Wellspring - Ending relationship and sexual abuse in Saratoga County


News & Events

2015 Zumbathon to Benefit Wellsrping

Join us Sunday February 22 from 12-2 as Go-For-Fitness hosts the 2015 Zumabthon to benefit Wellspring and the AHA.

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Connecting Galas and Homelessness



Yesterday I met with Look TV's, Jesse Jackson.What started out as a conversation about the Bartenders' Ball, turned to more serious topics as we talked about how funds from charitable events like the Bartenders' Ball support vital services. Jesse was surprised to hear that on just one day last year- in Saratoga County alone- we had 90+ teens 'couch surfing' because they were homeless and another 119 kids in families that didn't have stable homes. Those stats really hit home, as recently Jesse had spoken with a teen who hitchhikes to school some mornings (sometimes almost 20 miles) because he's sleeping in a different place each night.



As we're all complaining about the cold  and snowy weather as we travel from our warm homes to our cars, it's a real wake up call that we've got people in our community without homes and without heat.

Game On

It's been a rough season for the NFL brand. While Deflategate is the latest dent in football's reputation, at least this controversy centers on the game. For most of the season press coverage of the NFL has been more about what's happening off the field than on-- Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson... oh and of course, Roger Goodell's handling of these incidents.


But there's a silver lining to this massive ominous thundercloud. People are talking about domestic violence and sexual assault. In fact, even on football's most sacred day, Superbowl Sunday, we'll be seeing awareness and prevention messages. Back in September, Fox News' Gregg Jarrett opined that, "A long and sustained “Campaign to Stop Abuse” or “Campaign Against Violence,” call it what you will, could reach tens of millions of Americans... The NFL has at its disposal the wealth, celebrity and power to change the way Americans treat women and children. Does it have the will?


Well that's happening. The NFL and No More teamed up to create an ad that will be aired during the game based on a real life 911 call. If you're planning to reheat the nachos during the commercials  you can catch the ad in advance right here.


Days before the big game, Sports Illustrated is making a big statement about the NFL's need to address domestic violence in the league with this startlingly powerful ad.


No question about it, concerning the NFL and the topic of relationship and sexual abuse, this is the year to say "Game On".

Wellspring partners with Saratoga Springs Police Department to Proactively Address Domestic Violence

For Immediate Release

January 15, 2015

Contact: Maggie Fronk

executivedirector@wellspringcares.org

518.583.0280

Wellspring to Partner with the Saratoga Springs Police Department to Proactively Address Domestic Violence.

Very often, victims of domestic violence don’t seek assistance until the situation becomes a crisis.  However, many times, law enforcement may have seen signs of the abuse, but were only able to offer information and referrals.  Now, a new program offered by Wellspring seeks to bridge this gap.  Beginning in January, a Wellspring victim advocate will be co-located at the Saratoga Springs Police Department.  The hope is that the advocate will be able to work more proactively with victims of domestic violence and law enforcement to understand this complex issue, and the services available. The position has introduced Wellspring to an entire population of people who might not have otherwise sought assistance.

For the first three months, the advocate will only be doing research, but beginning in April, will serve as a follow-up resource to instances where law enforcement believes domestic violence may be an issue.  In doing so, they will be able to provide information about services available such as counseling and legal advocacy, as well as support and potential safety planning.  The advocate will also help to deepen an already strong relationship with the SSPD, providing a familiar face to the officers, as well as helping to provide a deeper understanding of the issue of domestic violence as well as resources available to people in abusive relationships.

In Saratoga County, domestic violence is the #2 violent crime, the #1 cause of family homelessness, and the #2 cause of homicide.

Wellspring provides crisis intervention via hotline and emergency shelter, counseling, legal advocacy, comprehensive case management, support groups, and other services to over 1,000 victims of domestic violence and sexual assault in Saratoga County each year.   Additionally Wellspring believes  the best treatment is prevention, and therefore offers numerous community outreach, prevention, and issue awareness programs for schools, community and professional groups, and businesses alike.  All services are confidential and free of charge. Contact the 24-hour hotline at 518-584-8188 for assistance.

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ABOUT WELLSPRING: At Wellspring, our mission is to support survivors and engage our community to end relationship and sexual abuse.  Each year, our crisis intervention and survivor services support more than 1,000 clients—providing safe housing to adults and children either fleeing or homeless because of domestic violence, as well as comprehensive support in the form of counseling, legal advocacy, and case management.   While helping victims in need is a core focus of the agency’s mission, we know that by increasing awareness we can end intimate partner violence.  Wellspring staff provides prevention and education programs to school-aged youth, as well as training and education programs for parents, faith based congregations, and professional organizations.

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Let’s Tip It

The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior
 crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.
Malcolm Gladwell



Are we nearing a tipping point  regarding our tolerance for relationship and sexual abuse? I think so.


Advocates (mostly women) have been crusading against domestic violence and sexual assault since the 70's... but their voices have often been the only ones speaking out.  More and more I'm hearing other voices joining that chorus. About 10 years ago men started speaking out. Each day, I hear new voices emerging: sportscasters, college recruiters, business owners, President Obama.




In the many news stories about relationship abuse and sexual violence I'm hearing a different tone... intolerance of abuse.


Unlike changing an individual's behavior, community level change requires that the right combination of factors are present. In other social change initiatives  (like reducing smoking or drunk driving) we've observed three key strategies to creating change:
1) access (e.g. limiting minors ability to purchase tobacco or alcohol)
2) policy and procedure (e.g., laws and enforcement of  or organizations' rules and practices) , and
3) social norms.


In just the past year I've seen significant changes on the second two indicators.  More and more companies and institutions are cognizant of how abuse can leave the home and affect their business and brand. This became unmistakably clear as the Ray Rice incident unfolded. When the videotape of the elevator assault became public, the NFL's response to the incident was called into question. We quickly saw how the conduct of players reflects on the League. When the NFL revised their code of conduct to implement game suspensions for violent incidents, we immediately saw that players' careers and team performance could be affected by their conduct off the field. Similarly the  recent press coverage of an alleged culture of sexual violence at University of Virginia has some students and parents thinking twice about this as their college of choice. When relationship and sexual violence steps out of the shadows, and has an impact on organizations'' brands and bottom line, we start to notice. 


Our attitudes about abuse are changing. Why all of a sudden? Social media has a lot to do with increasing our awareness and  understanding. For many years the focus was on the victim... Why doesn't she (or he!) leave the abusive relationship?  or If you're drinking and flirting what can you expect? Those old attitudes haven't held sway as social media  has given us a more in-depth look at relationship and sexual violence. We've seen photos sent around to friends as young men sexually violate intoxicated teenage girls. Reporters cover the minute-to-minute details of how frightened victims call friends for help  and later feel re-traumatized as their college, inexperienced in adjudicating rape cases,  mishandles the  process.


We could easily downplay the impact of assaults when our information was a quick news segment, but with social media access we're exposed to the gritty brutality of victimization. When the first news story  reported that Ray Rice had knocked his then fiancée unconscious in an elevator there was no public outcry... but when we saw the brutality of the attack our reactions changed. Over the years there have been allegations against Bill Cosby that were but transient whispers in the news stories;  never investigated. never founded, never proven wrong. Yet recently one comedienne's reference to an alleged assault by Cosby a decade ago has uncorked so many similar accusations from years ago that  not only are networks suddenly pulling his shows, but institutions are distancing themselves from his benefaction. Nothing new has transpired, but because  the way we receive information has changed, the small solitary voices  of the past joined together very quickly into a chorus with enough similarity in their stories, that we're not comfortable with the ignoring the issue until we have more answers.


So how does this change in social consciousness affect us? We've shifted the responsibility. Traditionally we've placed the burden of ending abuse on the very people who are being victimized. That approach hasn't worked. Telling people not to abuse is about as effective as "Just say no" was in addressing drug abuse.


As we see and understand more we're realizing that to end relationship and sexual violence we all need to be part of the solution. It's  the  old adage, If you're not part of the solution you're part of the problem. 
So people tell me "I care about this issue but I don't know how to help...what can I do?" Great  question; here's some suggestions to get you started
1) Learn more- the NYS Office or the Prevention of Domestic Violence's new campaign, Don't Do Nothing has quick videos for the public to learn how to identify abuse and get involved.
2) Talk about the issue. Share articles. Generate a discussion.
3) Concerned about how domestic violence  affects your workplace safety, productivity, or employees' well being? Wellspring has resources for employers to promote awareness and assist managers in addressing employee concerns. Call us... the training and resources are free.
4) If you're concerned that someone you know may need help tell them you care and provide  them with resources, e.g. Wellspring's office number  (518.583.0280) or 24/hour hotline (518.584.8188)








 
   



What if doing nothing wasn’t an option?


If you've ever talked to me for more than 4 minutes, the conversation has probably turned to the work of Wellspring ...specifically our vision of ending relationship and sexual abuse. For more than 30 years we've been helping people one-on-one to break free, heal, rebuild their lives and become survivors. Our legal advocates help them  to seek justice and hold the offender accountable. We do prevention programs to help people know how to stay safe and we also talk with youth about abusive behaviors to deter abuse. I wouldn't stop doing any of these essential activities, but they're not enough and I'm convinced they're not the solution.


Why? Because support services to survivors, court advocacy or prevention programs all focus on changing individual behavior. Assisting survivors doesn't stop relationship or sexual violence; it helps with healing and can reduce future victimization. Alternately many people say the answer is to focus on the person choosing to victimize, i.e., get to the root cause. That may reduce the incidence of abuse, but there will always be people who choose to do what's wrong. Does anyone actually believe stealing is right? Probably not... but people choose to steal every day.


I think the solution rests not with survivors or their abusers, but with people on the sidelines; their actions or inactions often determine whether the abuse is tacitly condoned and whether the victim feels powerless and trapped.


“The world is not dangerous because of those who do harm but because of those who look at it without doing anything”
                                            ~ Albert Einstein


Intimate partner and sexual violence have echoed throughout the news in recent months. As I look  at each of the stories, I'm repeatedly struck by how often WE allow the abuse to continue. After the news coverage, we debate what the involved individuals could have, should have, or failed to do, but what repeatedly strikes me is what other people didn't do. Think about these news stories:
  • Bill Cosby- Did he? Didn't he? We don't know. But in countless accounts, the alleged victims talk about how when they told someone they weren't believed, were dismissed or even threatened.  Barbara Bowman's  account of being sexually violated by Cosby 30 years ago, captures the frustration of a young woman challenging a man who was an icon in the entertainment business, "I first told my agent, who did nothing...A girlfriend took me to a lawyer, but he accused me of making the story up. Their dismissive responses crushed any hope I had of getting help; I was convinced no one would listen to me. That feeling of futility is what ultimately kept me from going to the police." What if she had not met this resistance. Would there have been an investigation and determination. Perhaps Cosby's name would have been cleared or future incidents prevented. What if someone had stood by Bowman when she said she'd been assaulted? That was 30 years ago, things are different now, right?


  • The NFL and  domestic violence- A shocking report by the Washington Post entitled "For battered NFL wives, a message from the cops and the league: Keep quiet" details not only how the NFL turns a blind eye to domestic violence, but actually covers up domestic incidents to protect the players' careers and the League's reputation. What if the League enforced their code of conduct and provided resources to players who  struggle with aggression?


  • A recent Rolling Stone article, "A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA", describes a culture on the University of Virginia campus that can be as misogynistic and aggressive as any inner city gang. But the prestige, honor and old money privilege of a campus founded by Thomas Jefferson, cloak the sexual assaults under the genteel southern euphemism of a  'bad experience'.  What if the university's culture valued the health and safety of students more than protecting the hallowed reputation of the  institution?


    All that is needed for evil to triumph 
    is for good men to do nothing.
                                          ~Edmund Burke

    Silence hides violence... let's all choose to break that silence? The solution doesn't rest with individuals involved... they're too close to the issue; it rests with the rest of us.

    Behind Closed Doors- Which Ones?

    Several years ago I wrote a blog post Behind Closed Doors positing that the reason domestic violence endures is that it happens out of our view. This post was written after a tragic death as the community was shocked that a relationship could be so dangerous and yet no one knew.

    As I read a Washington Post article about the wives of NFL players, I rethought my words. In my original blog post I explained that the desire to keep the abuse private was  an individual decision... made by the victim of the abuse. I rethought my assertion that the decision is entirely individual... each individual's decision is very influenced by our society's values and pressures. The Post article clearly illustrates that wives of NFL players are coached to keep abuse quiet to protect the player's reputation, the brand and our collective adoration of the heroes of the gridiron. The article describes the pressure to silently endure contending that the recent press has even made the NFL less safe for wives. The comment from the wife of a former player, You'll  hear of a wife murdered before you'll hear another one come forward", echoes like a haunting prophesy.

    While it's really important to teach every man, woman and child that it's not OK to abuse others, that's strategy alone won't end abuse. There will always be people who choose to abuse or people who fail to judge their own actions. Our response has to be more broad, a societal shift in tolerance. We won't end abuse until we refuse to look away, excuse, or stay silent. Just choosing not to abuse isn't enough, we have to choose to end abuse...every time we see or suspect it. Abuse does hide behind closed doors... sometimes those doors are the ones we shut so that we don't see it.

    Behind Closed Doors- Which Ones?

    Several years ago I wrote a blog post Behind Closed Doors positing that the reason domestic violence endures is that it happens out of our view. This post was written after a tragic death as the community was shocked that a relationship could be so dangerous and yet no one knew.

    As I read a Washington Post article about the wives of NFL players, I rethought my words. In my original blog post I explained that the desire to keep the abuse private was  an individual decision... made by the victim of the abuse. I rethought my assertion that the decision is entirely individual... each individual's decision is very influenced by our society's values and pressures. The Post article clearly illustrates that wives of NFL players are coached to keep abuse quiet to protect the player's reputation, the brand and our collective adoration of the heroes of the gridiron. The article describes the pressure to silently endure contending that the recent press has even made the NFL less safe for wives. The comment from the wife of a former player, You'll  hear of a wife murdered before you'll hear another one come forward", echoes like a haunting prophesy.

    While it's really important to teach every man, woman and child that it's not OK to abuse others, that's strategy alone won't end abuse. There will always be people who choose to abuse or people who fail to judge their own actions. Our response has to be more broad, a societal shift in tolerance. We won't end abuse until we refuse to look away, excuse, or stay silent. Just choosing not to abuse isn't enough, we have to choose to end abuse...every time we see or suspect it. Abuse does hide behind closed doors... sometimes those doors are the ones we shut so that we don't see it.

    "Sometimes as a Guy You Have to Hide Your Pain"

    We've all seen the articles like this in the  news, "Female teacher accused of having sex with male student."   Statutory rape? Absolutely. Sexual victimization? That's where our social attitudes weigh in casting doubts, shedding bias, and making  it difficult for boys and young men to not only disclose the abuse... but even to acknowledge that this 'special attention' isn't welcome and is in fact a violation.


    Today I watched a video by a comedian,, Andrew Bailey. It starts with the words, "Why I think rape is sincerely hilarious when it happens to dudes. It's horrible when it happens to women, but men getting raped is hilarious." Frankly, if the video hadn't come with the recommendation to watch the whole video before passing judgment, I wouldn't have watched to the end. I  did and I'm glad. Bailey, -who was a victim of statutory rape, reflected back  our social prejudices  in a way that felt so uncomfortable... as it should. Rape as a comedy routine? Disconcerting, but as Bailey quips, "Sometimes as a guy you've got to hide your pain."


    One in six men has survived  unwanted or abusive sex in childhood. That's right, 1 in 6-- but how often do you hear about it? Have you ever heard anyone talking about how unwanted sexual contact or sexual violation can insinuate itself into a man's life, self-esteem, values and relationships.... even years after the contact has ended? We just don't talk about it. With online resources, 24/7 support line and awareness resources, One in Six  strives to help men who have had unwanted or abusive sexual experiences in childhood live healthier, happier lives. They've got resources for survivors, family members, and professionals...and if you're wondering about  the1 in 6 statistic they've got info on that too.

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