Showing posts from 2016

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! (At least for some of us)

The holiday season is upon us with Christmas music, decorations, buying presents, giving to the less fortunate, and spending quality time with family and friends. Even though the holiday season tends to bring out the best in people, it is important to keep in mind that domestic violence, sexual assault, and other serious crimes unfortunately never take a day off.
However, the National Domestic Violence Hotline reports a decrease in calls, nearly 53 percent fewer on or around Christmas day. This could be due to survivors wanting to “keep the peace” for the holidays; it could also be because they don’t want to disturb Christmas for their children or more importantly, survivors may not be able to find a safe and private place to make a call to a hotline number during this busy season. Whatever the reasoning, although hotline calls may seem to decrease around Christmas time, the holiday season doesn’t last forever, and victims will always be in need of services such as emergency shelter, c…

Staying Safe on College Campuses

College can be a great experience and learning opportunity for students. There are always many activities on campuses and plenty of studying to be done at the library. Nobody would think that 25% of women that go to U.S. college campuses are sexually assaulted during their time on campus (Koss, Gidycz & Wisniewski, 1987). Through the decades there have been many approaches to spread awareness about sexual assault on college campuses. However, not all schools have the funding to acquire proper professionals and services for victims. Some of these approaches include health services, counseling services, prevention programs, consciousness-raising programs, law enforcement responses, and target hardening strategies.                                     Health services on college campuses usually offer prevention and responsive treatment for basic healthcare needs. Clinics may provide vaccinations, sexual health resources, birth control, condoms, or emergency contraceptives. They also p…

Empowering Parents & Youth Mentors: How can we give boys and young men the tools they need to respect girls, women, and themselves?

With one in six women in the U.S. having experienced sexual assault1, the first question that springs to my mind is: Why aren’t there more abundant resources for shaping boys’ and young men’s perspectives on healthy sexuality and relationships? Our boys need clear information and guidance on growing into responsible young men who reject pervasive cultural influences of macho violence, domination/subjugation of females, and glamorization of violence against women in pop culture. We have to start with the basics: How do we talk about women’s and girls’ bodies? What does consent for any kind of touching look like? While the resources for parents and mentors may seem lacking at first glance, there are books and websites as well as education programs available specifically for youth ages 12-19, ranging from PSA campaigns to year-long interactive courses to prevent attitudes and behaviors that lead to sexual assault and dating violence.
One recent review by the Sexual Violence Research Ini…

Uncle Willy’s Tickles – A Child’s Right to Say No – a Review

Originally published in 1996, with a second edition printed in 2003, Uncle Willy’s Tickles, by Marcie Aboff teaches children about their personal boundaries, or body sovereignty, a term used by professionals in the field of child safety.  Recognized by the American Psychological Association as a “wonderful way to address the important issue of a child’s right to own his own body and say no,” this book is one of five books chosen by the Care for Kids curriculum – an early childhood sexuality and abuse prevention program designed for kids from PreK through second grade. 
Taking a different approach from other books that address sexual touching, this book features Kyle who is tickled by a beloved uncle named Willy.  Uncle Willy is a wonderful uncle who lets Kyle sit behind the wheel of his pickup truck and pretend to drive.  He takes Kyle ice cream sundaes and can do all sorts of magic tricks that make Kyle and his whole family laughs and has fun.  Kyle evidently loves his Uncle Willie …

Violence Against Women is a Men’s issue

Calling violence against women a "woman’s problem" is part of the problem. It is misleading and in some cases dishonest.  It gives men an excuse to not pay attention to the situation. Another thing that makes this a problem is because "women's issues" are personal for men as well. Men need to confront each other about the violence that men cause against women. Most of the time men are the primary perpetrators, which if it was only a "woman's issue," why would men be the ones that cause the problems? One of the biggest problems is that if men never join the fight against men's violence against women, then there is no possible chance that the violence will dramatically drop. Every single problem that affects any woman, daughter, girlfriend or even mother, is the men's problem too. Why aren’t people talking about the social factors that contribute to violence against women? Why aren’t men’s attitudes and behaviors toward women the focus of m…

My Experience as an Extern at Transitions of PA

Growing up, I always had a wonderful childhood.  My parents never fought, never hit us or did anything of that nature. Once I got into Middle School, I started to realize that not everyone was that lucky. I’ll never forget when a woman from Transitions came into my classroom and explained to us what had happened to her related to domestic violence and why she now does what she does working with Transitions. Domestic Violence (DV) and Sexual Assault (SA) are major things that happen in our world today and something that can be reduced or possibly stopped if there were more education and treatments for it. I am a student at McCann School of Business and Technology currently doing my externship with Transitions of PA. After being here, I have a better understanding of what DV and SA are and how to help the people who are going through it. During my time here I have gotten to sit in on 1-1 counseling sessions which have really been eye opening experiences for me. I never thought that it w…

Why doesn’t she just leave?

In today’s culture and society, there seems to be a reoccurring question that comes up regarding victims/survivors of domestic violence. The question I’m referring to is “Why does she stay in an abusive relationship”? Or “Why doesn’t she just leave”? From an outsiders’ perspective, it probably looks like the easiest solution to the issues the woman is currently facing. Just leave, and it’ll all be over with, but we as advocates for domestic violence know far better than that.
The society we live in has a lack of knowledge about the true dangers that come with actually leaving an abusive relationship. According to, about 4,000 women die each year due to domestic violence. Of the total domestic violence homicides, about 75% of the victims were killed as they attempted to leave the relationship or after the relationship had ended. People stay in abusive relationships for many reasons. Some of those reasons include but are not limited to; fear, lack of finances, t…

Remembering Peter Macky

On September 14, 2016, this world lost one of its greatest victim advocates.  Peter Macky, warmly referred to as “Pete,” left this earth unexpectedly.  I had known of Pete almost my entire life.  He was an everyday legend in my house while growing up.   My Mom would fondly share the story of the day she met Pete to anyone looking for a chuckle. “I met Pete in the basement of the Union County Courthouse. I was one of, if not his first case, as a legal aid attorney. It was May 1974. I was 17 and had committed an act that was considered "detrimental to the welfare of the school" and the district had removed me from the elected office as President of Student Council (for streaking no less). He defended my 1st amendment right to express myself and instilled in me a passion for defending those who cannot defend themselves.We went on to forge a friendship that would span 42 years, serving on a number of community committees together, collaborating on various social justice issues…

Brains Thrive on Happiness

Making happiness our goal may seem like a shallow aim when we have survived domestic violence, sexual assault, or any kind of crime that leaves us feeling defenseless, vulnerable, and afraid.  Worrying about our safety and the safety of our children and loved ones may seem not only justifiable but the only sane thing to do. 
However, the kind of happiness that I am referring to is the kind that provides a sound basis for building a positive future.  This kind of happiness is good for our mental health, gives us hope that we need for recovery, and helps us come out the other side of all the dreadful things that have happened and live productive, meaningful lives characterized by love, freedom, fun, and belonging.  Having personally witnessed the power of happiness to aid recovery from all the harmful things that life can throw our way, I was pleased to find an article in Business Insider that promoted the idea that neuroscience has basically uncovered the same theory. 
In my own words, I…

Silence Is Not Consent

These photographs speak to me strongly about consent and language.  There are no words, only images, yet all of us can tell that these are not consensual encounters.  Many people who speak out against affirmative consent say that asking every five minutes doesn’t make people feel sexy.  I personally don’t believe asking “is this ok?”  disrupts anything, but for argument’s sake, I will help people read body language.  If someone is gripping your wrist or pushing your hands away, that means you should ask if they want you to continue.  If someone is lying completely still, that means you should ask if they want you to continue.  If from your perspective, someone seems to be enjoying it, ask if they want to continue.  Just keep asking!  If the other person is enjoying the encounter, you get to hear "yes, good job!  Keep going!"  If the person is not, STOP!  You get to save yourself and the other person from a terrible experience.  I understand that as an advocate, I look at th…

Foster Care and Human Trafficking

Recently, I’ve learned about a strong connection between foster care and human trafficking that I had never really thought about before. Children who are in the system are being trafficked, sometimes by foster care parents and sometimes by others outside the home. To traffickers, these children are seen as unwanted, disposable kids, which make them a good target. They’ve often already experienced abuse, and they’re less likely to have someone come after them if they go missing.  According to “T,” (Withelma Ortiz Walker Pettigrew) a young activist who was in foster care from birth to age 18 and trafficked for 7 of those years, many foster care parents care more about the paycheck and make that known to the children in their homes. With this mentality, children quickly become used to the idea that their worth is limited, and they are only good for someone else’s monetary gain (Saar, 2014). “T” states, “The most stable relationship I had while in foster care was with my pimp and his fam…

New Staff at Transitions of PA!

Transitions of PA is growing!

We have recently hired two new Legal Advocates to serve Union and Northumberland Counties. These individuals will assist victims navigate the justice system, file for protection orders, and provide civil and criminal court accompaniment.

Bernadette F. is the new Legal Advocate for Union County.  She is a 2015 graduate of Bloomsburg University with a Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations.  Bernadette is excited to embark on this new career journey. With a background in domestic violence and sexual assault from a college internship, Bernadette is very passionate about the field and looks forward to gaining more experience.   SHe is eager to take on projects where she can further utilize her mass communications skills. 

Kim L. is the new Legal Advocate for Northumberland County. She graduated from Line Mountain High School and currently resides in Paxinos. She has been married for 14 years and has two children. She spent the last eight years working as the admi…

Caught in the Middle

Divorce is fairly common in our society. For every two couples that get married this year, a third couple will get divorced.  According to the National Center for Health Statistics, more than 800,000 couples divorced in 2014.  While the divorce rate among couples who have children together tends to be lower than childless couples, 40% of divorcing couples do have children. This fact results in nearly half of all children experiencing the divorce of their parents (Larson, The Huffington Post, 2011.) 25% of those children will experience a high conflict custody battle (Maccoby and Mnookin, 1992.) This percentage does not include those children facing high-conflict custody whose parents were never married.
Divorce is always stressful for every child, even when, in the long run, it is the healthiest choice that could be made.  For those children handling a high-conflict custody situation, the stress is even greater. There is a loser (or losers) in every custody battle. Regardless of whic…

Domestic Violence Abusers and Their Gun Rights

We live in a rural area where many homes have guns in them.  In a lot of my interactions with clients, we discuss guns.  When I am assisting someone in obtaining a Protection from Abuse order, we talk about whether s/he wants to request the court order the Defendant’s guns be relinquished to the sheriff.  When I am discussing the Lethality Assessment Program with police departments, we talk about the greater likelihood of homicide  when guns are present in the home.   
The “right to bear arms” is a hot topic in this area.  It seems to be common sense that if a person has been identified by the court system as a domestic violence abuser, s/he should not be allowed to own a gun.  However, this was recentlychallenged at the Supreme Court of the United States.
The central issue in this case was whether abusers who commit crimes of domestic violence recklessly should lose their rights to own guns in the same manner as those abusers who commit crimes knowingly or intentionally should.  The Sup…

The Link Between Intimate Partner Violence and Housing

An intimate partner can jeopardize a person’s housing.  Not having a roof over your head can increase the risk you face.  The National Sexual  Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), operated by the PA Coalition Against Rape, has research indicating that nearly 10% of women and 8% of men who experienced housing insecurity or homelessness in the past year (2015), had a higher prevalence of intimate partner violence.  For women, it is the leading cause of homelessness in America according to the National Center Against Domestic Violence.
The NSVRC has found that 61% of girls and 16% of boys say sexual abuse at home is why they left.   Many LGBT youth leave their homes because they were rejected as a result of their gender identity and/or sexual orientation.  46% of these youth run away, and 43% indicate they were forced to leave.
Youth who leave their homes are preyed upon by human traffickers.  70% of youth aged victims living on the streets are victims of sexual exploitation.
Transitions h…

When Secondary Trauma Hits

Compassion fatigue, also known as secondary traumatic stress (STS), is “stress resulting from helping or wanting to help a traumatized or suffering person.”   It is common among individuals that work directly with trauma victims such as, therapists, nurses, psychologists, police officers, first responders, animal welfare workers,  and anyone who helps others.  This includes family members and other informal caregivers. How does one explain the effects of secondary trauma?  For me, it is an overwhelming feeling that words cannot describe.  It’s volumes of information that hold an emotional charge on my body, mind, and spirit on a daily basis. 
Finding my way through secondary trauma has been a lifelong journey with many roadblocks followed by a light at the end of the tunnel.  At times, realizing that I am carrying the burden of someone else is nonexistent.  I continue to provide crisis counseling without a thought of the effects trauma causes. 

When I am aware of the trauma the evide…

The Influence of Victim-Blaming

Domestic violence and sexual assault are difficult topics to discuss. In today's society, there seems to be a stigma that goes along with these two issues, a stigma that unfortunately incorporates victim blaming.  Victim blaming is when the victim of a crime is held solely or partially responsible for the wrongful act done upon them. A recent example of victim blaming happened in the People v. Turner case. Brock Turner blamed college party culture and consumption of alcohol for a sexual assault he initiated rather than taking responsibility for the horrendous crime he committed. Turner, a former Stanford University student-athlete, sexually assaulted an intoxicated, unconscious woman behind a dumpster, whom he met at a house party. Turners’ defense attorney contributed to the victim-blaming when his way of defending this case was to point the finger at the victim and fixate on how much she drank on the evening of the sexual assault.

Victims of sexual assault, more times than not, a…

Violence and the LGBTQ Community

LGBTQ individuals face a lot of adversity from their families and society.  The June 12, 2016 mass shooting at the Orlando nightclub, Pulse, reminded us that hate of the LGBTQ community often manifests itself as violence. LGBTQ people often have difficulty coming out or being open to their families and in society because of a lack of acceptance, aggression, and misinformation.
Additionally, many in the LGBTQ community face the trauma of domestic violence. LGBTQ individuals experience domestic violence within their relationships at about the same rate as heterosexual people. According to Amy Caffrey, LMFT, Training Materials for Next Door, Solutions to Domestic Violence 10/01,“Domestic violence is a serious issue in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) relationships. Domestic violence occurs in same-gender relationships at the same rate as heterosexual relationships (about 1 in 4).” 
In recent years, society seemed to show some acceptance of the LGBTQ community, exemplified by t…

The Struggle is Real

No really, it is. For victims and survivors of domestic violence coming into safe houses, the struggle is real, especially in rural areas. Our Union County safe house has been full to capacity lately. Not only do these clients have to deal with the severe trauma they’ve experienced, but they have to figure out how to support themselves and their children. Many of them were financially dependent on their abusive partners. This requires them to find a job, sometimes with no prior job experience. Or if they have a job, they may struggle to keep it, depending on new transportation and child care issues. On top of employment issues, they have to find housing since the stay in our safe house is only temporary. In a rural place, this is no easy task. Waiting lists are long, rents are expensive, and landlords are not always cooperative.
All of this while dealing with the effects of enduring trauma. Many are depressed, have low self-esteem or experience PTSD symptoms. This can prevent survivor…