Fall Semester 2019

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At the end of the summer, I thought, “Well, it might be time to update my head shots…” I’d grown in my gray AND my 80’s bangs (finally) Good thing I did; turned out that my <Domestic Violence Awareness Month> would last 16 weeks …

September 12 & 13 * Hobart & William Smith Colleges

September 18 * Niagara University, Dr. Dana Radatz, “Domestic Violence” Class

October 9 * University at Buffalo, Dr. Chris St Vil, “Theory of Human Behavior & Development”

October 18 * CAPPA Theatre, Robert H. Jackson Center, Jamestown, Judicial Conference

October 24 * Woodclif Hotel, Rochester, Judicial Conference

October 28 * Buffalo Historic Courthouse, Judicial Conference

October 29 * University at Buffalo, Dr. Rob Keefe, SW 505

November 3 * St. John the Baptist RC Church, RCIA Program, Teen Dating Violence Program

November 12 * University at Buffalo, Dr. Noelle St. Vil, SW 505

November 13 * Hamburg HS, 9/10 grade Health Classes, Teen Dating Violence Program

November 14 & 18 * ECC Law Enforcement Academy w/the Erie County DV High Risk Team, Continuing Education for Sworn Officers

November 21 * Global Concepts HS, GLOW Program, Teen Dating Violence Program

December 18 * NC Law Enforcement Academy, 73rd Class

December 19 * Buffalo Family Courthouse w/Erie County DV High Risk Team, DV Program for Assigned Counsel

I also signed on with the @ncadv Speaker’s Bureau and finished out the final six months of the Peer Mentoring/DV Program sponsored by the Niagara County Victims Assistance Unit in the Niagara County jail. To top off my very long semester and to celebrate the season, I decorated my first “Period Tree” – <Just Say “NO!” to Period Shaming!>

Looking forward to a far less busy Spring Semester and to finally getting the first draft of the new book into the hands of my First Readers by the end of March. Say a prayer for me, folks; editing is the worst 😦

 

Spring Semester 2019

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Fully immersed in writing book No.3, here’s what I did from February to early June in between looking at old photos, reading old journals, scratching out timelines, writing chapters, half chapters, one liners that would eventually *be* chapters, editing, writing some more, deleting whole chunks of text, re-writing, re-writing, re-writing 😉 Grateful for each and every opportunity …

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After school seminar at Wilson HS for Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. Fantastic kids and great questions!

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Skyping Dr. Danielle Slakoff’s “Domestic Violence” class at Loyola University New Orleans.  Dr. Slakoff is a skilled facilitator which made working with this large group of students easy. What a fun couple of hours 🙂

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*Lunch ‘N Learn*  hosted by The Family Violence Intervention Project, sponsored by The Niagara County Sheriff Dept. Victim Assistance Unit – “Surviving Life AFTER DV: It Is Possible!” at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center.

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Interview with Claudine Ewing, Channel 2 News. Topics ranged from why I decided to write “Leaving Dorian” to the proper verbiage one ought to use when speaking about abuse. I think we sat and talked for maybe … forty-five minutes …? Remainder of interview will be aired at a later date. Thankful for that unique and important opportunity. Most fun moment was doing extra footage with the cameraman on the exterior grounds. Thank you, Cameraman Bob, for your kind words and for helping to make that weird extra segment less awkward!

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Teen Dating Violence Awareness classes for 9/10 graders at Hamburg HS. Hamburg, NY, played an important role in my survivor story, so being able to give back to the community by spending the day working with their kids is something that I’m always happy to do.

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71st class, Niagara County Law Enforcement Academy. It’s interesting to work with LE students because the nuggets that they focus on from “Leaving Dorian” are very different than any other group of students that I work with. This group was also genuinely curious, extremely compassionate, and particularly eager to learn about DV and related topics. A joy to work with.

Fall Semester 2018

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Dr. Dana Radatz Victimology class at Niagara University

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Keynote!  My first standing ovation 🙂 YEAH! They spelled my name incorrectly :/ BOO!!

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Dr. Rob Keefe Human Behavior class at University of Buffalo, South Campus

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Have I ever gotten a pic while working with Dr. Chris St. Vil’s Human Behavior class at UB North Campus?? Nope. Pic of this awesome eval will have to suffice.

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Skyping Dr. Angie Moe’s Family Violence class because Western Michigan is a LONG drive on short notice 😉 So happy to be planning a trip out there soon to meet her (and her students) in person!

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Managed to work a little DV Awareness into the 10th Grade Confirmation class that I teach at St. John the Baptist RC Church in Lockport.

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Healthy Relationships/Teen Dating Violence Class at Hamburg HS – Worked with the entire Freshman class as well as this college credit Senior Health Class.

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69th Class of the Niagara County Law Enforcement Academy at Niagara University. LE students ask *very* different questions than MSW and Family Counseling students; an interesting two hours spent with these brave men – and woman – and a great way to end the semester!

Spring Semester 2018

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It was a looooooong semester!!

Staff Development program at Mt. St. Mary’s Hospital in Lewiston, NY. ### Mt. St. Mary’s is part of the Western New York Catholic Health System, so there were Sisters in attendance. ### I’m well aware that Religious work at the hospital doing a variety of jobs. I *should have known* that there would be Religious in attendance … and yet … I didn’t even consider it. ***Sigh*** At various times during my presentation, I repeat off color words that were spoken to me :/ Awkward :/ But the Sisters took it all in stride, as did the entirety of the staff 🙂 I was happy to have everyone from administrators to nurses (still in their surgical scrubs!) in attendance, as well as reps from Neighborhood Legal Services in Buffalo and UB School of Social Work.

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Working with the Niagara County Sheriff’s Victims Assistance Unit inside the Niagara County jail, women’s facility. Half peer mentoring, half book club, the program involves an advocate and I going in and chatting with the women about tackling life after surviving domestic violence.

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I had a podium for this one 🙂 Woohoo!! I love it when I’m not just thrown into a room with a bunch of people, kinda just hangin’ out up there … notes in hand :/ Seriously, though, it was a small but important event and I was honored to be asked to speak.

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Making the paper (or two) is always interesting, because you can never be sure how the photos will turn out. I’ve been doing this long enough now that I feel comfortable speaking up if I’m unsure or uncomfortable with how a shot is being composed. When I asked veteran photographer Jim Neiss if he *really* thought that someone who wrote a book about being a victim should be standing in what looks like a power position while everyone else is sitting (including the Sheriff… which made me even MORE uncomfortable), he looked at me with a totally straight face and said, “I get the feeling you’re no shrinking flower… ” and continued to compose the shot. Well! *blush* Of course he was spot on, and the picture looked great 🙂 Thanks, Jim!

 

On Saturday, April 7, I spoke at the “Dress for What’s Next” event at the University at Buffalo School of Law. This free, all day event for survivors of domestic violence was put on by an all-volunteer team of UB Law School students. Daycare and lunch were provided for women and their children and there was even a therapy dog on site 🖤 Meditation and self-defense classes were offered, support and referral information was provided and there was even an opportunity for the ladies to do a little “gently used” clothes shopping👗👠👜 Impressive from beginning to end and I was absolutely honored to be asked to be a part of it!

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“Purple is our color”

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Clothes Closet. Women could “shop” for business ans casual clothes. This is an incredibly important opportunity, as there are times that women lee an unsafe home with only the clothes on their backs. It’s also a fantastic way for them to access nearly new business attire. They will look great and feel confident when they venture out into the job market!

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Beautifully decorated for the ladies luncheon!

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Explaining the years of nonsense and difficulties I went through AFTER my divorce.

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Talking about the GIANT microwave I was gifted from a dear friend when I rented my first apartment after my divorce.

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“Leaving Dorian” is used as required text by the Niagara County Law Enforcement Academy at Niagara University. Just like with any college level course, once the students read the book, I go in and spend a couple of hours answering their questions and fielding comments.

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I was happy to be invited to stay and watch the recruits of the 68th Police Academy run through some DV role play.

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Yes, it was “pretend”, but it was still unnerving to watch.

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The ladies of the Niagara County Sheriff’s Victim’s Assistance Unit were fantastic in acting out real life scenarios that the recruits will definitely be facing once they’re sworn and out in the field.

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There were points that I could feel myself wanting to cry. Silly, right? Nope, not when you’re sitting there and you realize what these recruits are actually signing up for.

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After watching those two hours of role play, I have an entirely different perspective on the unique position that officers are in every day. I will never forget this group. 

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I submitted it as an op-ed but ended up with a feature spot. Nice!

Spent a lengthy lunch hour talking DV and related topics with attorneys and advocates. These ladies (and one gentleman) had great questions and were a lot of fun to work with.

April is my anniversary month; eighteen years ago in April, I escaped my abusive husband. Spending the day in Hamburg (the town that I ran away to) delivering Dating Abuse Awareness classes to 9/10 grade and college credit Health classes at Hamburg High School was amazing. A full circle moment for me, to be sure!

Fall Semester, 2017

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If I could use only one word to describe this semester, it would be “busy”!

Opportunities like this don’t come along every day and I was thrilled to be able to accept the offer to speak. Every person in that room was a “Change-Maker”: Women and men in law enforcement, education, intervention and health care. The level of education, experience and raw knowledge in the room was dizzying. Fantastic experience!

Dr. Dana Radatz’ Victimology class at Niagara University. The most frequent comment on their evals? “Ms. Dynel wasn’t what I expected…” Nice! It’s important to challenge stereotypes, and re-evaluating our perceptions of even the most basic concepts is a good place to start 🙂

I picked up two new professors at the University of Buffalo this semester – Dr. Chris St. Vil and Dr. Robert Keefe, both with the School of Social Work.

UB North was difficult to navigate when I attended thirty years ago and it’s just as confusing now. Even after an extremely comprehensive tour from Dr. Chris St. Vil, who I assured that, “… OF COURSE I’ll remember how to get to the classroom…” I did, indeed, get lost. :/ Twice.

Dr. St. Vil’s students filling out evals. Their most frequently commented take-away? “Ms. Dynel’s level of honesty; she made me think differently about what it’s like for a victim once they leave their abusers.”

Happy to be asked back once again this year by Dr. Noelle St. Vil (also with UB School of SW)

This group wasn’t shy in the least! We covered everything from the role that religion played in my healing after my divorce to questions about intimacy issues – no stone was left unturned!

My job is sometimes listed as “speaker”. Other times it’s “advocate”. I guess what I actually am is “truth-teller”, which is fine when I’m speaking about my own experience but much more difficult when someone in the group asks me to help clarify their experience. When a student tells me that her long time friend was killed by her boyfriend and that his defense in court was that he was out of his mind with jealousy? I’ll never forget her; she sat there, lower lip quivering, “…but, that doesn’t seem right, ya know… ? I mean… that he just snapped…?” To have to be the one to look that young woman in the eye and tell her that there is no such thing as a “crime of passion”? That it’s simply an excuse? To have to be the one tell her, in front of a group of her peers, that all violence is a choice and that he killed her friend on purpose because he could not bear losing his control over her? There is nothing tougher than that.

Closing remarks for “Surviving … Thriving: A Journey of Healing Through Art” at the Castellani Art Museum, Niagara University .

I was so invested in the conversation with Dr. Angie Moe’s Family Violence class that I forgot to take a picture of the screen while we were chatting. So … here’s my Skype profile pic (Lame, I know :/ ) Working with Dr. Moe is always fun – she moves the computer so that I can see the whole class and is great at helping me to pick out particular students for questions. I always look forward to Skype Tag-Teaming with her!

I picked up two new educational institutions this semester, as well! The First … NCLEA will be using “Leaving Dorian” as a required text for all new recruits, as well as in their Continuing Education block for currently hired, sworn officers.

 

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The Second … I will be working with Professor Eryn O’Neal’s “Gender and Crime” class at Sam Houston University next semester!

One of the best parts of making a book donation is getting to meet and network with awesome ladies like Phuong Brady, Shelter Supervisor and Rebecca Coleman, DV Counselor, both with Haven House. These gifted copies of “Leaving Dorian” will be used in training seminars with staff as well as in counseling programs with clients.

Being invited to tour Passage House, Niagara County’s secure woman’s shelter, topped off this busy semester. I can tell you that there is no more humbling experience than to walk among women who are devoting their lives to *literally* saving others. Give to your local safe house, woman’s shelter, transitional housing and give all year long. Don’t wait for the holidays to remember that there are women (in every community) who are fighting to reclaim their lives. Donate food, gently used and new clothing, bedding and furniture. Donate food and toiletries. Donate your time, if your local shelter allows that option. But most of all, donate FUNDS. Women and children matter, and we ought to be making their safety and well-being a priority at all times, not just during the Season of Giving.

 

Surviving…Thriving: A Journey of Healing Through Art, October 5, 2017

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Surviving…Thriving: A Journey of Healing through Art featured nearly one hundred pieces of artwork in a variety of mediums, all created by survivors of domestic violence. It was once again held at The Castellani Art Museum (which sits in the center of Niagara University campus) in conjunction with the Red Flag Campaign, a national public awareness initiative designed to encourage college students to intervene when they see a warning sign (“red flag”) of partner violence. Niagara University, The Child Advocacy Center of Niagara, Family & Children’s Service of Niagara, The Niagara County Sheriff’s Office Victim Assistance Unit, and the YWCA of the Niagara Frontier were all proud sponsors of the event, with all proceeds being donated to Passage House Domestic Services, a program of Family & Children’s Service of Niagara.

I was happy to offer closing remarks at the Welcome Reception, as October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

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Well attended by NU students; they didn’t seem to mind waiting in line to sign in.

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DV Advocates with the Niagara County Victims Assistance Unit painting pinkies 🙂 The mission of  The Purple Pinkie Campaign is to eliminate dating violence. The campaign was founded in memory of 18-year-old Alex Kogut who was murdered by her boyfriend in her college dorm room at SUNY Brockport on September 29, 2012.

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Students of the Niagara County Law Enforcement Academy showing off their Purple Pinkies!

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It’s important to note that the event was well attended by both men and women.

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Campus and community advocates made themselves available throughout the entirety of the event to address any complicated or painful emotions that attendees might experience.

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Survivor stories are featured with many of the pieces of artwork.

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The Silent Witness Project was the centerpiece of the exhibit.

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Debbie Boyer stands in front of her daughter’s Silent Witness statuette. Tina Marie was murdered in her own home by her former boyfriend on August 4, 2004.

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Debbie is a pillar of strength and meeting her for the first time was truly my honor, because she’s also a fighter – In the nearly fifteen years since her daughter’s death, she’s become a well known advocate in Niagara County for her unwavering support of domestic violence prevention and response. With a deep understanding that adequate funding equals adequate services for women in need, she and her family  conduct two fundraisers yearly: a cell phone drive and the “Pennies from Heaven” drive which to date has raised more than $20,000 in support of the YWCA’s DV services and programs. The YWCA of the Niagara Frontier also recently dedicated a newly renovated room in its Domestic Violence Safe Dwelling in memory of her daughter, Tina Marie.

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“I ask each and every one of you who will walk this floor tonight to please understand
What you’re viewing isn’t merely art, it’s strength.
It is courage and dignity and tenacity.
What these walls house tonight is a testimony to the strength of the human spirit.”

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L to R: Dr. Dana Radatz, Assistant Professor of Criminology; Eileen Wrobel, Family & Children’s Services; NYS Assemblyman Angelo Morinello; Niagara University President Fr. James Maher; Larissa Bachman, Director of PASSAGE; NU Executive Vice Pres Dr. Debra Colley; *ME*; NC Victims Asst. Unit Susan LaRose; Criminology student Courtney Kenny; YWCA Sexual Violence Prevention Educator/Advocate Rachel Sandle-Sacco

Photos Courtesy of Andrew Emmons, student at Niagara University

Invisible Victims

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Closing remarks at the Welcome Reception for Surviving to Thriving: A Journey of Healing Through Art at The Castellani Art Museum, October 5, 2017

“So often in the media we see and hear sensational stories about battered women

Horrific descriptions of women being seriously injured, maimed and even killed

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And that is awful.

Each and every incident of battery, every life lost, is a tragedy.

But every single day 

There are also hundreds of thousands of women

Who aren’t killed by their partners

Who aren’t shot or stabbed or sent to the emergency room in critical condition

But are injured nonetheless.

Every single day hundreds of thousands of women

Endure cruelties and indignities that many people cannot even fathom.

Affronts to their dignity and to their humanity

Physical abuse that wounds their bodies

And verbal abuse that wounds their hearts and souls.

Yet these women quietly carry on.

They care for their children and they go to work

They go to lunch with friends and cheer their children at little league

They organize fundraisers and sew costumes for school plays

And they pray to their God at religious services, their families by their side

All the while carefully hiding the pain and shame that they live with every day.

Hiding their bruises and their embarrassment behind long sleeves and elaborate excuses.

And when they’ve had enough and they decide to move on and start their lives anew

They do so without fanfare or praise

Often times quietly enduring continued abuse long after the relationship has ended

And yet, they remain steadfast.

They stand and they fight for their right to live free from fear

Free from physical pain and sexual coercion and verbal and emotional battery

And they do all of this in the most private corners of their lives.

They do not tell their stories. They do not let outsiders in.

They carry their tragic history silently, and by themselves.

They are what I call Invisible Victims.

But they shouldn’t be.

Surviving to Thriving: A Journey of Healing Through Art

Brings the reality of these Invisible Victims to light.

They are our mothers and sisters and co-workers and friends.

They are your child’s school teacher and your real estate agent.

They are the cashier at your favorite coffee house and the lady who delivers your mail.

I commend each and every survivor who chose to take part in this exhibition.

To lay your pain and shame and embarrassment open for the world to judge is no small task

*I am well aware of that*

So I ask each and every one of you who will walk this floor tonight to please understand

What you’re viewing isn’t merely art, it’s strength.

It is courage and dignity and tenacity.

What these walls house tonight is a testimony to the strength of the human spirit.

God Bless these women

And God Bless the volunteers who took time out of their busy lives to facilitate this exhibition.

To recognize that no one should believe that it would be better to be Invisible.”

* Photo courtesy of Andrew Emmons, Niagara University

 

Spring 2017

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20170610_090715January to May of 2017 was fun; a “mixed bag” of new experiences, new students and lots of travel! I added workshops to my list of “Things That I Do”, working with everyone from Human Resource professionals to High School students. And I read; oh, boy, did I read! Stacks of books on domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking and gender equality. I read scholarly articles online and went over the NYS OPDV website with a fine-tooth comb. I also watched endless videos and TED talks.  It was near the end of last semester that I realized that if I didn’t educate myself beyond my own narrow experience, my usefulness to students and the general public alike would be extremely limited. There’s always more to learn!

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March 21 – “Because You’re a Girl: A Discussion on Gender Equality” workshop delivered to “The Big Eagle-Little Eagle Mentoring Program” at Niagara University. Niagara Falls High School students are paired with grad and undergrad students for academic support and general guidance.

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They took the “Building a Budget” Activity (meant to show cost of living and pay disparity) VERY seriously. At one point the group that was trying to work out the woman’s budget complained, “But this doesn’t work, no matter how we do it; we always come up short at the end of the month…!” Ah, yes… we’re learning! 🙂

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Discussing “Because You’re a Girl”, a blog post I wrote on sexual assault and how the sexual assault of women effects men. One student wrote on the eval: “The story at the end helped me to realize that things like this are real and can happen to anyone. It helped me to understand that sexual assault is never a joke.”

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Mr. Eric Rigg, Grad Student Extraordinaire and founder of “The Big Eagle-Little Eagle Mentoring Program” and HIS mentor, Ms. Averl Harbin

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When your mom is a DV advocate, your lessons about gender equality are more than just situational – Every fourteen year old boy could benefit from an hour or so with Jackson Katz. Watching Tough Guise, after which he looked at his dad and I and proclaimed, “I think some guys take this hyper-masculinity thing just a little too far!” Out of the mouths of babes :0

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Gratuitous shot of my “Office Assistant” watching a Michael Kimmel TED talk with me 🙂

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Had to stop by the African-American Student Union table at Niagara University’s “Take Back the Night” on March 30 – two of these lovely ladies attended my gender equality workshop and it was great to see them working so hard and standing up for women of color!

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Mentors aren’t just for kids – “Biz Women Mentoring Mondays”  sponsored by Buffalo Business First at RiverWorks. It turned out to be a study in how uncomfortable the average person is when confronted in even the smallest way with the topic of domestic violence.

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And another new workshop! “Beyond Leaving Dorian, A Culture of Caring: Addressing Domestic Violence in the Workplace”.

 

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Twitter is a fantastic exercise in “keeping it succinct”. LOVE it!

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I was so inspired after the mountains of reading I did in order to prepare for the gender equality workshop, my husband and I decided that a day trip to the very SEAT of the movement would be in order!

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He is one of my personal heroes – ugly cried the entire time I stood there.

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None of what I do is easy. Much of the time it feels like I’m shouting into a black hole. Every single day, women are still dying at the hands of men who claim to love them. “Tell me, Susan, how did you do it? You spent your life fighting and didn’t even live to see the goal met.” And the wind carried what sounded like an answer – “Persist.”

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May 30 – DV Awareness presentation at Fredonia BOCES

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Cosmetology and Health Careers Students. Don’t ever assume that you don’t need to talk to your kids about healthy relationships or boundaries. One student remarked on her eval: “The most important thing that I learned was that it’s not o.k. to be grabbed or hit.” Another remarked, “The presentation gave me hope that some day I will get out of the relationship I’m in.” Education is the key.

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Law Enforcement students. These kids arrived dressed in full uniform, filed-in in what was akin to military formation and took the entire presentation very seriously. And yet their reflection letters to me said things like, “I was touched by your presentation. You opened my eyes. We are grateful for your strength.” Again…ugly cry.

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Jennie Alessi – NYS Certified Police Officer, Professor of Criminal Justice at Hilbert College and Criminal Justice Instructor at Fredonia BOCES. She is tiny but she is badass. Extremely honored that she extended me the invitation to come and speak.

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Now, let’s take a moment, shall we, to note this extremely bad picture of me… What the… ? I often post the less than flattering shots because, well… sometimes that’s all I get and I have to have a picture to post. But this one … wow … I look chunky AND grumpy … and I’m neither! Well, ok, to be fair … I’m probably grumpy … a lot … but geez! There’s still plenty of time left, but I’m hoping that this goes down as my “Least Flattering Pic of 2017” 😉

 

 

Presentation Reviews

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20161228_090617“I have been talking to my class as well as to folks who attended your evening presentation.  Everyone has shared thoughts that contained words like ‘amazing’, ‘incredible’ and ‘powerful’.  It is clear to me that your visit made an important contribution to their learning.” – Dr. James Sutton, Professor of Sociology, Hobart & William Smith Colleges

“I really appreciated how you were able to talk about such difficult material in an honest and down-to-earth manner. The Skype session with you was clearly the stand-out class period of the semester. It’s certainly not every day that college students can speak directly to the author of one of their reading assignments! You both reinforced and enhanced our collective understanding of the dynamics involved with intimate partner violence. We admire and respect you greatly.” – Dr. Angie Moe, Professor of Sociology, Western Michigan University

“I assigned ‘Leaving Dorian’ to my graduate level Domestic Violence course. From the very start, my students were enthralled and invested in her story. This was not only apparent in our class discussions, but also when Linda visited my class as a guest speaker; the three-hour time frame for the one-day per week course seemed to pass within minutes rather than hours, as we sat in a circle informally discussing her book. Linda’s visit was invaluable, not only to my students, but also to me. So much of what Linda shared in her visit with students aligned with my course material. Linda’s name frequently arose in classes after her visit, as many of the students (as well as myself) referenced Linda in subsequent classes. The ability to use examples from Linda’s book and her class visit was incredibly beneficial when teaching challenging concepts and driving home important points. Also, I find it important to note that at the end of the semester, when I asked for informal feedback on the course, every one of my students mentioned that Linda’s book and her visit were “absolute musts” for my future classes. Without a doubt, I firmly believe Linda positively impacted my students’ understanding of domestic violence, and cannot wait to have her visit Niagara University in future semesters!” – Dr. Dana Radatz, Professor of Criminology, Niagara University

From Student Evaluations Administered After Presentations:

The one thing I found most helpful about this presentation was:  “The openness of the conversation. We were allowed to ask whatever questions we were wondering.” – “How honest and understanding she was.” – “The statistics she gave were eye-opening and I really loved that she gave out packets of data, as well. She made her story so open and honest to us; it made it so real and incredibly motivating.” – “It was more of a discussion and not a strict lecture. She was very personable, funny and friendly.” – “The open discussion format. I liked the different directions that the presentation went in due to our ability to ask questions continuously.”  – “Her candor and honesty about a very difficult topic.” – “How open and honest she encouraged us to be.”

Other comments: “I love your style of presentation. Amazing experience!”  – “I really enjoyed your presentation and conversation we had!” – “I think your current role in the world is very important. Everyone needs to hear your story and other stories like it so we may be one step closer to implementing change.” – “I am so very thankful for Linda Dynel and strong individuals like herself who so bravely share their stories to educate and help complete strangers. It is because of people like her that brings bursts of light to those who feel they are alone in the dark.” – “Emotional and wonderful experience. Painful but cathartic.” – “So awesome! This book should be required by all colleges for their students to read!” – “This was an amazing presentation and I felt like it improved me as a person and as a social worker.” 

“Surviving…Thriving: A Journey of Healing Through Art” Castellani Art Museum, October 27, 2016

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Music played softly in the gallery and advocates from local help agencies answered questions and offered information and guidance at tables set up in the lobby as students, faculty and members of the surrounding community viewed about 80 pieces of art created by survivors of domestic violence in a special exhibit at Niagara University’s Castellani Art Museum.

“This is the first year Niagara University has been part of the event. NU students have created a red flag – part of the national Red Flag Campaign, which addresses the red flags of dating violence, said Karrie Gebhardt, director of domestic violence and parenting services at Family and Children’s Services of Niagara. The initiative is a campaign to remind people to ‘say something’ if they see the signs of dating violence in a friend’s relationship. Some of the red flags include, coercion, jealousy, stalking, emotional abuse, sexual assault, isolation and victim blaming.

Eileen Wrobel, a Niagara Falls Police domestic violence victim advocate, facilitated the art exhibit with survivors through the Windows Between the Worlds art program.” – Nancy Fisher, Buffalo News, October 20, 2016

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“No matter what anyone says or how they try and justify the behavior, it is not O.K. to be treated poorly by anyone. Especially when they call it love.”

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This is the piece that brought me to tears; even now, it’s hard for me to look at.

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“If I can say anything to convince you to leave before it’s too late, (I’d say) ‘It’s not worth it and there is better love.’ I am a survivor by the grace of God.”

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I had a student ask me at a recent event if her friend (who is being battered, but who is also struggling with immigration issues) would be arrested and/or deported if she reached out to authorities for help. The above piece perfectly illustrates this often times overlooked issue.

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Oil on canvas

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The Silent Witness Project is a traveling project created in 2016 by high school senior Andrew Villella as his Eagle Scout Project. It is a reconstruction of the original life-sized project built in 2006 when there were only nine victims. Each figure represents an individual who once lived in Niagara County whose life was ended violently at the hands of a spouse, former spouse or intimate partner.

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More than 200 students attended this eye-opening event

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Dr. Dana Radatz, Criminology professor at Niagara University, was instrumental in bringing this event to fruition.

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The YWCA, The Child Advocacy Center of Niagara and Niagara University’s Counseling Center were among the community and campus based help centers who donated their time in order to offer information and guidance to those in attendance.

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A big “Thank You” to Karrie Gebhardt for graciously sharing the Family & Children’s Services table so that Leaving Dorian might be displayed.

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