A blog by spcaLA president, Madeline Bernstein

Dec 17, 2014

Donate Smart-Donate Locally

As we again come upon the busiest fund-raising season of the year I, urge you to know your charities and to donate locally. 

It is not a coincidence that amid a frenzy of holiday solicitations, predators claiming to be victims and fake organizations, try to capitalize on the “season of giving”. Additionally, real organizations can also mislead donors, omit material facts, and/or create a deliberate misimpression regarding the tax-deductibility and use of your gifts. So – fake charities, real charities asserting fake claims, and pretend victims with fake needs, though operating all year round, step up their efforts during the holidays. You can end up trying to claim a nondeductible gift, (an unincorporated self-proclaimed rescue group soliciting funds) or giving to an east coast organization like aspca with nearly 200 million dollars instead of to a charity that desperately needs funds for local pets,

How many of you reading this did not know that the aspca and hsus are not national umbrella organizations that funnel contributions back to communities by zip code as actual national charities do? spcas throughout the country are individual legal entities and not chapters of any mother organization. Yet aspca spends tens of millions of dollars annually on television and other fundraising outlets which omit that significant fact. That is fine if you knew that and meant to give there – but – what if you didn't.

Donors everywhere often feel duped and upset to learn that they donated to the wrong organization and that their precious hard earned funds neither contributed to programs nor helped needy pets in their communities. What could happen to your spcaLA and to our vulnerable populations here if a lot of generous people make that mistake?

It is essential for you, your lawyers and estate planners to research reputable existing charities and locate those that serve the constituency and community that you wish to help. Determine if that charity provides the specific service that you wish to fund in the place you wish to fund it. Only then should you donate. Frequently, your local charity may be providing international relief as well or is affiliated with one who is. 

Giving locally also helps to strengthen the community in which you live by creating jobs, bolstering the economy and enabling the community to thrive. Stronger communities result in stronger cities, states and countries. Our ability to help others improves with our own increased strength and solvency.

The Center on Philanthropy & Public Policy produced a report that sounded the alarm on the implications of Los Angeles exporting charitable dollars out of the city and state stating “…the inflow of philanthropic dollars is less than the outflow, resulting in Los Angeles being a net exporter of philanthropic dollars based on the grant making of the foundations included in the grant sample. …They highlight the opportunities that exist to strengthen the future of foundation philanthropy and nonprofit capacity in Los Angeles County and in so doing to improve the lives of Angelinos and their communities."

Please - give to your spcaLA and other local charities.  If you can afford to donate to multiple organizations - please do. If not - please choose your home charity first.

Please also accept my best wishes for a healthy and happy holiday season.

Dec 3, 2014

stop calling rape victims "accusers"

Courtesy Google Images
The media needs to stop calling victims of rape and sexual assault "accusers''. It implies that there is no victim, but rather a shrill, angry, mean accuser who is victimizing the rapist. It is not done with any other crime. If you are robbed, killed, kidnapped or pick pocketed - you are a victim. Why is a rape victim an accuser? Why is the universally accepted legal language changed? In fact, it is the people of a state that accuses the defendant on behalf of the victim.

This perversion of language and inversion of sympathy began with the allegation that Kobe Bryant raped a woman. Somehow, either the media on its own or in response to pressure from his legal and/or public relations team, began to refer to the woman as the "accuser" to soften the charge and to subliminally suggest that Bryant was the real victim. (That case was settled,) Now again, the 13 or so women alleging rape and sexual misconduct against another celebrity, Bill Cosby, are being referred to as "accusers".

It is the way of our world that when dealing with bullies, batterers and big shots there is an effort to blame the injured party for somehow causing the violence.  I am used to and expect abusers of all sorts to deflect blame, ascribe unscrupulous motives for the charges and exercise their right to defend themselves. I am also used to dealing with those who cannot or are afraid to report a crime. (By the way, should the allegations be false or part of an attempt to extort, the original victim and perpetrator change places!)

It is always difficult for those with less power or those in the minority to be treated fairly by those trying to retain their power and majority status. Trying to equalize the playing field so victims of domestic violence, animals and other vulnerable classes have the ability to fight back is part of what we do here at spcaLA. We try to be the secret weapon that forces a fair fight between unequal players.

I absolutely find it appalling that when it involves sexual abuse crimes, the terminology used by the media  magically transforms the victim into the aggressor, thereby putting a thumb on the scale in favor of the criminal,  making it that much harder for a victim to come forward and for those of us trying to force the fair fight.

Is this terminology shift by the media a result of bowing to exogenous pressures? Is it a manifestation of a culture of woman hating, celebrity loving, misguided political correctness, or a conspiratorial inchoate attempt to sway the jury pool and the arbiters of public opinion?

Is the media naive or complicit? 

Just stop it!