. Since these laws were enacted, the severity... and prevalence... of this form of abuse is increasingly recognized.
    If you, or someone you know, has a partner who  uses breathing obstruction as a form of abuse, talk to an advocate now. This form of abuse can cause irreversible brain trauma in less than a minute. Longer can result in death.
    Monica Weber-Jeter's neighbors probably never for a moment imagined that a killer lived in her home... nor did she.

    Wednesday, October 7, 2015

    Saratoga County, Say " I Care"

    Do you care about domestic violence?

    Few people would say, "No I don't care." or even "I don't have any opinion about it."  Some might say, "I don't know anyone who has experienced domestic violence." Surprisingly, time and time again people have told me that once they started talking about the issue, they were surprised how many people they knew who had experienced relationship abuse.

    I've recently come across an awareness campaign in Vermont, #Icare, where people post their reasons why they care about domestic and sexual violence.

    Here are just a few examples from our neighbors in Vermont.
    "I care because even one victim of domestic or sexual violence is  one too many."
    "I care because I want my daughter to grow up in a world where she feels safe and respected." 
    "I care because domestic and sexual violence affects entire communities."

    Our reasons for caring can be so very different. They may be intensely personal, other times professional, e.g. police officers who see these situations daily, and sometimes more global concerns for social justice or gender based equality.

    Domestic violence thrives in silence and darkness. Victims or survivors of abuse, often aren't able to speak out about how the abuse affected them. Perhaps speaking out could be dangerous. Perhaps speaking out about what an abuser did to them could harm their children if that abuser also was called Daddy or Mommy. Solving  domestic violence isn't the responsibility of those who have experienced abuse; it rests with all of us.  Together we can end domestic violence, but first we need to know why this is so important. Do you care? If so, speak out. Visit the "I Care" post on Wellspring's facebook page. It takes just a few seconds to break the silence. Say "I care."


    Tuesday, October 6, 2015

    It Takes Just Seconds

    I often think about causes and wish I had the time to assist. In fact, it's often easier to help out than I imagine. For Domestic Violence Awareness Month, many community partners are helping us to promote awareness in simple but effective ways. For example law enforcement agencies, including the Saratoga Springs Police Department, NYS Police, Saratoga County Sheriff, and Stillwater Police Department are promoting awareness by placing domestic violence awareness car magnets on their vehicles.
    Saratoga Springs Police Department and Wellspring advocates collaborate to raise awareness
    They've been doing it for several years now. When they first partnered with us, I was surprised by how many community members were impressed when they saw the ribbons on the police cars.
    I heard from many clients of Wellspring that just by seeing the awareness ribbons on police cars they felt more reassured that if they called the police these officers would understand and help them. Wow. It takes just a few seconds to put a ribbon on a car, but that small gesture speaks volumes about their commitment and professionalism.

    Monday, October 5, 2015

    It's About More Than Wearing Purple

    Many of you recall that Domestic Violence Awareness Month has often been recognized by individuals and groups (including me) wearing purple to show that they care about this cause. I'm wearing less purple this month and instead am talking to people about taking action to raise awareness. Although because of  past awareness months, my closet resonates with purple, I'd much rather see people:
    • talking to their children during dinner about healthy and abusive relationships
    • learning about less obvious forms of power and control, so they can recognize abuse that isn't physical, or
    • bringing Wellspring's Workplace Domestic Violence Toolkit to their business so managers and supervisors are better informed about how the workplace can be impacted when abuse leaves home and comes to work. 
    Today I spoke with Jesse Jackson of LookTV about being active in raising awareness this October. Jesse summed up the conversation quite memorably, "Do something". Click here to watch the video of our conversation.

    So this October, wear purple if you'd like, but take action too.

    Friday, October 2, 2015

    Putting Awareness to Work

    I often laugh that I can't keep up with all the days of recognition, "Today was National Bacon Day... Hug a Kitten Day...Organize Your Closet Day". I usually find out about these days of recognition, after the fact. You'd think it would be easier to keep up with the recognition months and their associated colors. Not always. In addition to being Breast Cancer Awareness Month (pink ribbons) and Domestic Violence Awareness Month (purple ribbons), October is also the month dedicated to awareness of: Physical Therapy , Eczema, Alzheimer's, Black History, Bullying Prevention, Cybersecurity, Disability Employment, Fire Prevention, Information Literacy, Italian American Heritage, Hispanic Heritage, Work and Family, Polish American Heritage, LGBTQ History, Raynaud's Awareness', Down Syndrome, Infant Loss and Miscarriage, Dwarfism,  Energy Awareness. Every one of these things is important and can be life-defining, but with such a  dizzying array does awareness become meaningless?

    I don't think so. I know
    that as someone sees an article about domestic violence, or an awareness ribbon on a car that he/she will realize they're not alone and may reach out for help. Just picking up the phone is the first step to changing their life (and perhaps even saving their life). I know that as we talk to a community group about our mission, someone will gain a better understanding of the obstacles to leaving abuse. Domestic violence is a silent and mostly invisible epidemic in our country.

    Throughout the month, I'll be offering ways you can raise awareness, highlighting innovative partnerships, and discussing domestic violence in more depth to increase understanding .  Domestic violence advocates alone cannot end domestic violence. We need our whole community supporting us in that mission, not just in October, but throughout the year... but October is a good place to start. So learn about domestic violence, talk about it, notice it... awareness is the first step to ending it.

    Thursday, October 1, 2015

    Are You Aware?

    October 1st is the start of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Some may ask why we need a month to raise awareness of domestic violence. We’ve all heard of it, right? Yes… and no. Most people in Saratoga County aren’t aware that domestic violence is the #2 violent crime in our county. Most aren’t aware that domestic violence in the primary cause of family homelessness. And people are continually shocked to learn that domestic violence is a primary cause of homicide in Saratoga County (in fact 100% of homicides from 2010-2013 were due to domestic violence).
    "[Wellspring’s] services made me realize that although things are rough, you do what’s best for your children and everything works out. DV counseling and shelter saved my life and my children."

    Many people continue to think of domestic violence as primarily physical abuse. Often a caller to our hotline will start with, “A friend told me to call, but I’m not sure I should be calling you… I’ve never been hit.” In fact, many highly abusive relationships may have little or no physical abuse. However, living each day with psychological abuse, financial control, social isolation, threats and intimidation or sexual victimization can be far more devastating than the black eye we so often see on a poster about domestic violence. learn more about the various forms of domestic violence.

    Most people are surprised to hear about the prevalence of domestic violence. During their lifetime,  1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men are affected by domestic violence. Wellspring's hotline responds to an average of 1,400 calls/year and we assist ~1,000 survivors of abuse each year with free and confidential services ranging from legal advocacy, counseling and crisis intervention, to employment assistance, financial literacy, case management, a Safe Pet program and even a supportive housing program.   Sometimes the biggest barriers to leaving abuse involve fears about being able to provide food on the table and a roof overhead for the family. Wellspring helps people overcome these barriers so they can live free from fear… but also have housing and economic stability.  

    [Wellspring] supported me and helped me when I was going through a very tough moment in my life. They were there for me when I needed someone to talk, to advise me how to get help, supporting me during the court days.

    The staff were also always nice and helpful with my son. They made our stay as easy as possible. They supported us with summer camp for day care when I could not afford it so I could keep working. 

    When someone is living in an abusive home, it can be hard to imagine how to break free. It can be hard to believe that life can be different. Each day we see the courage and strength… and relief… as we work with survivors to create a new future.
    If you or someone you know has experienced an abusive relationship, you are not alone. Call our hotline at 518.584.8188.
    For more information about Wellspring's services visit www.wellspringcares.org 

    Friday, September 18, 2015

    Paws for Peace

    This is my loveable boy Andy. He's hoping you and your pooch will join him for a walk on Saturday, September 26th in Saratoga Springs' Congress Park to raise awareness about Wellspring's Safe Pet Partnership. It's a family friendly event. Beginning at 10 am we'll have demonstrations about:

    • Walking your dog (rather than him walking you)
    • Lyme Disease
    • Holistic veterinary treatments
    • Doggie agility course
    • Search and rescue dog demonstrations
    • Blessing of the pets
    ... and $5 pawdicures (nail clipping).
    At 11 am, pooches and humans will get a little exercise with a walk around the park (~1 mile).
    Big and small... bring them all

    The event is free to humans and $5 for pooches (they'll get some goodies for attending.) The proceeds benefit Wellspring's services to help all victims of domestic violence... including our furry, feathered and finned family members.

    If you're sad because you don't have a pooch to accompany you, the Saratoga County Animal Shelter will be there with some pups  looking for their forever homes.

    Tuesday, September 8, 2015

    No Matter Your Major, This Lesson is Fundmental

    Summer is over and the kids have headed back to school. For some that means the first ride on the school bus (and a day of hopeful anxiety for Mom and Dad until dinnertime when they hear all about new friends, teachers and the dreaded homework assignments.) Others parents may have may have dropped otheir teenager off to a campus in another state, living away  from home for the first time (and Mom and Dad will have an even longer period of hopeful anxiety until their son or daughter returns home at Thanksgiving a for a long overdue hug.)

    Governor Cuomo's Enough is Enough campaign is working to reduce the frequency of one of college's common, but rarely discussed concerns during the first weeks on campus- sexual assault.  All schools in NYS are educating students about affirmative consent (the standard is no longer whether he/she said no... it's whether he or she said yes). Today's front page Saratogian article, The Talk is Now Part of the Curriculum describes the unique and  memorable ways colleges across the country are finding  to deliver this message (Would you like a cup of tea?

    Locally Wellspring and Skidmore College are actively collaborating to increase awareness, to reduce sexual victimization, and to provide access to students who may require crisis or support services. We have an advocate on campus 3 days a week and our prevention educator will be conducting outreach and awareness initiatives weekly in various venues throughout the campus. 

    Related Posts:

    Friday, September 4, 2015

    More Moxie

    After my last blog post, I've had several questions about the Moxie Swap scheduled for April 16, 2016 and the Pay it Forward events that are happening now. So here's a video from Brandon Dewyea , who is the genius behind the Moxie Swap explaining it more.

    In a nutshell, there are regular events where local business owners are inviting women to come for a ladies night out, to learn about the Moxie Swap and Wellspring, and to donate items for next April's event. I was at a wonderful event at Saratoga Tea and Honey last night- massages, essential oils, jewelry... and some great door prizes including yoga classes and an individual photo shoot with Deborah Neary. If  you're wondering about upcoming events visit the Moxie Swap event page

    Wednesday, September 2, 2015

    Clean Out Your Closet then Enjoy SomeTea and Honey

    And if you've got some items in your closet that don't bring you joy anymore, bring them with you and donate them to a Moxie Swap (What's a Moxie Swap? Keep reading).

    This Thursday, September 3rd, join  Wellspring for an empowering evening event at Saratoga Tea and Honey. We've got jewelry, massages, essential oils and, of course, delicious tea and honey. We'll also have an exhibit by Saratoga artist Deborah Neary whose specialty is photographing women in nature and capturing the essence of their strength, beauty and connection to the earth. Sound  interesting? Watch this interview with  Look TV's Jessie Jackson to learn more about the Woman in Nature exhibit, the event at Saratoga Tea and Honey, and laearn about Moxie Swap.

    Please note the event at Saratoga Tea and Honey is a free to attend. Some of the services have a small fee.

    Saturday, August 22, 2015

    A Play to Remind Us Why We Have Women's Equality Day

    Stopping by the League of Women Voters' table at the farmers' market last Saturday, I ran across some friends.  We started talking about how important it is to get the word out to vote. I've spoken with elder women I know who told me how important voting has always been to them. We tend to forget how hard our predecessors fought for the right to vote.


    Well the League has a great way to help us remember... The Stone that Started the Ripple is a humorous yet historical representation of the return of the women who initiated the crusade for women's right to vote. Using their actual words from the 1800's, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Sojourner Truth, and Lucretia Mott offer commentary on the status of women's issues today. Written by local author, Pat Nugent.
    All proceeds benefit the League of Women Voters of Saratoga County. One performance is being offered, on Wednesday, August 26th at 7 PM in Skidmore College’s Filene Hall.