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