By Melanie Blow, See the Triumph Guest Blogger
What's the best way to keep children safe when their families are investigated by CPS? Keep them out of CPS in the first place. How does a community do that? Adopt programs that have worked before, in novel combinations, and get the community's buy-in at every level.
This is exactly what's happening in Erie County, NY, right now. The county suffered from a staggering number of child murders—ten in three years. The county's CPS had been over-burdened to the point where it collapsed. County residents lost all faith in CPS and were desperate for change. The county was also struggling with adult domestic homicides. They had a solid infrastructure of service providers and some very progressive programs, but they also had police chiefs who weren't beacons of enlightenment.
I brought an understanding of maternal home visitation programs (such as Healthy Families America and Nurse Family Partners) as tools to prevent child abuse, neglect and fatalities to the Stop Abuse Campaign. Barry Goldstein, through The Quincy Solution, has developed the best practices that drastically reduce domestic violence crime within a community, and the Safe Child Act, a bill which ensures judges and court staff handle allegations of domestic violence and child abuse in more effective ways. As a certified trainer in child sexual abuse prevention, it was clear to me that the Stop Abuse Campaign had the know-how to build a system to prevent most Adverse Childhood Experiences in a community.
The Quincy Solution will prevent the almost 50% of abuse that involves domestic violence, maternal home visiting prevents the other 50%, and educating the county’s adults in child sexual abuse prevention would allow all adults to participate in keeping children safe, out of CPS, and from growing into tomorrow's struggling parents.
It's one thing to know how to fix a community's problems. It's another to convince the community to allocate the resources. Erie County was keen to make swift progress. New York State had investigated the county's CPS after the last child-murder of 2013. CPS workers had low morale and high caseloads. The county was committed to change, but focused on legislation to bolster CPS or reducing their caseloads, either through shunting CPS work into the criminal-justice system or discouraging reports.
I couldn't doubt their commitment to doing something to truly fix the problem. The question was whether we could get them to move their thinking upstream from responding to violence and embrace actually preventing it.
Our first meeting focused on the idea of primary prevention, and they were interested. We showed them how, after an initial financial investment, they would be able to save money and slash CPS caseloads within the first year.
Over 25% of CPS investigations in NY concern children under the age of 1. Most of these calls could be prevented through maternal home visiting programs, thus reducing the county’s CPS caseload. Statistically, most of the “false allegations” during custody disputes that vex CPS are actually not false—CPS workers are simply trained to regard them suspiciously, and court staff generally take the findings of a CPS investigation as gospel. The trainings of court staff that will be a part of Erie County’s Quincy Solution implementation should empower court staff to protect these children quickly, keeping them from becoming “frequent flyers” in CPS, thus reducing caseloads even further.
In terms of implementation, the adult-education-about-child-sex-abuse piece was very easy. It is very inexpensive, and the director of the Child Advocacy Center has taken ownership of it. The director of the county’s Healthy Families NY program is leading the rollout of their program to 100% of eligible mothers, since today only 6% of mothers who need help receive it. The gap lies in funding.
Implementation of The Quincy Solution is a little more complex.
An effective coordinated community response requires the participation of many different organizations, each with their own agendas and politics. The Quincy Solution is built on an effective coordinated community response, and we knew we needed a local leader familiar with the local culture who could obtain support from mayors, sheriffs, DA’s, judges, prosecutors, legislators, direct service provides, CPS, and the many new maternal home-visitors who will be hired. All of these professionals have different bosses, and some of whom have complex political relationships!
History is on Erie County’s side. As one of the first places in the nation to start a Family Justice Center, Erie County’s DV community believes in the importance of collaboration to end DV, and understands what legwork is needed. The team that implemented the Family Justice Center was led by the director of Catholic Charities, who administers most of the county’s DV services, and we were happy he agreed to extend that work into prevention by leading the coordinated community response to implement the Quincy Solution too.
Winning the community’s heart is the biggest challenge of implementing this plan, but it’s also the most rewarding part. When you talk about preventing things like child abuse and domestic violence, which have plagued our society since its dawn, most people don’t believe they are truly preventable. But when you talk about how each piece of this plan works, people start to understand. I spent a Sunday morning at a Buffalo Bills game, with paper copies of the petition we started on change.org, trying to get signatures. I was accompanied by the great-grandmother of one of the murdered children. Most people who passed us by didn’t want to engage with us, but those who did understood. Every one of them. And they understood why this is better than anything else the county has done.
We are in the early stages of making history in Erie County. I look forward to watching this unfold. I look forward to more press conferences, more allegiances, more connections based on making one beleaguered county a better place for kids to grow up in.
A message from the author: Hello, I’m Melanie Blow. I’m an advocate for child abuse survivors, and an advocate for policies and laws that prevent child abuse. I’m also a survivor of incest and a handful of other Adverse Childhood Experiences.
I’ve served on the Board of Directors for Prevent Child Abuse NY for over a decade, and have been heavily involved in their legislative advocacy efforts for most of that time. I’ve provided testimony at hearings, have spent endless hours educating legislators, and have vetted dozens and dozens of bills aimed at reforming CPS.
After watching CPS collapse in Erie County NY, a county near my heart and home, I designed a plan to prevent Adverse Childhood Experiences in the county, using evidence-based best practices. I’ve convinced people, from the families of the murdered children, to professionals and advocates, to elected officials in state and county government, to invest in primary prevention of abuse and maltreatment, rather than growing CPS indefinitely and complaining about the consequences of abused children taking their toll on the county.
I am always willing to talk about child abuse, its prevention, the model we’re implementing in Erie county, and the survivor experience. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Stop Abuse Campaign: Using Cutting-Edge Research to Protect Children from Adverse Childhood Experiences
By Andrew Willis, See the Triumph Guest Blogger
The Stop Abuse Campaign is a non-profit corporation that uses cutting edge research to protect children from Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). The ACE Studies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) were originally directed at medical professionals for diagnosing and treating adults impacted by childhood trauma. We agree with Dr. Vincent Felitti, the lead author of the original ACE study, that the most important use of this research is prevention.
The ACE study shows that 67% of American children experience at least one trauma so severe it will permanently impact their health and measurably shorten their lifespan. An environmental toxin that affected a fraction of that population would be banned immediately.
The Stop Abuse Campaign is the leading proponent of The Quincy Solution, which uses proven practices that slash domestic violence crime, especially murders. Specifically, the response includes strict enforcement of criminal laws, orders of protection, and probation conditions. The community creates approaches making it easier for women to leave their abusers, and a coordinated community response is adopted. Barry Goldstein has updated the successful practices to create the Quincy Solution by including new research and technologies like GPS.
Domestic violence is involved in about half of all child abuse cases. That means we need to rely on other proven tools and policies to protect the rest of our children from ACEs. Most maternal child abuse and maltreatment stems from a failure to bond properly. Sadly, bonding is usually impeded by the mother’s own history of abuse, and its consequences such as mental illness, social isolation, poverty, and drug use. It’s easy to predict which new mothers will struggle with bonding and parenthood, and when offered help to become a better mother, they usually accept it. This is what home visiting programs do, and they have fantastic track records.
Stop Abuse Campaign is proud of what we have already accomplished with volunteers and limited contributions. We launched a campaign for implementation of the Quincy Solution and joined the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) in creating a coalition for this. We have responded to a series of child murders in Erie County, New York by developing a plan using The Quincy Solution, home visiting and adult Child Sexual Abuse education to protect children and slash CPS caseloads. In Erie County, we have received support from the County Executive’s office, the local domestic violence and child welfare community, obtained media attention, and are working to gain additional support and funding in order to start full implementation. We have convinced one county to invest more in prevention strategies in one year than the entire state of New York has invested in the last five. Stop Abuse Campaign responded to the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson cases by partnering with Pro Player Insiders to broadcast radio programs that include former NFL players, players association officials, domestic violence experts, and child abuse advocates.
We also are among the most visible organizations advocating for ACE prevention and reduction on the federal and state level. Federally, we are advocating for money for The Quincy Solution demonstration grants, and for an investigation of federal funding for misogynistic “father’s rights” organizations. On a state level, we lobby for elimination of Statutes of Limitations for child sexual abuse, for the Safe Child Act, which makes the health and safety of children the top priority of all custody decisions, and more money for evidence-based maternal home visiting.
All of this was accomplished with a dedicated team of volunteers and limited budget. We need funds to continue the campaign, but if we can expand our funding and work with partners to raise as little as one million dollars, we can literally change the world.
Fifty years ago, the US Surgeon General issued a report linking smoking and cancer. It was depressing to learn that so many people got sick and died because of our tolerance and encouragement of smoking. But by passing laws, advertising, educating, helping people stop smoking and discourage children from starting, there was a significant reduction in smoking. Thousands of people are living longer, healthier lives. Health costs were reduced.
The ACE Study provides a similar opportunity on a larger scale. Stop Abuse Campaign is using proven methods of ACE prevention to transform society in the most wonderful way.
Andrew Willis is CEO and Co-Founder of the Stop Abuse Campaign. He was born in Hong Kong went to school in Great Britain and has not stopped traveling ever since. Following time in the British Army, where he reached the rank of Captain, he has spent his life practicing integrated marketing communications and marketing, mostly for global brands.
Andrew has worked in senior leadership positions for McCann Erickson, Ogilvy & Mather, IBM and Publicis and has been responsible for accounts that include IBM, American Express, HP, Citi and the Royal National Institute for the Blind.
He has been recognized with both creative and marketing effectiveness awards and has been a frequent speaker at conferences.
A survivor of both child sexual abuse and domestic violence, Andrew has dedicated the second half of his life to ending abuse and alleviating the suffering of those involved.
By Kelly Moore and Jaimie Stickl, See the Triumph Guest Bloggers
Art as a form of communication has been used since the beginning of mankind. Across cultures, art has been used as a tool to express emotion and many have seen it as therapeutic and healing. People who have experienced trauma sometimes find it hard to express or verbalize their feelings.
Language can often be limiting when trying to express the magnitude of emotions that are associated with a traumatic event. Art can provide an individual with a safe place to explore the intensity of these emotions while creating a tangible product that can then serve as a catalyst for communication.
We here at See the Triumph have started to provide Healing through Art workshops for survivors of intimate partner violence (IPV)/sexual assault and have seen firsthand how art can be a powerful tool in the healing process. In working with survivors, we have come across several individuals who have felt that their voice has been taken away from them or silenced through their experience. We used art as a tool to help them reconnect with that voice and provide a way for them to share their story. We created masks and mandalas, explored broken pottery, made journals, and embellished boxes.
While there are hundreds of ways to use art in the healing process, each project we chose was aimed at exploring emotions, expressing experiences, and providing a safe place for survivors to share their story. At the end of the process, some individuals were amazed as they reflected on their artwork and saw how their product often mirrored what was going on for them or how they were feeling, whether they had meant to portray that in their piece or not.
As we processed the experience of creating something new, inevitably metaphors came alive. For instance, one project that we did consisted of painting broken pottery pieces and then putting them back together as a whole unit. One survivor commented that the process was so frustrating as her pieces sometimes didn’t seem to fit, fell apart, or she wasn’t sure she liked certain pieces. But after she had put them together and she saw the pot, she realized that the once broken pieces were put back together into a beautiful and unique whole. She saw this as a symbol of her healing process and experiences. Another survivor stated that once she was able to let go of trying to create something perfect, she enjoyed feeling the freedom and release of truly expressing herself in a new way.
While these are only a few examples of what we have seen, expressing yourself through art can be an empowering experience. You don’t have to be an artist to explore and experience the healing benefits of art. We are hoping to make the Healing through Art workshops curricula available in the spring to provide ideas of different ways to use art. In the meantime, here is an idea to get you started exploring your inner artist:
Create a Visual Journal: Try creating a journal out of an already made children’s board book. You can typically purchase them from a thrift store or used bookstore for under a dollar. Pick a shape and size that you like.
Once you have your book, you will want to lightly sandpaper each page on order to remove most of the glossy coating. Next, you’ll be ready to paint a layer or two of gesso primer or white acrylic paint as the foundation. Then, your book is ready to be transformed!
Try painting each page a different color – or a variety of colors! We have found that acrylic paints tend to work best on these books. You can also add all kinds of images and words once the paint dries.
Some creative ideas to get you started:
Or…pick up a magazine, cut out an image that you like and let your imagination run wild. Or…dig through old photos and re-create your story throughout your journal to create the life you desire.
Whatever you decide to do, have fun and be patient with yourself. Keep in mind, you do not need to create a masterpiece, rather this is for you and for your own healing. We’d love to hear about what you create, so please leave a comment below with your own artistic inspiration!
Kelly Moore is a doctoral student in the Counseling and Educational Development department at UNCG. Kelly received her Master’s Degree in Art Therapy from Florida State University and her undergraduate degree in Education from the University of Georgia. Kelly is a Licensed Professional Counselor, National Certified Counselor, and Registered Art Therapist. She has had experience in both inpatient and outpatient settings and was working as a therapist in Asheville, NC before returning to school. Through her work with See the Triumph, Kelly has had the opportunity to co-lead art therapy workshops for individuals who have experienced sexual assault/intimate partner violence. These experiences have solidified her belief that art can be an empowering avenue for survivors to share their stories.
Jaimie Stickl is a doctoral student in the Counseling and Educational Development department at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Jaimie received her Master of Arts degree in School and Community counseling from Regent University and her Bachelor of Science degree in Education from Grove City College. Jaimie is a Licensed Professional Counselor, National Certified Counselor, and Professional School Counselor. She was most recently working as a school counselor with Denver Public Schools in Colorado before returning to school to work towards her doctorate. Jaimie has been a co-leader of art therapy groups for individuals who have experienced sexual assault/intimate partner violence. She has truly enjoyed using art as a tool in the healing process and is looking forward to continuing her work with See the Triumph.
How Can We End the Stigma Surrounding Domestic and Sexual Violence: Insights from a Panel of National Experts
By Christine Murray, See the Triumph Co-Founder
At See the Triumph, one of our main goals is to end the stigma surrounding intimate partner violence. We’ve heard in our research that this stigma is very real, and it impacts survivors of abuse while they’re in the relationship and can continue long after it ends. We know that this stigma can exist within individuals, families, organizations, communities, and in the society at large. Ending the stigma is a huge task, and we believe that it’s going to take a long-term, concerted effort by a vast network of organizations and individuals working together to really make this happen.
Recently, my See the Triumph Co-Founder, Allison Crowe, and I completed a study to learn from a national panel of experts about the changes they believe need to happen in order to fully end the stigma surrounding domestic and sexual violence. We used what’s known as the Delphi research methodology, which uses multiple rounds of surveys with a panel of experts in order to come to a consensus in beliefs about the topic being studied.
Due to the confidentiality requirements of the research process, we can’t identify the national leaders who participated in the study. However, we can share that they represented a variety of national advocacy organizations that address domestic and sexual violence. All together, 16 participants took part in at least one of the three surveys included in the research.
We asked the participants to share their thoughts on the strategies they believe are most needed to eradicate the stigma surrounding domestic and sexual violence. Our research process then narrowed in on seven strategies that reflected the leaders’ beliefs. These strategies were as follows:
When I think of the large-scale transformation needed to truly end the stigma, I am both excited and intimidated. I’m excited because I know that these changes are possible, and I’ve met so many people doing great work toward this goal. I’m intimidated, however, because I know how big a task lies before us.
Transformation can occur in large-scale sea changes, but it also can occur in incremental steps over time. Breaking down large-scale tasks into smaller, more manageable steps usually helps them to become more manageable. With that in mind, I invite you to look back over the 7 strategies suggested by the leaders in our study. What is one small step based on one of the recommendations that you could address right now? I invite you to share your reflections on this list, as well as the steps you take, in the comments below!
By Kris Macomber, PhD, See the Triumph Guest Blogger
The movement to end domestic violence has undergone significant transformations over the years. In the 1970s, we saw how powerful and effective survivor-led grassroots activism can be, as these efforts opened the doors to our country’s first battered women’s shelters. In the 1980s, the U.S. Surgeon General issued a report identifying domestic violence as a major health problem for women; doing so meant that social institutions would now be responsible for addressing the problem. In 1994, the original Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was passed. This landmark legislation changed the course of domestic and sexual violence work in the United States. VAWA remains the largest piece of federal money aimed at addressing domestic violence, sexual violence, and stalking.
We are currently in the midst of new transformations. One of them is the increasing efforts to involve men in anti-violence work. Although there have always been small pockets of men working alongside women, their involvement was limited. Today, even though women remain the primary leaders of the domestic violence movement, “engaging men work” has emerged as an essential and necessary part of anti-violence work.
Today, men and boys are recruited as participants in violence prevention education programs, as targets of social marketing campaigns, as educators, and as activists and advocates. At the state and local levels, there are dozens of men’s organizations devoted to ending violence against women, as well as hundreds of local community and campus groups. On the national level, the Office of Violence Against Women created the “Engaging Men and Youth in Prevention Program” to fund projects that develop or enhance efforts to engage men and youth in preventing violence against women and girls. This funding creates jobs and resources at women-led domestic and sexual violence organizations, such as “Engaging Men and Boys Coordinator” positions. In 2009, there was the first ever National Conference for Campus-Based Men’s Gender Equity and Anti-Violence Groups. In 2014, MenEngage hosted a global symposium aimed at mobilizing men across the globe to work for gender equality in their home countries.
This expansion of “engaging men work” plays a critical role in the movement to end violence against women. It is in these spaces that men and boys struggle through difficult conversations about masculinity, power, and privilege, and about how these dynamics connect to men’s use of violence against women. It is here that violence against women is redefined as “men’s issues,” not just women’s. It is here that men are asked to take responsibility for helping build more gender equitable societies, communities, and relationships. It is here that men are called upon to be agents of personal and cultural change. As male leaders of this work often say, “Men are part of the problem. We must be part of the solution.”
I am a strong supporter of men’s growing involvement because I see “engaging men work” as a necessary part of transforming culture. That being said, there are also some challenges that have accompanied the push to expand men’s involvement.
Challenges & Unintended Consequences
One major challenge can be summed by a question I hear often from domestic violence advocates: “What about all the ways that men end up bringing sexism and male privilege into the movement--doesn’t that end up being counterproductive by undermining the movement’s very goals?”
You might be asking yourself, “What are these advocates referring to?”
For my research on men’s anti-violence activism, I interviewed dozens of anti-violence educators, advocates, and activists (women and men), all of whom shared intimate and compelling stories with me about how men—despite their best intentions—inadvertently created tensions and problems within the movement. From dominating meetings, to asking women to get coffee and take meeting notes (even when women occupied more senior-level positions), to claiming to be experts despite limited experience, to sexually objectifying women, to the elevated status and accolades men sometimes enjoy within the movement (among other things), there are some troubling dynamics that men bring into anti-violence work that parallel the kind of behaviors that reinforce sexism and domestic violence in the first place. This point is often obvious to women, so their frustrations are understandable.
As part of the dominant group, men will bring aspects of the dominant culture into movement spaces. Creating a non-sexist culture, then, will require the work of men (and women) raised in a sexist culture.
Without a doubt, this is an uncomfortable reality that makes for some tense conversation. But it is a conversation that must take place.
Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater
The good news is there are a few lines of recourse. One, male allies can be open to examining the unconscious and internalized sexism that they bring to activist spaces (and many of them are). Two, activists can meet well-intentioned men where they are, instead of turning them away because they talked too much at a conference session. Three, there is an ever-growing collection of resources designed to address men’s accountability, from task forces to toolkits, to webinars and conferences. Four, all activists can work towards building gender equality outside the movement by first working to build it inside the movement.
Social change isn’t a zero sum game. We can advocate for men’s growing involvement but that doesn’t mean that we can’t also comment on how they are involved and to what end. Supporting men’s involvement doesn’t mean we stop being critical of how unequal social arrangements outside the movement rear their head inside of it. Male allies will do their best work for the movement when they understand this.
As we reflect on the past, we can see how far we have come in transforming communities and relationships. As we look towards the future, it’s important that we take stock of where we are going and how we are getting there.
Author Bio: Kris Macomber, PhD, is a sociologist who specializes in gender-based violence, childhood victimization, gender in the media, applied and public sociology, and community-based research. Kris earned her PhD from North Carolina State University, where her dissertation research examined men’s growing involvement in the anti-violence against women movement. Kris’s publications span a variety of academic and applied outlets, such as: The Sociology of Katrina: Perspectives on a Modern Catastrophe, Feminist Teacher, The Journal of Popular Culture, and Teaching Sociology. She is a passionate anti-violence activist and educator who loves teaching students about sociology and social justice issues. She is currently an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Sociology at Meredith College, in Raleigh, NC.
Kris gives talks and presentations on the following topics: “Men As Allies: Mobilizing Men to End Violence Against Women,” “Male Privilege in Violence Prevention Work,” “Practitioner-Researcher Collaborations,” “Gender in the Media,” “Gender Inequality,” and “What is ‘Rape Culture?’
Kris's web-site can be found here: http://krismacomber.com/. You can also visit Kris's Everyday Sociology Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Everyday-Sociology/245523538906269?ref=hl#, as well as find her on Twitter at @KrisMacomberSoc.
By Claire Cappetta, See the Triumph Contributor
It is that time of year again when everyone wishes people a “Happy New Year.” We start to think about the next twelve months as they stretch out before us, wondering if by the time the New Year rolls around again, any big changes may have happened in our lives. Our thoughts drift to resolutions, most of which are quickly broken within hours, even minutes. If we are really strong we can sometimes, make them last a few days.
What changes can we make? What difference, however small, can we bring to this world we live in, our world? Some changes can seem so small, like snowflakes. But those small snowflakes all add up, turning into a pure, white blanket covering the ground. Beautiful, fun, and sometimes difficult.
When we become involved in social media it can seem overwhelming to have our voices heard. There are so many people now, all looking to make a difference, which is a good thing, but we can get drowned out in the noise. It is akin to walking into a room, and everyone is talking and few are listening. We need to remember, though, that just like snowflakes, it all adds up. If we keep pushing, talking, singing and dancing, people do stop to listen.
January for me is a very special month. It is Stalking Awareness Month. There are too many times when an abused person leaves an abuser, and the abuser then turns to stalking. One in 6 women and 1 in 19 men have experienced stalking in some way, that’s 6.6 million people in the United States alone, according to the Stalking Resource Center’s Statistics for 2014.
It’s terrifying to be stalked. There’s a knock at your door, constant phone calls. Your house is under constant surveillance, as are you. A car follows you wherever and whenever you go anywhere. Now with social media, your sites become constantly monitored, and if you are completely unlucky, like I was, there is always the one aspect we dread… The break in or being held hostage. I was lucky I escaped with a lot of emotional baggage, bruises. My PTSD has escalated now, as I was paranoid, as well. The panic attacks, mind crashes, startling at any small noise were all part of my daily life of survival. I owe my life to one best friend, one policeman, and my own efforts to keep my wits about me, while I organized and made changes in my life to escape, to move many miles away. I was told he would kill me if I stayed, and I believed it.
Now, I am safe. I have lost a lot, but I have also gained. I lost being able to see my children grow into wonderful people, and I have lost family members. For a long while, I lost trust, friendship, and love. These I have gained back over time. I learned how and who to trust, love and become friends with. I am left feeling that I owe something, and sometimes it’s an overwhelming desire to give back because I am alive. Who do I owe something to? My best friend, of course, but I feel something much deeper too.
My stalker was there before the Internet, before emails and social media, with its knowledge and support groups. It was a lonely time, but we can raise our voices on it now. We may not become viral, like fluffy kittens playing on Facebook, but we can be beautiful like snowflakes, collecting together and making a blanket of awareness that people start to notice.
January is a busy time for me now. I’m organizing a Stalking Awareness Event in my local area. There will be speakers talking about awareness and safety. A friend will be there teaching line-dancing, and there will be amazing indie-rock songs from another. A local store has already collected two large bags of clothes to donate to survivors to help them get back into the workplace.
Our collective need to help people feel safe is now extending more online, with webinars filled with song, dance, talks about survival and what “Finding Our Inner Happiness” is all about.
Christmas is when we always think about giving, New Year is for new starts, but maybe if we think about starting anew and giving throughout the year, we can be like snowflakes, amalgamating slowly into something much bigger and more diverse. A Snowball of Abuse Awareness…. Because that’s just how we roll!