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.

 

“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.