Videos/Educational

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Miss Representation: You Can’t Be What You Can’t See  A Documentary Film by Jennifer Siebel Newsom

Tough Guise: Violence, Media & The Crisis in Masculinity  with Jackson Katz

Tough Guise 2: Violence, Manhood & American Culture  featuring Jackson Katz

The Mask You Live In: Is American Masculinity Harming Our Boys, Men & Society at Large?  A Film by Jennifer Siebel Newsom

Never Say Never: “In Her Shoes”

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20171031_085032No matter how compassionate or understanding a person you think you are, at some point you’re going to be a little judge-y.

*shrug*

O.K.

Everybody scoffs. Everybody – everybody – shakes their head and screws up their mouth and (in a moment of weakness) decides that the way that someone else is choosing to conduct themselves is wrong. We look at someone’s life or their current situation or their reaction to a rough patch and think, “I would never do that!” This is especially true of domestic violence. Comments like, “I would never let a man put his hands on me!” or “I would never put my children through that!” are incredibly common.

And so … maybe that’s actually the case. Maybe you wouldn’t. Maybe your reaction would be different than someone else’s. But then again, how can you be sure? The reality is that until you’re in a given situation, you really don’t know how you’d react.

Because I work with DV victims and survivors as well as those who serve them, I was honestly of the opinion that I (mostly) understood the overall plight of the battered woman. Fortunately for me, I live in a county where the local FCS (ours is Family & Children’s Service of Niagara) offers the In Her Shoes DV Awareness Program.

Published in 2000 by the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, In Her Shoes is “…a revolutionary community education tool, designed for learning about domestic violence. Participants move, do, think and experience the lives of battered women.” Photo Courtesy of The Columbian, 2015.

I initially registered to attend because while I’ve worked with Family & Children’s Service of Niagara in the past, I was recently made aware that their Director of Passage House, Larissa Bachman, is using Leaving Dorian as a supplemental read with their interns. It got me to thinking that while I know quite a bit about FCS, I know little about the inner workings of Passage House. I thought what a great opportunity to speak candidly with Larissa and her team and as a bonus maybe do a blog post about the In Her Shoes Program.

I was completely unprepared for the experience that followed.

Participants were brought into a mixed-use room where I’d worked previously, only this time instead of rows of chairs there were long tables with stacks of colorful note cards. Each table had a sign attached: “Social Services”, “Hospital”, “Employment”, etc. Attendees were then paired up and we were told to pick a person’s name from the starter table. After that the journey begins; you are to make choices for your person while reading their perspective (as well as their batterer’s perspective) from each side of the card.

Because I’m a survivor of DV and because I work with amazing DV professionals and ridiculously intelligent and well-read professors and because I, too, have chosen to be well-read on the topic, I walked into the exercise feeling confident that I could help my person to avoid the inevitable pitfalls. There was no doubt in my mind that I would be able to guide her into a healthy lifestyle well within the hour or so time frame we’d been given to complete the exercise.

Within minutes I realized that I was wrong.

There’s no way that you can prepare yourself to be given the opportunity to make every choice from beginning to end and still “fail”. There’s no way to prepare yourself to walk through nearly forty-five minutes with a person (yes, a person written on paper, but one that you slowly and inadvertently invest yourself in) just to get to the last card and have it say “Funeral Home”.

I couldn’t believe it. Tears started to well in my eyes. I stood there trying to figure it out; why was the end result so hard to take? I mean, I thought I had it. I thought I knew. I am the “Her” in “In Her Shoes”, after all! I’ve been there. I’ve done that. And even beyond my own experience – as an author who’s made myself extremely accessible on social media – I routinely hear the most sad, perplexing and gut wrenching stories from victims and survivors alike. I thought nothing could surprise or shock me. And yet, tears.

I was seriously under the weather and probably should have stayed home that day, so I immediately wanted to blame it on that; I simply wasn’t feeling well. But the young woman that I was paired with didn’t like the ending either. I said, “Let’s go back…” So we did. Our character was young; not even eighteen. We had her go home. And yet, three cards in, she was right back in a tough spot. I suggested we go back even further, maybe right back to the second card that we read.

I was shaken. That couldn’t be her ending. I refused to finish the exercise. I simply would not walk over to the wall marker that said “Funeral Home”. There was nothing but an empty table in front of it. No more cards. It was left empty for reflection, but I didn’t want to reflect. I dried my eyes as the group sat down for debriefing.

I was happy to find out that not every story ended as tragically as ours. Other groups did manage to successfully maneuver their people into new lives. It’s worth noting, though, that at times these groups had to make choices for their person that weren’t always in line with their real-life belief systems. Again, an incredibly important lesson: You cannot impose your value system on someone else. Hard to hear? Sometimes, yes. But a necessary message? Absolutely.

Of course Ms. Bachman and her team were excellent facilitators and I’d like to believe that every attendee walked out that afternoon with all of their questions answered and with a deeper appreciation of the level of strength, courage, creativity and (sometimes) blind faith that victims routinely have to possess in order to safely and successfully re-start their lives. I know that I did. It was a humbling experience that I will carry with me; one that will necessarily be reflected in every presentation and classroom discussion that I participate in from now on.

I’m incredibly proud to be able to say that Family & Children’s Service of Niagara is my hometown service provider and that the staff there is offering unique, high-quality community education programs like In Her Shoes. Programs like these (offered in house or off-site) are exactly what HR professionals are looking for when putting together sensitivity training for Staff Development Days. Their utilization can only heighten awareness and bring about much needed change in our thought processes (and eventually, our behavior toward) victims of domestic violence.

If you are in Western New York, you can contact FCS of Niagara to schedule an In Her Shoes program experience at http://www.niagarafamily.org or by phone: (716) 285-6984

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence and is need of assistance, FCS of Niagara 24/7 Emergency Hotline is: (716) 299-0909

To purchase the In Her Shoes program please contact http://www.wscadv.org

 

 

 

 

 

Summer 2017

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Family time at the Pittsburgh Zoo – 90+ degrees … we were melting!

It was a busy summer, to say the least; weddings, family road trips and lots of reading, because here in Western New York it did nothing but rain! On the up-side, I still found time to schedule three fantastic presentations with three distinctly different agencies. Each was unique and interesting in its own way and I feel lucky to have been asked by each group to spend some time with their employees, volunteers and clients.

 

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Oh, and there were cupcakes …

In late June I had the privilege of speaking with an amazing group of foster parents at KidsPeace. My presentation focused on childhood trauma and how that related to my own experience with domestic violence, but we covered so much more than that in the nearly three hours that I spent with them.

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… and a dog 🙂

 

 

KidsPeace, founded in 1882, is a private charity dedicated to serving the behavioral and mental health needs of children, families and communities. The organization was originally a home for children orphaned by a smallpox epidemic, but has grown over the years to meet the ever-changing needs of children and adolescents. KidsPeace offers services in Georgia, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Our continuum of care includes a psychiatric hospital; a comprehensive range of residential treatment programs; accredited educational services; and a variety of foster care and community-based treatment programs to help children and families in need transform their lives.”  www.kidspeace.org

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Honest conversations lead to change! So happy to be invited to speak to some of the tireless advocates who are working on behalf of women and children in Niagara County.

 

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With only about ten women in attendance, it was a completely different vibe than I’m accustomed to. Twenty minutes of intense learning – on everyone’s part 🙂

I’ve never delivered a presentation to a group comprised almost entirely of men, but that’s exactly where I unveiled my newest presentation – Domestic Violence & Being An Engaged Bystander – on August 2 at Starpoint Senior High School in Pendleton, NY. Nearly 350 youth football coaches and statisticians were in attendance at NEYSA’s All Coaches meeting. I opted to speak without a mic, because often times people talk “under” you when you use one. The vast majority of these gentlemen were just that – absolute gentlemen. Maybe a little disinterested at first? Sure. But as I talked they listened and quieted and (many) even set aside their phones. I watched their faces go from polite, required attention to, “…oh my god…that actually happened to you…? Are you serious? How could that have happened to you…?” The shock, sadness and disgust that washed over many of the attendees was palpable. Here’s hoping that if these coaches are faced with a family that’s in need of intervention, they’ll remember that feeling (and where they put the paperwork I provided!) and will feel confident in their ability to provide a shoulder and a referral to those in need.

“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.

Free Preview

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They say in order to be successful, you need to write what you know. I know Buffalo, so this story about faith, family and growing community in spite of change is set in Buffalo, New York and the surrounding suburbs.

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https://read.amazon.com/kp/embed?asin=B00TG8CI7U&asin=B00TG8CI7U&preview=newtab&linkCode=kpe&ref_=cm_sw_r_kb_dp_ZNZAxb3X843BE

Provider Reviews on Leaving Dorian

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Are you a service provider, help center director, program coordinator or shelter director and would like your review of Leaving Dorian included here? Would you like to let other DV professionals know how you’re utilizing Leaving Dorian with your clients, their extended families, within the community or as a training tool with your staff? Email me at ellabardpressinc@gmail.com and I’ll include your thoughts below!

I dedicated two full days to reading and absorbing the life of a woman living with domestic violence. This story takes you from beginning to end of the thoughts and actions of what our women face on a daily basis. I urge anyone working in the DV field to have this book for your clients. A real woman’s perspective on every emotion that our ladies are experiencing. Thank you, Linda, for sharing your story. You are a testament to our ladies who often feel there’s no way out.” -Delena Trent, Executive Director of The Caring Place, Lebanon, KY

Leaving Dorian takes you through a personal journey of intimate partner violence and the enormous psychological tension preceding physical abuse. The book also illustrates the re-victimization many women endure, and the strength of the human spirit to overcome. This is a must-read and should be on the required reading list for all DV advocates.” -Connie Little, Executive Director of Turning Point DV Services, Prestonsburg, KY

(Note: Leaving Dorian is now on Turning Point’s reading list and Mrs. Little is recommending it to the Kentucky Coalition Against DV for their required book list for certification.)

Downloaded Leaving Dorian and read it in two days. EXCELLENT book and I highly recommend it to anyone!” -Heather Frost, Domestic Violence Program Manager, ACCORD, Belmont, NY

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Gerard Place, February 2, 2016

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Presented “Beyond Leaving Dorian: A Discussion on Domestic Violence” to the women of Gerard Place, a transitional housing shelter for battered/recovering women and their children.

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Domestic violence isn’t a feeling, it’s a fact; talking statistics and mortality rates from domesticabuseshelter dot org

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Many women attended, though only a few agreed to be photographed. The stigma and shame attached to being a victim of DV is part of what keeps women from stepping forward and asking for help. I was happy to allow each woman her privacy, depending on her individual comfort level. Each and every woman in that room has my utmost respect and I was grateful to each for choosing to attend.

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Plenty of good questions, some of which I’d never been asked before. These ladies came prepared!

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The woman of Gerard Place are provided day care services so that they can attend presentations like mine as well as educational/employment/vocational training, life skills classes and counseling.

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Kaitlin Price, Case Manager & Life Skills Coordinator, who put our afternoon together. Bright, organized and always ready with a smile, Kaitlin’s positive attitude is infectious.

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Gerard Place first opened its doors in 2000, the culmination of the work of 12 congregations of Women Religious in the Diocese of Buffalo who created and sponsored the agency on the grounds of the former St. Gerard Parish. Located in the heart of one of Buffalo’s poorest communities (the Bailey-Delevan neighborhood, where the unemployment rate is a staggering 55% among those aged 19-39 and 40% of children live below the poverty line) Gerard Place has assisted hundreds of families by giving them the tools that they need to help themselves and break the poverty cycle.

In 2009, the Junior League of Buffalo/Buffalo News Education Building was opened, providing GED and computer classes, job readiness training, like skills support and health and nutrition education to both families in residence at Gerard Place as well as the community at large.  In any given year, nearly 40 different collaborative partners utilize the facility and share their expertise with those in need. Four years later, in 2013, agency leadership announced a campaign to renovate the former St. Gerard Parish Hall building and turn it into a multi-purpose community center.  The result of this ambitious project will be a vocational training program (coordinated by partner Allied Health), a gymnasium, an expanded computer lab and day care center, an additional wing of classrooms and an industrial kitchen.

Residents are not given a “hand out,” they are earning a “hand up.”

Please visit   http://www.gerardplace.org   for information on the many fundraising opportunities that you can take part in to support Gerard Place.

**Information on Gerard Place was excerpted from their website.

 

 

 

Family & Children’s Services of Niagara, January 21, 2016

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Presented “Beyond Leaving Dorian: A Discussion on Domestic Violence” to staff and advocates from Family & Children’s Services of Niagara, Legal Aid, Niagara County Sheriff Department, YWCA of Lockport, Dr. Dana Radatz from Niagara University and NU interns.

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Seeing the group from this perspective really doesn’t do them justice. They look incredibly average; they could be your next-door neighbor or your co-worker. And they have vague, vanilla sounding job titles like “Child Advocate” and “Coordinator”. What you can’t see are their capes; the “S” on their chests are invisible. These dedicated women and men are truly some of the super-heroes of our community.

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Larissa, Advocacy Coordinator (in black) kept everything running smoothly.

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Nellie (in teal) with the YWCA of Lockport.

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Talking about how quickly Leaving Dorian had to be taken from ebook to paperback – two months from the initial publication date!

Excerpted from the Family & Children’s Services website:

“2015 marked the 120th anniversary of Family & Children’s Service of Niagara. Founded in 1895, Family & Children’s Service of Niagara has met the ever-changing needs of our community for more than a century by providing the residents of the Niagara region with a wide range of community and social work services. Over the years our name has changed and our services have been modified to meet the needs of the community in the 21st century, but our work of helping people help themselves has remained. Thousands of children, adults and families have turned to the agency for compassionate, affordable and professional help to meet their needs. Family & Children’s Service is truly a family service agency providing a mosaic of inter-related services for the benefit of the entire family from infants to adults.”

These services include, but are not limited to:

  • Domestic Violence Services, including Passage House Emergency Shelter
  • Parent Empowerment Program
  • Healthy Families Program
  • Youth Services, including Casey House (runaway & homeless youth shelter) and The CRIB Maternity Group Home (for pregnant and parenting teens)
  • Mental Health Counseling for adults and children

24/7 DV Hotline: 716-299-0909      *****      24/7 Runaway Youth Hotline: 716-285-7125

 

Project Runway December, 2015

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Staff of Project Runway (…a drug and alcohol-free pathway for young women) and related departments at Niagara Falls Memorial Hospital gathered to be a part of the seminar, “Beyond Leaving Dorian: A Discussion on Domestic Violence”. A big thank you to Sarah Obot, Community Outreach Coordinator with Project Runway for inviting me and for organizing this gathering of such intelligent, kind, highly motivated women!

 

“16 Days of Activism”

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Zontians from the Niagara Falls, NY club gifted copies of Leaving Dorian to select help centers, schools and libraries in Niagara County as a part of Zonta’s 2015 Domestic Violence Initiative “Zonta Says NO! to Violence Against Women – 16 Days of Activism”.

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Zontian Angie Henderson delivers a copy of Leaving Dorian 

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Chapter President Gretchen Leffler and member Dr. Lindsay Edwards presented multiple copies to member Karrie Gebhardt, Director of Passage House, an emergency shelter for battered women and their children sponsored by Child & Family Services of Niagara. The books will be used for staff development as well as for residents of the shelter to read.

 

 

 

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Cathy is a volunteer with The Magdalene Project, an outreach to women mired in sex trafficking in the City of Niagara Falls. Volunteers from The Project go out at a night a couple of times a month and give these women Ziploc bags full of personal care items like shampoo, toothpaste, etc. as well as information on how to escape the grip of prostitution. The Magdalene Project is located on Falls Street in Niagara Falls.

 

 

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Zontian Daisy Waters with Jennifer Potter, Acting Director of the Niagara Falls Public Library. Ms. Potter explained that the library has become a “safe space” of sorts; there have been times that women have stayed inside the building until the person they were afraid of had left the premises, and library staff has been asked on more than one occasion to call the police on behalf of a woman who felt threatened.

 

 

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J. Susan Ben, Director of Carolyn’s House (transitional housing for homeless women and their children) receives books from Zontian Maggie Pollock.

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Andrea Fortin-Nossavage, Niagara Falls High School history teacher and Ebone Rose Bradberry, Coordinator of the Niagara Falls Community Schools Initiative Program, receive books for their staff and students.

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Dr. Kyle Patterson, Zonta Club of Niagara Falls VP; Lisa Lidamer, Niagara Wheatfield High School Guidance Counselor; Paul Gaigavich, NWHS Assistant Principal; Timothy Carter, NWHS Principal and Zonta Club President Gretchen Leffler.

 

 

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Donation to Lew-Port High School! This wonderful, caring staff was full of great ideas on addressing DV and Teen Dating Violence with students and staff for the upcoming 2016-2017 school year! From left to right: Trina DiVincenzo, Guidance Counselor; Gretchen Leffler, President Zonta Club of Niagara Falls; Terri Faut, Librarian; Kelly Ulrich, Health Teacher; Andrew Auer, Principal.

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Signing a copy of Leaving Dorian for Zonta’s District 4 Governor Joanne Raymond. Joanne will be traveling to Nice, France, in July for Zonta International’s 63rd Convention and will be taking a copy of the Niagara Falls, NY 2015-16 Service and Advocacy Report with her. She told members at the May meeting that, “…no other club has done what you’re doing..”. I’m over the moon that Leaving Dorian was able to play such a large part in that advocacy effort.I’m tremendously excited that Joanne will be sharing her thoughts on Leaving Dorian with other Zonta members, Presidents and Governors from all over the world. I’m truly blessed to have so many amazing women supporting my work and advocacy efforts. God Bless the women of Zonta, here in the US and all over the world.

 

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I’m not sure how I thought I was going to feel when I finally saw this in writing, but what I do feel is humbled, honored, and a little bit relieved. I wrote Leaving Dorian because I wanted to make sure that my own awful experience wasn’t all for nothing. My hope was that someone, somewhere, might read it and think, “Oh, I’m not all alone? I’m not to blame for this awful thing that’s happening to me? Maybe I can get help, leave and start my life over again. Maybe there is hope, after all.”

My goal was one woman. Just one. I thought that if just one woman was to be able to see beyond the hell that she was living in – believe that she could save herself – well, then, I’d have achieved my goal.

 

Zonta Club of Niagara Falls, New York, October 14, 2015

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October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and I was honored that the ladies of Zonta asked me to come and speak about writing Leaving Dorian as well as my own experience with domestic violence.

 

Purchase My Books

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Amazon at  http://www.amazon.com/author/lindadynel

**Please Note: If you choose to purchase a USED copy of Leaving Dorian, please make sure that it’s a Second Edition, as this includes a Foreword and an Epilogue and reads better than First Edition copies.

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