Friday, April 29, 2016

"Man Up"

The focus on athletes committing acts of domestic violence or sexual assault has been ever-present in the news over the past year; new incidents seem to pop up at least weekly. I've been asked, "is it because they're such superstars they feel they're beyond the rules?", or "Is it something about athletics or people who excel in athletics that contributes?" I don't have the answers.

DeAndre Levy (@drelevy) | TwitterBut today I read Man Up an article by Deandre Levy, a linebacker for the Detroit Lions, that sheds some light on the messages we give young men about masculinity:
"It’s truly astounding the number of awful things that occur in this world because men are afraid of appearing weak."

... and the messages we don't give them about sexual violence.
"My understanding is that most women have heard the talk about how to avoid becoming a victim, but growing up, I was never involved in a conversation about what consent is. I was never even flat-out told not to rape or sexually assault anyone."

More frank talk like this is needed, with young athletes, with coaches, with our sons, and with the parents who raise boys. Levy makes a compelling argument for getting real about these issues and leading the change:
"Some of the funniest, most insightful and honest conversations I’ve ever had in my life have taken place inside a locker room. But this particular topic is one that has never come up.
As professional athletes, we have the prominence in our communities to effect real change. When we talk, people listen. So in a sense, our general silence on this issue is condoning it.
So let’s change that. Speak out with me. Man up."

Click here to read the article.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Raising Their Voices... In the Best Possible Way

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and it's drawing to an end. I've  been a bit quiet about sexual assault awareness month, because I think it's important that we don't limit these conversations to just 30 days. They're discussions we need to have real time, when the topic arises-- all year long. Only then will we really notice how often relationship and sexual abuse are in our local news... how often we hear comments/jokes that tacitly condone abuse... or how often we have opportunities to create change.

True social change is rarely cataclysmic; more often it's a gradual awakening accompanied by almost imperceptible shifts in how each individual thinks and acts. And when many peoples' thoughts and actions all start to change there's an alignment. Awareness isn't about a month; it's about consciousness, day-after-day.

As April comes to an end, I'd like to recognize 10 musicians who are using their talent to increase awareness of sexual violence, domestic violence and child abuse. Their songs, while dealing with tragic topics, convey courage, strength, honesty, and poignancy. They also inspire us to work toward ending relationship and sexual abuse.

While their styles range from rap, to rock, to country and heavy  metal they're united in the message- No More.

Listen to their inspiring messages  here

Friday, April 22, 2016

When Domestic Violence Comes To Work

We often think of domestic violence as something that happens at home. While most physical abuse happens out of sight,  in reality a domestic violence victim is not free from the power and control even when they leave home.  I was reading an article last night that illustrated how vulnerable and unprepared businesses feel when domestic violence enters the workplace. Tragically, the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center lost two employees within six months due to domestic violence. In one case a young mother was shot in front of her 3 year old by a former partner. Just 5 months later a nurse was stabbed to death by her son after repeated domestic incidents.
Domestic violence impacts your employees and your bottom line. Often when a victim leaves the abusive partner, the abuser may concentrate his/her focus on the workplace to stalk, harass or otherwise control the victim.
  • 21% of full time employed adults have been victims of domestic violence, and most indicate their work performance was significantly impacted.
  • 40% of these victims report being harassed at work by their abuser.
  • 74% of perpetrators had easy access to their partner's workplace.
  • 21% of offenders contacted their victim at work in violation of an order of protection.
What does a business owner or manager need to know?
  • Wellspring offers a full range of crisis and support services for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault... including safety planning while at work.
  • Wellspring also has an Employer Toolkit to help managers and supervisors recognize and respond when an employee is experiencing abuse.
  • Our advocates are available 24 hours/day not just to help victims of abuse, but also to provide support and guidance for anyone who has someone in their life who is being victimized--that someone may be a son or daughter, friend, a neighbor, or an employee.

As I read the article about the  St. Joseph Medical Center, I was struck by how helpless the staff felt as they lacked company policies to assist an employee who was experiencing domestic violence. Wellspring can help your organization to increase awareness, develop policies to support someone who may be experiencing abuse, and maintain a safe workplace. Call us at 518-583-0280 to find out how we can assist you.

If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse,
contact our 24 hour hotline for assistance


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Honoring 2016's Women of Influence

With delight, I read the award winners of Saratoga Today’s 2016 Women of Influence award. The award recognizes women demonstrating leadership, community involvement, and professionalism that benefits Saratoga County today and shapes our future.  Each year, I’m always thrilled when I see the impressive women selected as the awardees. This year’s winners are:

Shelly Amato

Elizabeth “Libby” Coreno

Gayle LaSalle

Jane Mastaitis

Christianne Smith

And Co-Teachers Laura O’Brien and Miyo Read 

It never escapes my notice that so many of them have been instrumental in shaping Wellspring, through their board membership or volunteerism. This year alone we have three former Wellspring board members: Shelly Amato, Libby Coreno, and Christianne Smith being recognized (if you’ve ever admired Wellspring’s new logo, that’s Christianne’s work), plus Gayle LaSalle and I sit on many committees together achieving solutions to issues affecting our community.

Wellspring has been blessed to have benefited from the leadership and support of transformational women leaders.  Looking back on the Women of Influence Award recipients over the past 5 years, 11 women have aided Wellspring through their leadership and volunteerism:


Tara Pleat (board member)

Nancy Trimbur(board member and  volunteer for Project Hope and Power)

Paul Fidalgo (promotes awareness of relationship and sexual abuse and Wellspring’s services)

Kim Klopstock (graciously assists with Wellsprings fundraising events)


Jessica Petraccione (board member)

Kathleen Fyfe (volunteers providing leadership development and strategic planning)


Theresa Skaine (board member)

Robin Solomon  (volunteer for Project Hope and Power)

Cynthia Hollowood (graciously assists with Wellsprings fundraising events)


Melissa Ward (program supporter through NYS Tech Valley Women)


Sandy Foster (volunteer for Project Hope and Power) 

So congratulations to this year’s Women of Influence… and sincere gratitude to the many influential women who have shaped Wellspring.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Would You Believe the Same Lie for 22 Years?

Today started like many others. I was up before dawn, in the kitchen making breakfast and lunch for my husband and me. As the sun began reflecting golden light off the river in front of my house, I looked out my kitchen windows toward the wisps of smoke rising from the chimneys in the houses in my neighborhood, homes occupied by family members and neighbors I count as dear friends. My very sleepy husband, who built this home and with whom I’ve shared it for 29 years, stumbled past followed by Andy, my equally sleepy golden retriever. I handed the former a cup of coffee as he plopped into his favorite chair, and handed the latter one of my homemade dog biscuits as he curled up on ‘our spot’ on the couch. Each day I give thanks for my very blessed and blissful life…and mornings like this remind me of what a wonderful life I have.

So how is it that just 5 minutes later I was suddenly feeling angry, frustrated, and so very, very tired? Hubby got first dibs on the shower this morning, so while he was I there I grabbed a cup of my favorite vanilla rooibos tea and settled into Bill’s chair (a gift from me for his birthday 2 years ago when, even he, began to note that his beloved recliner looked quite similar to the one Frazier’s dad occupied on that eponymous sitcom.) With just a few minutes of free time, I decided to pop open my laptop and check out the news. I read just one story , brief coverage of the final segment on the series ‘The People vs O.J. Simpson’, and my morning changed.

The murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman on June 12, 1994 was a pivotal turning point in the domestic violence field. The elements of the case intrigued America in 1994 and still do 22 years later-- the celebrity status of the accused murderer, the riveting drama of the police chasing the white Bronco, and the sensational ‘gotcha’ in Cochran’s famous defense, "If it doesn’t fit , you’ve  got to acquit.” That brutal homicide started Americans talking about domestic violence at the dining room table, in the sports bar watching football games, and at the water cooler.

So why did just reading about the show (which I’ll admit I haven’t watched) instantly darken my mood?

Because yesterday a local woman living in Amsterdam who was brutally beaten by her boyfriend a week ago died of injuries sustained in the assault, leaving her children motherless and traumatized.  Because in an interview with ESPN earlier this week, Greg Hardy  denied ever laying hands on his girlfriend … despite photos of her badly bruised body. Even players, coaches, and sportscasters  are speaking  out in disbelief of his denials, but the charges were dropped because the victim, who states Hardy repeatedly threatened her life, didn’t show to court to testify against him.

Because 22 years later, partners are beaten, threatened and degraded  behind closed doors.

Because 22 years later, women and men die at the hands of their abusers.

Because 22 years later, abusers can still look us in the eye and say, “I never hit her” and even when it rings false, they get by and keep abusing. Even when the evidence is compelling, if we don’t actually see the abuse happening, we‘re hesitant to believe it.


Because we want to believe that the person looking us straight in the eye is telling the truth… and the person who isn’t in front of the camera must therefore be lying-- without considering that the victim may be humiliated, controlled and  terrified. And that’s the power and control that the abuser relies on to maintain that protective silence.

Because we don’t want to think that people we admire are capable of such violence behind closed doors.

Because it’s scary to think that someone who professes to love you is capable of such violence.

And because it’s easier.

It’s easier to just accept the lie… even when we don’t believe it.

And I am so very tired, frustrated and, yes, angry that all these years later we still have a steady influx of victims experiencing abuse at the hands of the people who profess to love them… and all these years later we haven't ended the abuse.