Wellspring - Ending relationship and sexual abuse in Saratoga County

News & Events

"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.

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

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


    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.

    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.

    Two Good Men Made a Difference

    We've got a lot of work to do to end relationship and sexual abuse. But one thing that gives me hope is we're not doing this work alone. We've got many community partners. One such partner is Janine Stuchin, the executive director of the Prevention Council. Our agencies collaborate extensively because we understand how alcohol and substance misuse correlate with relationship and sexual abuse. Today Janine has graciously offered to be my guest blogger and share her thoughts on a recent news article:
    The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil 
    is for good men to do nothing.
    As I scan the headlines and read news articles of rape and assault, it seems too often the article concludes with perpetrators who seem to get away with the “perfect crime”.  An unconscious or alcohol/drug impaired victim who has been undeniably violated but largely unable to assist in identifying what actually happened.   And then I wonder … did no one, see or hear anything that lead to this crime being committed.  Could anyone have intervened?  Across college campuses Bystander Intervention programs have been brought in, students have been taught by peers to speak up, and challenged to create a new culture that keeps men and women safe in social settings. 

    And so as I read The March 31, 2016 Huffington Post article “Ex-Stanford Swimmer Found Guilty of Sexually Assaulting Unconscious Woman on Campus”, I was struck that the turning point in this crime hinged on “two graduate students who rode their bikes by a night-time sexual assault outside a fraternity party”.  They stopped and got involved.  They shouted at the assailant, one cyclist pursued the rapist and one assisted the unconscious but breathing victim.  

    And that is why the headline reads “Ex-Stanford Swimmer Found Guilty of Sexually Assaulting Unconscious Woman on Campus”, and not, “Woman Wakes Up With Pine Needles in Her Disheveled Hair [and] Dried Blood on her Hands and Elbows”.  That second quote was her testimony after waking up in the hospital after at least three hours of unconsciousness.    It may take good men doing nothing for evil to prevail, but on that winter night in late 2014, two good men made sure that didn’t happen. 

    You can read more about this story here
    Janine Stuchin
    Executive Director, The Prevention Council of Saratoga County.

    Pausing to Answer a Hard Question

    I was talking to a friend last week who has done quite a bit of global travel, and much volunteer work helping in third world countries. It was International Women's Day so our conversation turned to topics of women's equality. As we discussed  some of the gender-based injustices she has seen that are commonplace in other parts of the world, we both agreed that we are blessed to live where we do. The she asked me a question that challenged me and made me pause to think before responding, "When you compare what we in the US refer to as gender-based violence, e.g., date and acquaintance rape, sexual harassment in the workplace, or being objectified in the media, to what women worldwide are subjected to, e.g., honor killings, forced child brides, sex trafficking, genital mutilation, does it ever feel to you like we've got 'first world problems' that don't deserve this much attention?"

    Hmmm... how to respond? Yes, the life experience of women in war torn countries, in third world countries, in many parts of the world has a level of brutality and injustice that is unthinkable to us. But  does that mean that our efforts to expose discrimination, to address injustice and to work toward equality are frivolous or self-indulgent? They are not. As the old adage says, 'a rising tide raises all ships'. When we look for innovation, whether in technology, health care, or social justice, we often look to the best practices in countries that excel. 

    So no, I  don't think it's a waste of resources to focus on issues of equality that affect our 'first world' lives. In fact, if you want to continue this discussion, check out the Women Not Objects website. They've got some great videos  that illustrate the harm caused by the objectification of women in the advertisements we see every day. Every parent should watch these videos with their daughters... and their sons... to open a dialogue about how media influences not only what we purchase, but what we think.

    But our activism can't stop with what we see every day... it should extend across the globe to address those horrible injustices my friend has seen. Many of us don't have the ability to do global volunteerism, but that doesn't mean we can't make a difference.  For example,  a local women's service organization, Soroptimist International of Saratoga County has made lives  better for women and girls locally and also globally through their support of projects.
     Each year they contribute toward local projects like: Code Blue  Franklin Community Center, Helping Hands School, Junior Achievement NE,  Camp Abilities Saratoga, Rebuilding Together Saratoga, Saratoga Center for the Family, Saratoga EOC, and,Women’s Voices, Women’s Visions. 
    But they also support transformational programs worldwide, like;
    • Cinterandes, providing mobile medical support to rural regions in Ecuador where women and girls would not have access to  surgical care without the mobile unit.
    • Building a birthing center in a poor area in Africa. Before this Soroptimist project women gave birth on dirt floors, resulting in heightened child and maternal fatality rates.
    • To Love A Child's work assisting women and children in war torn Haiti with basic needs, like potable water and toilets to improve sanitation, and
    • Drilling for Hope- by providing accessible clean water in third world countries they not only increase health, but also afford girls the opportunity to go to school.
    So, my friend;
    •  Yes there is prejudice, discrimination, oppression and violence committed against women worldwide... and we should all consider this our problem and need to act to end it.
    • No, the magnitude of the need globally does not decrease my desire to address the inequities I see here in the US (in fact, it strengthens that resolve as every stride we take advances hope for women everywhere), and
    • Thank you, for giving me the opportunity to think about these issues and realize that:
      • the work that Wellspring does every day to end relationship and sexual abuse locally, is a small but important piece of a bigger picture, and 
      •  that the fundraisers Soroptimist does (remember to save the date for our Secret Gardens Tour on July 10th) gives people locally a way to help women and girls in our  community... but also to have a real impact across the globe, and 
      •  that efforts to decrease violence against women, to  reduce discrimination, and to promote equality don't only help women...they raise up whole communities and the men, women and children in them.
    So whether you chose to watch one of the many brief videos at Women Not Objects and discuss it with your friends or kids, or whether you learn more about where our political candidates stand on issues of equality, or whether, like my friend, your altruism extends to using your vacation to provide humanitarian relief in far off places, know that you  can make a difference.

    Wellspring Participates in Leap of Kindness Day

    On February 29th Wellspring joined other businesses and non-profits from Louisiana to Alaska in the Leap of Kindness Day. The idea for the day was to connect organizations looking to make a big impact with others in the community who could benefit from a simple thank you or a donation of some kindness.

    Wellspring was the beneficiary of several local organizations, but we believed it was important to participate as well, so Wellspring staff spent part of the day crafting thank you notes to people and organizations across Saratoga County for helping us to perform our life-saving work.  Examples of these organizations include:

    • The Saratoga Springs Police Department which partners with Wellspring to offer support to domestic violence survivors not only in the crisis, but in the days or weeks that follow.
    • Sexual assault nurse examiners at Saratoga Hospital, Ellis Medicine and Glens Falls Hospital. The compassionate response of these nurses is often the first step in healing for a traumatized survivor of a sexual assault.
    • The Adirondack Trust Co. and Stewarts Shops, two local businesses that not only are in our community- they’re unquestionably for our community, supporting projects and agencies that help address community needs.
    • The Downtown Business Association in Saratoga Springs. Every day these businesses support local causes and help people in need, through donations, fundraisers, and simply human concern.
    • Leadership Saratoga, which for almost 3 decades has trained community members to be volunteers and leaders. Their members serve on the boards of local nonprofits (Our thanks to all the LS grads who have guided Wellspring over the years)
    • The Olde Bryan Inn and Longfellows, which have been long-term supporters not just of Wellspring, but many non-profits in Saratoga County.
    • The Shenendehowa School District and Skidmore College, for their commitment to helping to educate their community about these issues, healthy relationships, and social change
    • So many more!

    It was gratifying to recognize all the great things that happen just here in our community. To see photos of our different notes, visit our Facebook photo album.20160229_160214_resized


    With the Shen high school principal

    The World Has Changed… Welcome!

    Social change.
    It's interesting to watch  how a behavior that was socially accepted (or at least tacitly condoned) seemingly overnight is no longer acceptable... or vice versa. In my lifetime I've seen major shifts in thinking about racism, drunk driving, women's rights, smoking, and issues of sexuality and gender expression, just to mention a few.

    So what are the factors that underlie these shifts? Is it increased knowledge and understanding? Policies and Laws? Repeated exposure to the problem and personal stories about how people are affected? Is it economic impact? It's all of these.

    For several years now I've been commenting that we are reaching a tipping point regarding our society's tolerance regarding domestic and sexual violence. These issues have been around forever, but until recently were considered private and uncomfortably ignored. The graphic images of Ray Rice abusing his fiancée fast forwarded the tipping point. We went from talking about abuse to actually watching domestic violence. And when, cringing, we watched the brutality of a professional athlete punching his fiancée, the blames shifted from judging the victim for choosing to be in the relationship to holding the abuser accountable for committing the violence. And now, seemingly overnight, our policies, attitudes and judgments have changed.

    ESPN's Jayson Stark, reporting about Aroldis Chapman's 30 game suspension  makes it clear that the world has changed. I encourage you to read the full article, as his words resonate like a triumphant chorus heralding that after a very long journey we've finally reached  the gates to civilization,

    "There once was a time in baseball -- heck, in all sports -- when players abused their spouses and were playing games the next day, as if nothing of any significance had happened...
    Well, guess what? Luckily, we don't live in that world anymore... Domestic violence wasn't taken seriously in this sport for way too long a time. So it's almost embarrassing to look back now and recognize how many cases were swept aside or ignored...
    For years. For decades.
    Until the world changed...
    a precedent has been set. And a message has been sent."

    Thanks for heralding that change, Mr. Stark. I'm happy to be standing at that gate welcoming everyone to join us.