Wellspring - Ending relationship and sexual abuse in Saratoga County

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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

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 

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.

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.

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."


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.

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.

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.

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