Wellspring - Ending relationship and sexual abuse in Saratoga County

Shine a Light Blog

Shine a Light Blog

Denim Day

Imagine if the clothes you wore to work one day made a political statement about unthinkable injustice that was still resounding 16 years later. 

Imagine if that wardrobe selection on one April morning started a global movement to challenge social attitudes about sexual violence. 

Imagine that women all over the world still continue remember an injustice done to one young girl in 1997, first by a rapist, then even more appallingly by the legal system that was supposed to protect her. Why do they remember? Maybe because even 16 years later victims of rape still can’t be certain that they won’t be victimized by the legal system.  

That’s why people in nations across the globe and 20 states in the US recognize Denim Day by wearing jeans to work to bring awareness about sexual violence. Because like those members of the Italian Parliament we’re still working to combat the stigma and social attitudes that perpetuate sexual violence. 

This year April 24th has been designated as Denim Day. Won’t you join me in recognizing Denim Day:
1)      Read the story.   That was 16 years ago… is it possible that this same injustice could happen in a courtroom today? Maybe. Rape victims still sometimes feel like they’re on trial instead of the accused…and many don’t pursue prosecution for this reason. Who wants to risk being victimized yet again in court?

2)      Take a stand on Denim Day… wear jeans, share the story… talk about our social attitudes about sexual assault.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

There are Only Two Ways to Live

At today's Crime Victims' Vigil two articulate young women, both survivors of crimes, spoke eloquently about  how the actions of one person have forever changed their lives. One woman's life  was changed in a millisecond as she was struck by a drunk driver as she stepped out of her car at a gas station. The other endured almost a decade of victimization, as a relative exploited her trust and innocence as he sexually abused her from the time she was four years old until she became a teenager.

As the candles were lit, vigil attendees spoke the names of loved ones whose lives were taken from them far too soon. A child whose life ended after just a few years... because someone drove drunk. A daughter killed by a boyfriend, leaving behind children who would never know their mother. And on...Each year a scroll with crime victims names is displayed at the vigil... there are now 456 names on the scroll. At the vigil it's impossible to think of crime as just statistics. Numerous display boards show photos of love ones lost, but never forgotten.

Despite personal grief, many attendees also offered prayers for families in Newtown, Connecticut and victims of the Boston bombings, where tragedy struck so many at once.  John Kelly,  whom District Attorney Jim Murphy recognized at the vigil for a lifetime of work helping crime victims, offered words to reflect on as we recover from such mass violence, "There are only two ways to live your life... just two. One is in fear; the other is with hope."

Crime Victims’ Vigil: Remembering…Healing … HOPE

Remembering…Healing ... HOPE
This Sunday, April 21st I will once again be attending the annual Crime Victims’ Vigil. It’s certainly not an event I look forward to … but I’m there every year. Why? Because it’s important.

At 4 p.m. the Presbyterian New England Congregational Church will be full of people remembering…grieving…honoring… and healing. There will be many familiar faces from past vigils. Their grief may be less raw…time moves forward; but their losses no less devastating. Other faces are new; this is their first vigil.
Each year District Attorney Jim Murphy honors individuals who have committed their lives to supporting crime victims and protecting their right. These folks always seem humbled by the recognition; they  do this difficult work not for glory, but for justice.
The heart wrenching stories of how crime has taken a son or daughter, has  shattered dreams, or has left a survivor forever scarred, remind me that newspaper accounts about crime can’t possibly convey it’s impact. I think we become desensitized as we read the paper or watch the evening news; the vigil has the opposite effect.
Each year I’m left with one haunting image. There is a scroll with the names of victims written on it. Each year more names are added to the scroll. I recall a decade ago when I first attended the vigil that the unrolled scroll reached to the first few pews of the church. At my first vigil looking at all the names on the scroll I was overcome with sadness. Each year as the scroll unrolls farther down the aisle, almost past the confines of the room, I think, “Is there no end?”
Such sadness--you may question why I go year after year. Because, like Pandora’s box, just when all seems lost the vigil evokes a beaming light radiating throughout the room- Hope. In a room filled with people whose lives have been shattered by crime and whose loved ones have been taken from them, there is support, healing and hope. May we soon see the day when that scroll stops with not one more name added.
Crime Victims’ Vigil
4 p.m. Sunday April 21, 2013
New England Congregational Church
24 Circular Street, Saratoga Springs

"Our Whole Community Needs to Work Together"

Pete Bardunias, president and CEO of the Chamber of Southern Saratoga County, said it best , "These are times our whole community needs to work together to make sure everyone has a good quality of life.” Those are good words of wisdom for building a healthy and vibrant community.   

And that’s what happened at the Women in Business Showcase yesterday. From health screenings to financial health and fitness to fine food provided by Pasta Pane, Chamber women represented their businesses. One business, Cengage Learning, was a prime example of Pete’s strategy of working together to improve everyone’s quality of life.  

DVRC's Kate van Buren  and Erin Coffin
of Cengage Learning helped create the employer awareness kit. 
Cengage, created an employers’ toolkit increase awareness of how relationship abuse can affect the workplace, which they distributed at the Business Showcase. The toolkit, which has an employee awareness poster and a resource guide for managers and supervisors, is designed to give businesses tools to promote workplace safety and to offer resources if an employee experiences relationship abuse. Looking at the resource guide, one business executive remarked, “I’m going to keep this in my files, because I know that someday I’m going to need this. It’s nice to know I’m prepared.”  

To get your employers toolkit, just call DVRC at 518-583-0280… it’s good to be prepared.

Is the Answer as Simple as Kindness?

Lately, we’ve seen national news stories about teen sexual assaults (Steubenvuille, Ohio and Saratoga, California). In recent posts I’ve spoken a lot about underage drinking as a contributing factor. But underage drinking and impaired judgment alone don’t explain why these assaults occur. These assaults have occurred at parties, among friends, even with bystanders observing, laughing and taking photos while the boys take advantage of a drunk girl. We may think of a rapist as a masked stranger who jumps out of the bushes with ill intent. In reality the victim generally knows the rapist. He may be a boyfriend, a date, a family member, an acquaintance or a co-worker.  

That’s the part that has the community confounded. We think rapists are evil people who consciously harm. Yet, in Steubenville the boys never identified that they were sexually assaulting a helpless victim. Onlookers didn’t intervene either. How is it boys who are ‘good kids’ are committing these acts? I recently read an article by Kim Simon, No More Steubenvilles; How to Raise Boys to Be Kind Men, about how we’ve created a culture that contributes to sexual violence. It’s an interesting look at a complicated problem.  

It Can Happen Here Saratoga

Just a few weeks ago I was writing about the Steubenville, Ohio rape case. As I spoke about the volatile mix of underage drinking, cyber-bullying and sexual assault, I noted this could happen anywhere…it could happen here. Today’s news echoes a similar incident in Saratoga… not Saratoga County, NY but Saratoga, California. Tragically, in this case the 15 year old girl committed suicide after the alleged assault. 

This case is still being investigated, but how many such tragedies will happen before we take a firm stand on underage drinking?  

Adolescent drinking is not a rite of passage. Many teens think social drinking and even bingeing are normal when getting together with friends. Teenagers bodies and brains are still developing. Parents, this is important. Any alcohol use jeopardizes your son’s or daughter’s well-being. Adolescent brains function differently. When in emotionally charged situations adolescents do not make decisions using the same rational processes as adults. So although your teen is generally responsible, he/she may behave very differently under  peer pressure and fueled by alcohol. 

There are far too many of these stories of teen lives destroyed when a ‘party’ gets out of control. Your values shape your child’s decisions more than you think. Letting your kids know you do not approve of underage drinking (even if other adults have different views on this) does influence their decisions. Talk to your kids about this and don’t provide alcohol to minors.  

Tomorrow: Alcohol is just one contributing factor in sexual assault like those in Steubenville. Social norms about respecting women and obtaining consent are key factors.

When Abuse Leaves the Home and Comes to Work

What happens to your staff at home stays there right?  Did you know 21% of US employees experience relationship abuse? Of these, 40% report being harassed while at work. Indeed, 64% of victims report that their work performance is significantly impacted by their situation; they also average 26% more tardiness and absenteeism than those not experiencing abuse.
What would you do if your employee disclosed he/she was abused at home? It's hard enough running a business and addressing the needs of your employees at work. A manager's job gets even harder when an employee's home life impacts their work performance... and can also impact the safety of their co-workers. What can you do?
Cengage Learning, a leading educational services company is working with Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Services of Saratoga County (DVRC) to help employers make a difference in the lives of their employees, and in their own bottom line. Volunteers from Cengage Learning have created a simple and easily accessible toolkit for employers to use and share with their employees. There are many early warning signs of relationship abuse. And there are easy ways to help. Employers can make a real difference for their employees and for their business.
The toolkit designed by Cengage helps you to focus on running your business. Did you also know that DVRC provides no-cost assistance to employers to help them best respond when domestic violence affects their employees or workplace. Call DVRC at 518-583-0280 to receive the toolkit or to talk with our staff about your concerns.
You can also speak with Cengage and DVRC directly this Wednesday, April 17thfrom 11:30 – 1:30 at the Women in Business Mid-Day Showcase at the Chamber of Southern Saratoga County.

Aprons in Action- cast your vote today

"When our perils are past,
shall our gratitude sleep?"
George Canning

You can help Saratoga County Rural Preservation Company secure $25,000 from the Home Depot for renovations to Guardian House, a housing program that helps female veterans transition back into the community and self-sufficiency. The proposed plans include a study area to help vets improve employment opportunities, an exercise area , and a garden... renovations to support our female vets in mind, body and spirit.

Please help Home Depot  support our local vets by visiting their Aprons in Action page on facebook and selecting Saratoga County RPC- Vet Help. They're in a close race to be the winner... your vote can make the difference, so don't wait!  You can vote every day until the end of April.


Sole Survivor- What You Need to Know After a Sexual Assault

 These shoes represent the 123 sexual assault survivors
DVRC assisted last year.
DVRC’s Sole Survivorproject aims to increase awareness about the prevalence of sexual assault. Awareness alone isn’t enough. It may be an interesting fact that DVRC assisted 123 survivors of sexual assault last year alone, but it’s not enough to just know the numbers. When I look at 123 pairs of shoes, I think about 123 people whose lives were irreparably changed because of the assault. In my April 9th blog post I spoke about the victims of sexual assault who never seek services from an agency like DVRC. Those people far outnumber the ones who do.

Why don’t people seek help? For many it’s simply because they never imagined ever being a rape victim and after the traumatizing assault they didn’t know where to turn. If someone you know is even in this situation, here’s what you need to know:

What to do if you are raped…
1. Go to a safe place
2. Do not shower, bathe, urinate, douche, or brush your teeth
3. Save all clothing from the assault
4. Do not disturb the crime scene
5. Seek medical help at the hospital
6. At the hospital a specially trained Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner can collect evidence that can be used to prosecute the crime if you choose to do so. You do not need to make this decision right away, but having the forensic exam preserves the evidence while you decide.

The decisions are yours to make:
1. You do not have to report to law enforcement to receive help.
2. A DVRC advocate can accompany you to medical services or to report the crime if you choose to do so.
3. We can discuss your options and available resources.
4. We are available 24 hours a day by calling 518-584-8188.