SARATOGA SPRINGS — Inside the office on a sublevel of the Collamer Building, a pair of couches sit in a comfortable corner. A toy kitchen patiently awaits the attention of a child’s playing hands, and rows of books line the far wall.
“We have the easiest door to walk in,” says Maggie Fronk, executive director of the Wellspring office, which opens its doors five days a week and hosts seminars that are confidential and free of charge. A hotline, which operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, annually fields about 1,400 calls that come in from across Saratoga County.
“When somebody comes in, we talk to them about what their situation is and about what domestic violence is. It’s a pattern of power and control,” says Fronk, who joined Wellspring 14 years ago. The organization has supported survivors and strived to end relationship and sexual abuse for the past 35 years.
“There are many different forms of abuse. There’s emotional control, psychological control, financial control, social isolation, sexual victimization. So many times people will call us and say, ‘But I’ve never been hit.’ In their mind they’re saying, ‘this is not domestic violence.’ Well, it is,” Fronk says. “We have a ‘power and control wheel’ that talks about all kinds of abuse and we’ll show that to them. The person that says, ‘I don’t know if I even should be calling,’ will look at that and say, ‘Oh, I do have all those other kinds, I’ve just never been hit.”
Wellspring’s crisis intervention and survivor services provide safe housing to adults and children either fleeing or homeless because of domestic violence, as well as comprehensive support in the form of counseling, legal advocacy, and case management. In 2015, the organization provided almost 15,000 safe bed nights of shelter and supportive housing, counseled 700 individuals escaping their abuse, and provided education about the signs of relationship and sexual abuse to 6,500 members of school, and community groups.
“Wellspring gave me a new lease on life and I’m going to take full advantage of it,” said Tina, who married at 18, divorced at 21, and was forced to give up on her dream of going to college after graduating high school. For three years, she endured an abusive marriage. She married her second husband in 2001 and gave birth to her first of three children in 2007. “Unfortunately, women who are victims of domestic violence tend to attract predatory mates,” Tina said.
“My first husband was an alcoholic and here it was, like a bad dream, happening all over again. He began drinking very heavily and the abuse began to get worse.” Pregnant with her second child in 2008, Tina temporarily moved back to her parents’ home and gave her husband an ultimatum. “I told him he had to rehab.” Things seemed to work for a while, but it would not last. “The police were called to our house several times. He punched me in the face and gave me a black eye. It took me a long time to realize I couldn’t fix him, that my love couldn’t carry it through. A lot of women think that if they’re nice enough, if they’re pretty enough, then they can fix things,” she said. “But they can’t.”
An incident involving child neglect that was brought on by her husband’s drinking convinced her the marriage was over. Tina wasn’t working and when the child support payments stopped coming, she became involved in a child custody conflict which continues to this day.
“The psychological effect of that spun me into a dark, life-threatening world of depression. I was in a state of turmoil and didn’t know what to do.” By chance, she came across a Wellspring business card. “I was a mess,” Tina recalled. “I reached out and called their hotline. Immediately, I felt there was a glimmer of hope.” Through Wellspring, she began picking up the pieces of her shattered life. The organization helped with housing, and she recently secured a job at a retail store on Broadway.
“At times it’s been a nightmare of a life, but I’ve realized my true value, my true worth and I have three little kids who I have to make a new path for, so they don’t follow in my footsteps,” she said. “Yes, there will be stumbling blocks, but you have to persevere. I’m not going to let my life be stopped by an abuser who I’d given 22 years of my life. I’m not going to give up on my education. I’m not going to give up on my kids. I’m humbled by these experiences. And I don’t take for granted one minute of my life.”
“We have a commitment to end relationship and sexual abuse in the community and I see that happening,” Fronk says. “We do that by involving the whole community. If you see something, talk to somebody. Tell them there’s a place to get help. Make the call.“
Wellspring maintains office hours Monday through Friday in Saratoga Springs. To reach the office during business hours, call 518-583-0280. To reach the 24-Hour Hotline, call 518-584-8188. For more information, visit: http://www.wellspringcares.org/.