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