Wellspring - Ending relationship and sexual abuse in Saratoga County

News & Events

"Fulton Woman Found Dead… Son Questioned"

At DVRC we've been working with our community to increase awareness of elder abuse. As I read in today's Saratogian an article entitled, Woman found dead in Fulton County home; son questioned, it resonated with me how important it is that we all be conscious of the prevalence and how to identify  elder abuse. This is an investigation in process, so we don't know the circumstances surrounding this woman's death.

June 15th was World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. A team from Leadership Saratoga helped us to begin a conversation with  businesses in our community who assist elders and are active in identifying and intervening to aid at risk elders. Click here to hear what Charles Wait  has to say about why this project was so important to his team.

The folks at WNYT helped us to get the message out on World Elder Abuse Awareness day by talking with me about elder abuse. But we need to be aware of elder abuse not just one day a year, but every day. So here are some facts:

  • 1 in 10 elders in the US are abused.
  • In 90% of cases elders are abused by family members.
  • 65% of elder abuse victims are women.
  • For elders experiencing abuse, the risk of death increases by 300%.
Upcoming posts:
What is Elder Abuse?
What can YOU do?

Key4Women Pay It Forward Day!

Join Marlo Merrithew, Key4Women manager and other Saratoga County women on Tuesday, July 16th, for Pay it Forward Day!
Where?    Wiawaka Holiday House
When?     11:30am-4:30pm
Learn things like:

  • Why service is a critical component in any advanced society
  • How the efforts of one can positively impact many in our community
  • How you can feel great about yourself while doing important volunteer work
  • By volunteering you can make connections with many other “Pay it Forward” minded women in business professionals!
Keynote presentation to be given by Barbara Sweet, Executive Director of the Tri-County United Way.
Kate Van Buren of DVRC and Christiine Dixon of Wiawaka Holiday House will also give overviews of each program and provide simple, but critical hands on projects you can volunteer for from start to finish.
Bring your own lunch, and learn how you can make a meaningful difference in your community!
RSVP tp Marlo Merrithew at (518) 587-2405 or email marlo_merrithew@keybank.com by Friday, July 12, 2013.

For directions visit www.wiawaka.org click about us and select directions.
Wiawaka Holiday House
3778 State Route 9L
Lake George, NY 12845

Knickknacks End Years of Abuse


(Lisa Cupolo, June 2013)

It wasn’t until she realized that her concern for her knickknacks became more important than her concern for her own life that she finally started her path to ending years of abuse.

Mary got married when she was young to a friend of the family.

“Although I was married, I was forced to have intercourse.  I felt like a rape victim with my own husband.  He pushed himself on me.  He forced me.”, said Mary describing the abuse.  “They (the abuser) think they control every part of you – even your body,” she said.

Approximately two-thirds of sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows (U.S. Department of Justice National Crime Victimization Study. 2005). In 2012, according to Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Services of Saratoga County (DVRC), 32 percent of sexual assault clients reported that their perpetrator was a marital partner, partner or ex partner.  Another 28 percent reported that the sexual assault was perpetrated by an acquaintance, 23 percent by a relative and only 17 percent by a stranger.

The sexual abuse Mary experienced became a pattern in her life, as it does for many. The abusive patterns started for Mary when she was just five years old when she was sexually abused by a family member. In Mary’s case, sexual abuse came paired with mental and physical abuse and control.

When she gave birth to her first child at a young age, her husband had not allowed her to see a doctor until the day that she gave birth. “The hospital staff told my husband that if it wasn’t for the fact that we were married, they would report him,” Mary said recounting her experience.  “That was the only time during my abuse that I can remember thinking that someone cared about my experience as a victim of abuse,” she said.

In 2012, DVRC met with 123 victims of sexual assault. According to the U.S. Dept. of Justice, only 20% of primary sexual assault victims seek help from an agency such as DVRC.  According to these statistics, there is the potential that there were over 615 cases of sexual assault in Saratoga County in 2012; 492, potentially, were never reported.

“I lost a baby due to his abuse,” Mary said.  “I went to the hospital and no one even noticed that my miscarriage was due to physical abuse.  I wondered how no one cared.”

Mary recounted blocking reality as a way to cope.

“He would force himself on me.  You know it is wrong.  You are fully competent but you go into survival mode just to get through the day and make it out alive.  You lose grip with reality,” she said.

There is an average of 207,754 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault each year in the U.S. (U.S. Department of Justice.National Crime Victimization Survey. 2006-2010).  This means on average, someone is sexually assaulted in the U.S. every 2 minutes.

After ten years of abuse, Mary finally came to the realization that she needed to make a change.

“My sister came to visit me for a few days.  My husband was beating me in the kitchen.  He didn’t care that my sister was watching him beat me.  My sister recalled me screaming ‘don’t break the knickknacks!’ A light bulb went off in my head when my sister pointed out after witnessing the abuse that I was more concerned about breaking the knickknacks in my kitchen than I was about my own life.  The abuse became so normal to me,” Mary said.  “I finally had someone say ‘What are you doing? Get out of this!’”

“There are a lot of reasons why people don’t leave abusive relationships,” says Jackie who works for DVRC of Saratoga County, “One of the biggest reasons is because they feel like they’re in love and they hope that love will make their abuser change. Other times they feel guilty; they believe they are at fault for the abuse or that it would stop if they could change something about themselves.”

“Thankfully, the trend I see is more people are reporting sexual assault and rape to the police and authorities,” said Jim Murphy, Saratoga County District Attorney. “I believe this is not necessarily because the assaults are occurring more often but because there is more awareness for what sexual assault actually is. Agencies are more helpful in terms of trying to understand and empower the victims.”  DVRC does its best to offer a variety of resources to its clients, including a 9 bedroom safe house, a 24-hour hotline, and a team of legal advocates” says the DA. Jackie agrees, “we have legal advocates at DVRC that are able to go through the criminal justice and/or family justice system…they’re not lawyers but they’re able to give legal information, they’re able to advocate for the victim in court and with law enforcement.”

Mary went to the police and stayed at a hotel.  She knew that whatever the odds were, she had to move on, for her own sanity and for her children.  Mary described being hesitant to leave because her husband assured her that he would stop the abuse. However, she knew from experience that he would not stop and that it would only become worse.

With support from NYS Department of Criminal Justice Services all Saratoga Hospital emergency room nurses are specially trained to assist victims of sexual assault. The hospital has private rooms for victims and works with DVRC immediately so that the victim feels supported and empowered right from the beginning.

“People are still embarrassed and there is a stigma associated with sexual assault.  I think it is far worse to say nothing and carry the burden throughout a person’s life.  I am not saying that going through the criminal justice system as a victim is easy but it is made easier through a supportive system.  The important thing is to understand that it is not the victim’s fault,” Jackie reports.

In terms of preventative services, the Saratoga County District Attorney’s office works with the County’s twelve school districts to educate youth about safe sex, sexting and protecting themselves and their bodies.  The office also meets with Saratoga Hospital monthly and provides police training related to interacting with victims. Likewise, there are a variety of services that DVRC offers, including prevention and outreach programs with youth and adults across Saratoga County.

“I think that in Saratoga County, one of the things that we are really lucky to have is agencies where the directors collaborate.  They meet and share resources,” said Murphy.

“I have been in these shoes and I understand.  My children saw me get physically abused.  Eventually you realize that you have to get strong and get out of the situation or you won’t survive,” said Mary. “Organizations like DVRC help individuals become strong and healthy again,” she said.

Creating an awareness of what abuse is and empowering victims and their families is one of the most valuable resources available to the community. With organizations like DVRC and Saratoga Hospital, in partnership with the District Attorney’s office, we can be sure that there will be far more happy endings like Mary’s.


123 Sole Survivor

War Memorial 123

Saratoga… We Have a Problem

Saratoga County is admired as a perfect picture of Upstate New York.  Nestled between the Capitol District and the Adirondacks, it’s a scenic, historical area, with big city attractions embodying a small town feel that appeals to both locals and tourists from around the world.

However, just like any county, we have our challenges.  Some are apparent and dealt with publicly and swiftly, others are hidden and unresolved.  One of the many reasons why societal challenges persist is because they go undetected.  In order to fix a problem, we first must acknowledge it.

In 2012, Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Services of Saratoga County (DVRC) served 123 sexual violence victims.  Over 25% were under the age of 20.  Eighty-three percent were victimized by someone they knew (such as a marital partner, ex-partner, co-worker, peer, or relative).

Not what you expected?  Imagine this:  According to the United States Department of Justice, only 20% of sexual assault victims ever seek help from an agency like DVRC.  What if 123 represented only 20% of the total number  of sexual assault incidents in Saratoga County in 2012?

National statistics indicate 1 in 5 women and 1 in 10 men experience sexual violence in their lifetime. By the math, 30,000 Saratoga County residents may be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. Clearly, the prevalence of sexual assault in Saratoga County is a problem.

DVRC collected 123 pairs of shoes to represent each sexual assault victim served in 2012.  Throughout the months of April and May, DVRC displayed these shoes in various public places such as Saratoga Spring’s Congress Park, Saratoga County Municipal Plaza, and Saratoga Spa State Park.  One hundred and twenty-three shoes do not go unnoticed.  At each location, photos were taken to memorialize the visual extent of sexual assault in Saratoga County. You can see all of the photographs taken in the following link: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.536888746374174.1073741826.406790249384025&type=3


If we were to walk in these shoes, what would we learn?

Sexual assault is any sexual act done against someone’s will.  Sometimes physical force is used, but more often than not, there is coercion involved; i.e., the victim feels intimidated by his/her perpetrator.  It may be because of the perpetrator’s physical stature, some threat made towards the victim or their family, and/or fear of what the perpetrator is willing to do to get what they want.  The perpetrator takes control of the victim’s body, the ultimate violation. [Sex, one of the most intimate contacts one person can have with another person, is used to exert power.]

Sexual assault can happen to anyone of any race, class, culture, or gender.  It is never the victim’s fault, no matter the circumstances.  Sometimes, a victim may blame themselves for not handling the situation differently or missing red flags.  Of course, everyone makes mistakes and misjudgments; but does that justify rape?

Sexual violence, including rape, is a social problem, and social problems persist in the absence of social change. Social change starts with a shared awareness, and only then can it move into action. You can help end sexual violence in Saratoga County – call 518-583-0280 to get involved.

DVRC provides individual counseling, advocacy with medical services, law enforcement, and other agencies, and a 24-hour hotline for victims of sexual assault.  DVRC works with victims and family and friends to provide information, support and resources to help them move forward in their lives.  For more information, please call the DVRC office at 518-584-8188. Or call the hotline at 518-584-8188.

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

Did you know?
  • 1 in 10 elders will be victims of elder abuse 
  • only 20% of elder abuse cases are ever reported to the authorities, or
  • that amounts to more than  a half a million reported cases of elder abuse in the US...each year!
Today, June 15th, is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.So what is elder abuse?

When we think of elder abuse, we may immediately think of a vulnerable senior who is physically assaulted. But elder abuse can take various forms:
  • Physical and Sexual Abuse- Unexplained cuts, bruises, fractures, or reports of unwanted sexual contact or unexplained sexually transmitted infections.
  • Neglect- Inadequate food, hygiene, clean or appropriate clothing. living in dangerous environment (e.g., lacking heat, utilities), withholding medications or medical aids (walker, hearing aids, dentures). Confinement to bed without care, or  left without necessary supervision.
  • Psychological or Emotional Abuse- verbal aggression, threats, intimidation, social isolation, or uncaring
  • Financial Exploitation- Controlling and 'living off' the elders resources without providing for their needs, excessive 'payments' or 'gifts'  for care or companionship, withholding goods or services the elder needs and can afford, coercing the elder into turning over property or financial resources when they cannot understand the transaction.
Elders may be abused by family, caregivers, or professionals providing care. The frail elderly are at increased risk for victimization. Social isolation, dependence on the abuser for basic needs and dementia or declining cognitive functioning can prevent a vulnerable elder from disclosing the abuse.

Most elder abuse goes undetected. If you are suspect abuse, report your concerns to  your county's 
Adult Protective Services. You do not need proof of abuse; they can investigate to determine if abuse is occurring. 

Those were the days…maybe not

If you grew up in the 70's , it's a pretty good bet that you used to watch All in the Family. I know every week my parents and I would gather around the black and white Magnavox TV and laugh at the antics of Archie, Edith, Gloria and 'the Meathead'. That was quality family time.

Jean Stapleton (Edith Bunker) recently passed away. In a nostalgic moment this weekend, my hubby, lounging in his well-loved recliner, was watching old episodes of All in the Family on his computer. Cooking dinner I watched over his shoulder an episode called Archie's Chair in which Michael accidentally breaks Archie's iconic recliner.

The family frantically tries to get the chair repaired before Archie returns home, only for the unthinkable to happen...the repair company mistakes his chair for junk and discards it. Archie has a fit, tyrannizing Edith by yelling and threatening to break furniture; it was the classic reactionary Archie Bunker rant we all laughed at back in my youth.

I suddenly had an Ah Ha moment; these are classic red flags. The family continually walking on eggshells. Sometimes he's loving and tender, but  sometimes uses anger or intimidation to maintain order in his house. Wow... that sounds a lot like the power and control that characterizes an abusive relationship. And that's what my family, and millions of others like us all over America, called family entertainment back in the 70's.

Archie's charm was his unabashed humanness... including stubbornness, vehement political conservatism and bigotry.But I don't recall anyone ever commenting on his behaviors as abusive.  Was Edith in danger from Archie's rages? Never. Did he love her? Clearly. Did his incessant disrespect, "Stifle it Edith" erode her self worth? Undoubtedly.Did the whole family tread carefully to avoid rousing his ire? Every single episode.Is my reaction excessive? Arguably.... but maybe it's also an indicator of how far we've come. Today it's simply not funny to see someone raging at their loved ones... it's uncomfortable. 

But the show also answers the age-old question, "Why people stay in an abusive relationship?". Often because they love the person, even with all his/her complex human flaws. Or because they've made a commitment to each other... for better or worse. Would we ever picture Edith leaving Archie? No. But why didn't we ever question why it was OK, even funny to treat a loved one that way? Maybe because it was all in the family. It's interestingly that I  see things so differently with 30 or 40 years to think about what makes a loving relationship. 

Katherine Seeber … how many victims?

Katherine Seeber was a perpetrator of domestic violence...and she was a victim of domestic violence, more than once. But she  wasn't the only victim...in fact I don't think we can even count how many people's lives have been tragically impacted by the multiple domestic violence events in her life alone.

Reading yesterday's  Saratogian news article about the murder  of Katherine Seeber, I am so struck by how much violence and how much suffering has orbited this family in the past decade. From her part in the brutal murder of her helpless 91 year-old grandmother (she states her co-conspirator in the murder was an abusive partner who "had a hold on her life") to several abusive relationships, some even after receiving domestic violence counseling in prison, to her own death at the hands of an abuser, there has been a roller coaster of violence and despair. The ups and downs, courtroom machinations and senselessness of all this violence  leaves me shaking my head. But I can't shake away how much this family and their friends has suffered...and continues to do so.

And they're not the only ones. The effects of relationship abuse aren't limited just to the partners in the abusive relationship .Recently I stumbled on a website that lists news stories about domestic violence homicides in the US.This isn't pleasant reading; I can't think of anything more horrific or voyeuristic  than reading the details of multiple murders. But take just five minutes and read it anyway.  Why? Because  it really makes an impact. We've all  seen these stories in our newspapers and after a while we become desensitized.

When I read about  one domestic homicide after another, it strikes me how pervasive and tragic this problem is.We have to... I have to... do whatever I can to end relationship abuse. Because I know that while most abusive relationships don't end in death, some do, and we can't predict which ones. When I read these news stories back to back I understand what the blog's author means, "When is society going to realize intimate violence makes victims of us all?"

Eat A Donut Today… For the USA

Today is National Donut Day. No kidding-... it's a real US holiday, recognized the first Friday of every June. 

Why? Because in WWI there were comfort stations to assist the soldiers. These stations provided physical and emotional nourishment for our soldiers. Female volunteers provided food, including donuts (leading to the moniker Donut Dollies).

These Donut Dollies aren't feeding the troops... they're having a snack.
Later, in 1938 the Salvation Army in Chicago implemented National Donut Day as a way to raise funds to support our troops. 

It’s a fun reason to stop and pick up a dozen donuts… but also a great reminder of all the men and women who have risked so much to support our country. So enjoy a donut today… and don’t forget to thank a veteran too!

Take a Closer Look

Take a Closer Look at Relationship Abuse
– at the Tang Museum

There are many myths surrounding Relationship Abuse – who it affects, how the abuse starts, and what forms it takes. Until we debunk these myths, relationship abuse will continue on its current course – to affect 1 in every 4 women, 1 in every 6 men, and 1 in every 3 teenagers. The first step in reducing the prevalence of abuse is increased understanding and awareness.

We invite everyone to help DVRC by helping each other. To do that every one needs to understand the many forms of abuse and their warning signs, and have the courage and skills to open a conversation with someone in need and even with someone who is abusive. Join us on June 9th at the event or visit the exhibit at the Tang Museum (runs until August 11th) to Take a Closer Look at relationship abuse.

transformer_event DVRC