Showing posts from 2015

Defining Sexual Consent on College Campuses – A Need for Change

If you ask 100 college students what the definition of sexual consent is, you may get 100 different answers.  Some may tell you that it is the absence of a verbal “no”.  Some may say that they “read between the lines” during vague conversations related to the topic and that if they don’t get a strong “No”, they move forcefully ahead.  And yet others say they interpret body language and nonverbal indicators to make their sexual decisions.  Any way you look at it, sexual consent seems to be very difficult for students to define and can be as confusing as an elaborate game of charades.  There should not be any doubt in the mind of an individual who wishes to engage in sexual activity that the other person does or does not want to have sex.  It’s not a guessing game.  Yet students will tell you they find the definition of sexual consent to be much like finding Bigfoot, it can be elusive and unexplained.
The hugely popular “No means No” campaign tried to clarify things and take the guess …

The Impact of Language

I recently watched this video called, “48 Things Women Hear in a Lifetime (That Men Just Don’t).” 
Now, I can agree that some of these things men do hear, or maybe a modified version. The biggest problem with these statements is what they teach people, the hidden message.
Some of the statements were as follows: -He picks on you because he likes you. -Don’t wear that to school, you’ll distract the boys. -What were you wearing that night?
There were many others, obviously, but these are a few that I really see as harmful. They are subtle statements and at the surface do not seem that bad – they might even seem like compliments. Again I’ll agree that modifying them to say to a boy or a man would not be acceptable either; however, I do think that women hear these types of statements more often.
“He picks on you because he likes you.” From a very young age, we teach our children that it’s okay that a person is hurting your feelings (mental harm) or pinching you (physical harm) because …

Teens and Media

We live in a culture that is saturated with media—music, television, video games, books, magazines, social media. All of it is available instantaneously on palm-sized machines without regard to our physical locations. Numerous research studies have been conducted and replicated throughout recent years pertaining to the effects of media on our children and adolescents. These studies have found that media profoundly impacts attitudes, beliefs, and actions—typically in a negative manner.  What are the predominant lessons being taught? Violence is acceptable. Females are objects. Profanity and verbal put-downs are the norm. Our bodies (both male and female) aren’t good enough unless they conform to an unrealistic set of parameters that define “perfection.”
Some might say that the way to combat the negative messages is to just turn it off or to limit the access. While these strategies sound like common sense, they are extremely difficult to enforce given how media-saturated our society i…

Becoming a Steward of Children

Child sexual abuse wreaks havoc upon kids.A child’s developing body is not built for abuse, especially sexual abuse.Sexual abuse not only harms their little bodies, but can also leave ongoing social and emotional scars upon the boy or girl.In some cases, the child suffers developmentally and may never experience the joys of a healthy sexual relationship or becoming a parent as an adult.They can grow up feeling helpless, humiliated, and develop a deep mistrust of others.For others, childhood sexual assault can lead to becoming prey to other predators because of their psychologically weakened state.
Kids who are sexually violated by adults and older kids often regress.  They start to suck their thumbs and wet the bed, have bad dreams, tummy aches, and problems at school.  They may withdraw from others and stop getting along with other children. 
Many survivors of childhood sexual abuse turn to drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, and other addictive behaviors.  They are prone to depression, anxie…

Strangulation and HB 1581

Last year there were 97 reported homicides in Pennsylvania as a result of domestic violence. Of those 97, six were murdered by way of strangulation.  Strangulation is, unfortunately, an all too common occurrence in intimate partner relationships in which there is violence; however, it can be difficult to prove. Very often, the victim shows no obvious physical signs immediately following an attack.  Police or EMTs may respond to a domestic violence call in which strangulation occurred, yet find the victim conscious and coherent, making it almost impossible to realize that the victim was just seconds from death prior to their arrival. Currently, an abuser can be charged with aggravated assault if he/she is arrested for strangulation, but, because it is a difficult crime to prove, the charge is frequently reduced to a misdemeanor or summary offense, which doesn’t accurately reflect the severity of the crime.  Pennsylvania House Bill 1581 aims to change that.
The proposed legislation of HB…

#RethinkHIV on World AIDS Day

December 1st is World AIDS Day.  This year’s World AIDS Day campaign, determined by the United Kingdom’s National AIDS Trust, is #RethinkHIV.  Their goal is to dispel some of the commonly held beliefs about HIV contraction and people living with HIV that are false. 
Recently, when actor Charlie Sheen disclosed his positive HIV status, there were many questions from his fellow actors, namely Jenny McCarthy, about their exposure to HIV.  This has been a great opportunity for those in the HIV/AIDS educational community to remind people that HIV is NOT spread by kissing, touching or licking. 

Another common misconception is that all intravenous drug users have contracted HIV.  This is also not true.  I found this statistic especially surprising.  The campaign has many suggested Twitter and Facebook posts to participate in World AIDS Day.  One of the suggested posts from the campaign is “There are only three ways to get HIV-unprotected sex (95%), sharing needles, and mother-to-child transm…

Domestic Violence and the Workplace: What We Can Learn from the Bon Ton Case

Last week, The New York Times published an article about a landmark settlement for domestic violence victims in New York regarding employment discrimination.A woman was sent home from work after disclosing that her estranged husband threatened to kill her.The store should have continued with their initial response, which was to work with the woman to create a safety plan, including allowing her to use her cell phone while on the job, have access to a secure room, and park closer to the building.Instead, the manager told the woman she needed to get a protective order. Protective orders can be great tools to help someone feel safe.They are an integral part of many people’s safety plans.However, they are not for everyone.Many people’s response when they hear “domestic violence” is to tell the person to get a protective order, commonly known in Pennsylvania as a PFA.This is not the right thing for everyone and forcing someone to get a protective order takes away his/her agency and continue…

Fondly Remembering Vivian Starr

7/21/1943 – 11/14/2015
They say it is the dash between date of birth and date of death that matters, that tells the real story of who a person was. We at Transitions know very well how much Vivian Starr mattered to us, her clients, and her community. She shared her gentle, caring, and creative spirit with everyone she encountered.
It seems surreal to talk about when she began working with Susquehanna Valley Women in Transition, SVWIT, because she was one of our founding mothers. Vivian was among a small group of women who saw a need and began helping victims of domestic violence right here in the Susquehanna Valley, using their own resources to help and shelter survivors in private homes. It wasn’t until 1975 that SVWIT officially began.
Vivian continued her legacy as an integral member of the ‘Women in Transition’ staff for the next twenty-five years. She shared her creativity and nurturing soul with clients and co-workers alike in so many ways: comforting, supporting, and mentoring oth…

Forensic Nurses Week

November 09 - 13, 2015 is Forensic Nurses Week – designated to celebrate the work of forensic nurses worldwide. Do you know a forensic nurse? Do you know what they do? Evangelical Community Hospital in Lewisburg, PA has 6!
During Forensic Nurses Week, we take this opportunity to express our gratitude for the work of our local Forensic Nurses, otherwise known to many as SANE nurses-Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners. In addition to collecting physical evidence for the special ‘kit’ these specially trained nurses conduct a forensic interview, provide victims with professional and compassionate care, and ensure a secure chain of evidence between the hospital and law enforcement. These caring nurses are often the first person to say, “It’s not your fault” and to support individuals to become survivors.
Having trained forensic nurses in our community provides many benefits. To victims they provide early reassurance that the assault was not their fault, prophylactic treatment for STDs, referrals…

The Mary Kay Foundation Awards Transitions of PA $20,000 Grant for Domestic Violence Programs

Transitionsof PA,a local comprehensive crime victims’ service center,serving Union, Snyder, and Northumberland Counties received a $20,000 grant from The Mary Kay Foundation℠. In honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October, the Foundation has awarded $20,000 in grants to 150 domestic violence shelters in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico for a total of $3 million.  Transitions of PA will use the grant funding to provide critical support for its economic empowerment and financial management programs for survivors of domestic violence. “At Transitions of PA, we are incredibly grateful for support from The Mary Kay Foundation℠ and its commitment to break the cycle of domestic violence,” said Transitions Chief Executive Officer, Susan K. Mathias.“The most common reason victims stay in or return to abusive relationships is that they don’t have the financial resources to break free.  This funding will allow us to provide survivors of domestic violence with fi…

The Violence Against Women Act: A Positive Change

Domestic violence and sexual assault are serious topics to talk about that often leave us with heavy hearts.  However, there have been many positive strives towards ending violence against women that give us a reason for hope. Landmark federal legislation was passed in 1994 entitled the Violence Against Women Act which aims to hold offenders accountable and ensure the provision of direct services to victims.
Fewer people experience domestic violence than before the Violence Against Women Act was enacted in 1994. Between 1993 and 2010, the rate of intimate partner violence declined 67%. Between 1993 to 2007, the rate of intimate partner homicides of females decreased 35% and the rate of intimate partner homicides of males decreased 46%.
More victims are reporting domestic and sexual violence to police, and reports to police are resulting in more arrests. States have reformed their laws to take violence against women more seriously. 
All states have reformed laws that previously treated da…

Stopping Human Trafficking in Central Pennsylvania

On October 5, 2015, Transitions hosted a training titled Stopping Human Trafficking in Central Pennsylvania at the Best Western Plus Country Cupboard Inn.  87 people attended, including 42 victim advocates, 16 law enforcement personnel, 13 medical professionals, 11 Children and Youth personnel, 3 prosecutors, and others.  Information was provided by Viktoria Kristiansson, Attorney Advisor for Aequitas: The Prosecutors’ Resource for Violence Against Women; Detective William Woolf with Fairfax County, Virginia; and D. Peter Johnson, Union County District Attorney.  Participants learned how to identify victims and perpetrators of human trafficking, how to successfully investigate human trafficking cases, and possible strategies at trial and sentencing.  Act 105, Pennsylvania’s human trafficking law, and new protections for victims, including Sexual Violence Protection Orders and Protection from Intimidation Orders were also reviewed.  This training was made possible by a grant from Penns…

An Empty Place at the Table

The exhibit of 'An Empty Place at the Table' was created in response to numerous domestic violence homicides in Lackawanna County in 1993. The first exhibit was created by the Women’s Resource Center, Inc., but it is used by many domestic violence centers and similar agencies across the nation. 'An Empty Place at the Table' shows the devastating effects of domestic violence and makes sure that the victims are not forgotten. In addition, the exhibit shows that domestic violence related homicides undoubtedly leave an empty spot at the table.
Transitions will be putting up Empty Place at the Table displays in many locations across Union, Snyder, and Northumberland Counties to remember individuals who lost their lives in due to domestic violence. The four people highlighted in the displays are Jean Sanders, whose life was taken by her grandson that she raised on Feb 17, 2013 at the age of 71; Destiny Spencer, whose life was taken by her fiancé and the father of her three ch…

Transitions of PA Joins the Allstate Foundation Purple Purse Challenge

On an average day, nearly 11,000 requests for emergency shelter, childcare and other services go unanswered due to a lack of funding at domestic violence nonprofits around the country. Even as demand for services increases, these programs continue to operate with limited resources. Allstate Foundation Purple Purse is trying to change those numbers. Transitions of PA has been selected as one of more than 160 participating nonprofits across the country to be a part of the Purple Purse Challenge, which raises funds for nonprofits serving domestic violence victims. Transitions of PA was chosen for its commitment to providing financial empowerment services to domestic violence survivors.
Through the Allstate Foundation Purple Purse Challenge, each participating organization can raise program funds. And to encourage public donations, the Allstate Foundation is investing $500,000 in Challenge sweepstakes and contests. In addition to donating through the Challenge, Purple Purs…

An Interview with former Transitions of PA Board Chair, Lisa Steele

This summer, Transitions said good-bye to the Chair of our Board of Directors, Lisa Steele.  Before she left, our Chief Executive Officer, Susan Mathias, sat down with Lisa to discuss her involvement and dedication to ending violence against women and her vision for Transitions' future.

Lisa Steele has served on the Board of Transitions for six years, holding the position of Board Chair for the last three years.During her time on the Board, the annual budget has grown 20 percent and now exceeds $1 million.Transitions has become a Comprehensive Crime Victim Services organization with a strong and clear focus on violence against women which shows itself in our society most strongly through domestic violence and sexual assault, including rape.
I have enjoyed working with you as Chairman of the Transitions Board.How did you become involved in the organization?
Sue Mathias, your sister-in-law, was the Board Chair, as she had been for most of her twenty-plus years of involvement with Tra…

The Co$t of Violence

Have you ever considered the actual cost of violence? Or who bears the burden of the expense?? Several organizations and studies have attempted to quantify the economic impact of Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence. In Colleen Murphy’s article, “The financial costs of sexual assault,” she references a White House report, which places the cost of sexual assault for a survivor between $87,000 and $240,000.  Those figures include medical and victim services, loss of productivity (career and/or academic), decreased quality of life, law enforcement resources and the immeasurable impact on a person’s emotional and mental well-being. Similarly, direct costs of Domestic Violence can include healthcare, social and welfare services, counseling, police and criminal justice services, legal services, transportation, housing, cost to repair or replace property and more. A study conducted by the CDC about 12 years ago estimated that Domestic Violence cost the US economy more than $5.8 billion in one…

Teaching Our Kids to be Kind: The Best Way to Prevent Bullying and Social Cruelty

Showing empathy is a lot more than just being able to see another person’s point of view!  Con artists and even child molesters can use this kind of tactic to convince their victims to trust them.  True empathy means that we value, respect, and do our best to understand where another person is coming from, even when we don’t feel the same way!  Empathy involves both kindness and seeing another person’s point of view.  This is why empathy is so important to teach children – it prevents not only bullying but all sorts of cruel and unfair ways of treating others. 
According to Rick Weissbourd, co-director of Making Caring Common Project, there are five main ways for parents and teachers to help develop empathy in kids.  The first way is to practice showing empathy to the children in your life, whether they are yours, relatives, or your students.  Be kind and openly express goodwill and compassion for others.  Kids feel valued when we show interest in what appeals to them.  They like us t…

The “Not-So-Magic” School Bus

It’s that time of year again, the end of summer and time for our kids to go back to school.  As parents we are excited for our kids to head back to school, back to learning and sharing the overall experience of another year of school, but for some of us, we feel anxiety and are apprehensive because of what we know our kids may deal with in the new school year.  I am talking about “Bullies”!  Bullies are everywhere, in school, online, and according to most students I talk to, on the school bus.  I call it the “Not-So-Magic” school bus.
Too often we hear about accidents involving school transportation vehicles.   According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, from 2003 to 2012, 55 school-age children died in school-transportation related crashes.  A large number of those accidents happened because the drivers were distracted by issues between kids on the bus. The U.S. Department of Education says that one-third of U.S. students ages 1…