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.

 

 

 

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