Wellspring - Ending relationship and sexual abuse in Saratoga County

News & Events

Women’s Equality Day

Today is Women's Equality Day. Honestly, sometimes I'm troubled by these initiatives directly specifically to women. With simplistic optimism, I ask why aren't we advocating for All people's Equality Day? Instead of the Violence Against Women Act... let's create the Let's End All Violence Act. But I know why these targeted strategies are necessary... and that they make a difference for not only women, but women, children, and men.

Why are the needed?
Pay equity: The Institute for Women's Policy Research reports, Women are almost half of the workforce. They are the equal, if not main, breadwinner in four out of ten families. They receive more college and graduate degrees than men. Yet, on average, women continue to earn considerably less than men. In 2012, female full-time workers made only 77 cents for every dollar earned by men, a gender wage gap of 23 percent. Women, on average, earn less than men in virtually every single occupation for which there is sufficient earnings data.
Violence against Women:  Most of  our initiatives to help victims  of sexual assault and domestic violence grew  out of the feminist movement. Their efforts have brought about victim assistance programs, have changed laws, policies and public awareness... and most importantly saved lives. And while they were developed to end violence against women, those same services, laws and awareness also help men who have been victims of relationship and sexual violence.

While equality for Women is still an issue in the US, it's even a greater concern in other parts of the world where violence, poverty, lack of access to health care, rape and gender-based atrocities afflict women. So let's support Gender Equality Day.

Why? Because we're making a difference. RAINN provides just one example
Sexual assault has fallen by more than 50% in recent years.Had the 1993 rate held steady, about 9.7 million Americans would have been assaulted in the last 20 years. Thanks to the decline, the actual number of victims was about 4.2 million. In other words, if not for the progress we've made in the last 20 years, an additional 5.5 million Americans would have become victims of sexual violence.
While we should be happy that we’re making progress, we are still a very long way from solving this problem. Every two minutes, another American is sexually assaulted.

Our friends at NY Charities are encouraging people to make a donation today to support programs that assist women and girls. Today I took just a couple of seconds to send donations electronically  to two of my favorites, Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Services of Saratoga County and Soroptimist International of Saratoga County. Want to join me in supporting Women's Equality Day? Let your favorite women's organization know you appreciate all they do.


Nail Polish Prevents Rapes???

Tuesday is Good News Day

At first I thought I'd write about today's topic, because just reading the article's headline, Nail polish may prevent date rape elicited a smile and piqued my curiosity. It turns out it's a modern (and fashionable) twist on an old solution to detecting date rape drugs. I've heard of coasters or other bar implements that can detect these drugs in a drink, but access to them is dependent on the bar using these coasters. This solution puts the tool literally into the hands of the intended victim.

Alas, there's a downside. while it's good to be able to detect if someone has slipped a drug into your drink, the most common date rape drug is alcohol, knowingly consumed. So Undercover Colors' impact may be limited, but preventing even a small percentage of rapes is still noteworthy.

What I'm really loving about this, like many other recent innovative solutions, is that 4 college men created this product to address what's a major social concern on college campuses. Lately I've been hearing about many stories of innovative problem solvers and entrepreneurs putting their talents to work to decrease sexual violence. Often they're developing tools to promote safety or to quickly connect with others if you're in a risky situation.

I wish we could innovate a way to stop people from committing relationship and sexual abuse, but in the meantime let's celebrate some great innovations.

Let’s Be Clear… She’s Not a Bike, She’s Not a Car

Talking about sexual assault prevention is sometimes a double edged sword. The reason we give recommendations like:

  • don't walk alone at night
  • keep your drink with you and covered a all times
  • be aware that there's a high correlation between intoxication and sexual victimization,
is so that people can be aware of vulnerabilities that sexual predators look for when choosing a victim. However, these messages can be interpreted as victim blaming or can open the door for excusing the behavior of the assailant.

Historically, rape has been a crime that is treated differently by our society and our criminal justice system. Consider these scenarios:

  • asking a victim of a mugging, "Why were you walking in the street alone in expensive clothes at 10 pm when you were mugged? Perhaps you were asking to be mugged? Questions about where you were, why and what you were wearing are commonly asked of rape victims, or
  • asking someone who had been punched in the face "You said your heart was pounding and you cried out; might that indicate you enjoyed the encounter?" (yes rape victims have been asked about orgasm or other about whether, in the case of date rape, they had enjoyed kissing or other activities previous to the assault), or
  • "You report you had a few drinks with dinner before your home was burglarized, might the burglars interpreted that as an invitation to come into your home and steal everything you own?"Having a few drinks or even being intoxicated is not an invitation to be sexually violated...ever!
Think these questions just happened way back when'... think again. Tyler Kincade, reporter/senior editor for the Huff Post examines some current 'excuses' for rape... and makes it clear that a woman is not a bicycle or a car. And the answer to ending rape is to focus on the true cause of the rape.. 

Shine a Light… Save a Life

This segment of the Today Show shines a light on domestic violence: Through the words of several courageous survivors we can better understand:
Tamron Hall Shines the Light on
Domestic Violence...
 in her sister's memory

  • how it starts
  • why women stay
  • how hard it is to ask for help ("If just one person had asked I would have opened up")
  • what middle school girls need to know
  • what to say to someone and how to help.
I don't need to say more... these survivors have spoken from the heart to help others.Watch it-- so we can all shine a light to end domestic violence. 

Shine a Light… Save a Life

This segment of the Today Show shines a light on domestic violence: Through the words of several courageous survivors we can better understand:
Tamron Hall Shines the Light on
Domestic Violence...
 in her sister's memory

  • how it starts
  • why women stay
  • how hard it is to ask for help ("If just one person had asked I would have opened up")
  • what middle school girls need to know
  • what to say to someone and how to help.
I don't need to say more... these survivors have spoken from the heart to help others.Watch it-- so we can all shine a light to end domestic violence. 

After a rape

If you or someone you know has been raped:
  • Go to a safe place
  • Avoid showering, bathing, eating, drinking, or urinating so that evidence can be collected in case you choose to report the crime to police.
  • Save the clothing you were wearing during the assault.
  • Do not disturb the crime scene.
  • Seek medical help at the nearest hospital. Contact  your local rape crisis agency for help.
In Saratoga County call DVRC's 24 hour hotline 518-584-8188

You are not to blame for being raped. 
Whether you were out late, drinking or whatever... you did not cause the rape. 
Someone chose to sexually assault you.
The decisions are yours to make:
  • You do not have to report the rape to the police to receive help.
  • The hospital can provide a sexual assault forensic exam (SAFE) to collect the evidence; you don't have to make a decision about reporting. They will hold the evidence until you decide.
  • A rape crisis advocate can talk with you to explain your options and will accompany you to the hospital for a SAFE exam or to the police if you choose to report.
You Are Not Alone

Campus Responses to Sexual Assaults

By now the NY Times coverage of Hobart College's blundering treatment of a sexual assault is widespread. The assault occurred just two weeks after Anna, an eighteen year old freshman, stepped foot on campus. The article describes how friends became concerned when Anna, who had been drinking, went missing.  When they found her, she was bent over a pool table as a football player appeared to be having sex with her as numerous others watched, laughed and took videos-- later she couldn't recall that incident, but did recall being raped earlier that night in a residence. A sexual assault nurse 's records indicated “intercourse with either multiple partners, multiple times or that the intercourse was very forceful.”

The national that media coverage of this case has given us an unprecedented glimpse into campus judicial responses to sexual assaults, and raises serious questions about how campuses handle sexual violence...and what more can be done to prevent assaults.

In a landmark report, The Sexual Victimization of College Women, funded by the US Department of Justice, University of Cincinnati, Professors Bonnie Fisher and Francis Cullen researched campus policies to shed  light on how effectively campuses respond to sexual violence. The report, published in 2002, (admittedly when today's incoming freshmen were just  learning how to read and add) noted significant findings that can guide policy and prevention:

  • Remember that first responders aren't the only responders. "Only 3.2 percent of rape victims and 2.3 percent of attempted rape victims reported to campus authorities...Although women were reluctant to report their victimization to police and campus officials, they were likely to disclose their experience to non-officials, especially friends...this insight could affect sexual assault prevention and education programs on college campuses by revealing the importance of guiding students on what to do if a friend discloses a sexual victimization to them." 
  • Stalking was surprisingly common affecting 13% of the female college students sampled ans lasting on average 60 days, yet there's little awareness or even discussion on campuses about stalking. Given that stalking causes psychological distress and can escalate to other forms of violence, it may warrant more attention.
  • And perhaps most notable-- most sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the victim and happen at night in residence, often with alcohol as a factor.Getting this message out to student right away on campus is essential.

We Need More Red Pens

Yes there's a strong correlation between drinking and sexual victimization. However, the consequence of overindulgence should be a wicked hangover the next day... not rape. Why do we  blame or shame victims of sexual violence instead of focusing on the aggressor's actions? An important edit with a red pen really put this into perspective.

"Words and ideas can change the world" Robin Williams

Tuesday is Good News Day

Today I was  having a hard time writing about good news related to the work of DVRC. With every mouse click I found stories about college sexual assaults, football players and MMA fighters battering their wives, and...  Robin Williams died. Cruising the top  stories at 5 am on my laptop screen,  it seemed like a hard day to be optimistic. But with a few more minutes reflection,  I was struck by one commonality- along with the bad news, the Internet provides links to support services, calls for increased awareness, and a collective voice to not allow tragedies to go unheeded.

Technology sometimes brings us information overload and compassion overload, but it's also a lifeline for people who feel alone, hopeless, and confused. And many reporters who are covering stories of tragedies are keenly aware that there are readers out there who are suffering too; through their writing they help us to understand the suffering, inspire us to reach out when we see someone in need, and challenge us to look past the bad news for solutions.

So if the bad news has you down, here's some of the positive takeaways from recent news stories:
  • While we're teaching our young athletes how to sprint, tackle and block, let's also teach them that strength doesn't equate with violence. There are programs to develop character and instill leadership values that on and off the field. Contact DVRC to find out how  to get a program for your team.
  • The issue of sexual assault on college campuses is a hot topic now (and with good reason as students are preparing to head to school-- did you know the first 4 semesters on campus present the highest risk of rape for college women?)   Despite valiant efforts to promote awareness that "no" means no, sexual assault continues. California lawmakers are proposing new legislation  requiring colleges to adopt policies that require consent, whether verbal or through clear nonverbal indicators.  So  the focus of determining consent isn't on a demonstrating clear refusal (which can place the burden of proof on a sexual assault victim), but rather for both partners to clearly communicate and receive the OK to proceed.
  • Robin Williams death has evoked grieving across the country and across generations.  He made us laugh, made us think, made us look deeper into ourselves, made us envision a better world... and  did I mention made us laugh uproariously for decades! For the millions who have enjoyed his talents but never met him, his loss is still profound and personal because he struck a chord within us. And the voice that resonated enough to wake up Vietnam is now bringing attention to the seriousness of depression. (If  you need help contact the Saratoga County Samaritans Suicide Prevention Center - 518- 689-4673 or  Saratoga County Crisis Line - 518- 584-9030)
Our  ever connected world exposes us  to the trivial and the tragic, but I through it we can also be  inspired to take responsibility for creating change and finding solutions.

No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.
Robin Williams

... and  if all else fails the Internet is full of cute animal videos like these 2 red pandas wrestling.