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My Father Divorced Me, 2016

Published with Bust Magazine

My father left me and I don’t know why. I’ll never know why and I’m okay with that. I’m not a people pleaser. I don’t need him to love me or be there for me or even care if I’m dead or alive. I’d actually prefer that he not.


On the day he left, which happened to be two days before Christmas, I got a series of two phone calls.


“Your father just left,” was all my mother had said in the first call.


20 minutes later my mom called again.


“The doorbell just rang and I was served with divorce papers.”


The first words that came out of my mouth were that I was changing my last name.


I hated every minute that I had to walk around with his name. It was like finding out you have cancer and wanting it cut out of your body as soon as possible. Every time I had to had to sign my name, hear it called, or see it on a piece of mail, it felt like the cancer was metastasizing, making me sicker each day. I wanted it gone but the lawyers wouldn’t let me. They said that if I changed my name before the divorce was finalized, it could hurt my chances of getting child support.


But it wouldn’t have mattered. Because in the three years that it took for my parents to get divorced, my father would go out of his way to sever all ties from me — legally and emotionally.


It began with his initial list of demands. In it, he stated that he was willing to pay my mother alimony, split his retirement with her and, along with a few other things, he would pay for her health insurance for a while. He also stated that he refused to pay child support, wanted me off his life and car insurances and that he wanted my car, which had been a gift, returned to him as soon as possible. The twist of the knife came towards the bottom of the paper where he stated that he wanted my horses, which had been my one true love and passion — a passion that he had resented — to be sold and all of the proceeds to go to him.


Later, we would find out that my father had visited a lawyer a year before. He’d spent all of 2011 planning, hiding money, and going along with daily life as if he wasn't about to drop a bomb on our lives as we knew it. The papers were on standby. We never saw it coming.


When I set out to write this piece, I was planning on telling a trend story about parents who divorce their children. I though that what my father did to me was normal and that my story was one that had already been written thousands of times. I was wrong.


I began by speaking to Rosalind Sedacca, a divorce coach and founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network from West Palm Beach, Florida. It’s her belief that it isn’t divorce that screws up children, it’s the way that parents handle divorce.


We talked about a number of things, including the impact of divorce on a child and how a child of divorce can have a healthy relationship. Assuming my situation was normal, I asked her if she’d seen cases where the parent divorced the child. She hadn’t.


"Was your father disconnected or uninvolved?" Sedacca asked me.


He wasn’t. He’s a dentist so he worked long hours, but when he was around he was good dad. The kind that helped with school projects, took me camping and bragged about his kid's accomplishments. We were close and I was a stereotypical daddy’s girl.


"Did he leave for someone else?"


No. As our lives were crashing down around us, we found out that he had gone out with a few women, but there were no affairs or girlfriends. We lived in a very small town where it was impossible to hide your dirty laundry. We would have found out if there was another woman.


"It's very strange that a father who was there would disconnect entirely. There's just no logic there," Sedacca said.


Sedacca led me to Amy Sherman, a licensed mental health counselor also from West Palm Beach, who has experience with divorce and children. I asked her a lot of the same questions that I asked Sedacca, including whether she had seen a parent divorce a child. She made one thing very clear.


“Parents are not leaving their children,” Sherman insisted. “They are leaving each other.”

So the story that I thought was a trend turned out to be the opposite of trendy. But I wasn’t willing to give up on it yet. I went to talk to my lawyer, Frank Beretta, in East Rochester. I needed to know if there was any sort of legal name or precedent for what my father had done. There was. Sort of.


Mary Roe v. John Doe, 29 N.Y.2d 188. The short version is that Mary Roe, 20, sues her father for support after she moves off campus against her father's will. In this case, Roe rebuffs her father's efforts and the court rules in his favor, allowing him to renounce responsibility of his daughter, legally and financially.


“What he did isn’t true, Roe,” said Beretta. “He would have had to show that he made an active effort with you and that you rebuffed him. It just doesn’t fit.”


My father never made an effort. During our first trip to court we walked past each other in the hallway. We were so close that our shoulders nearly touched. He never even looked at me.


I was with my sister the day he left. I had gone to pick her and her cat up from New York City. We were going home the next day after spending the week Christmas shopping for our parents. When she got home from work she tried to call him, desperate for some sort of explanation. When he answered the phone, he asked who it was. He had deleted our numbers from his phone.


“That was the moment I knew it wasn’t going to be normal,” my sister Brittany said. “But he never went after me like he went after you.”


My father left me and I don’t know why. I’ll never know and that’s okay with me. What he did wasn’t normal. In the words that he used under his grounds for divorce, what he did was cruel and inhumane. But I don’t have to live with that. He does.


“I always fought for Brittany because I knew you’d be okay,” my mom has said time and time again. My sister and I have different dads.


“I always thought that no matter what you would be taken care of because you were his child.”

It wasn’t her fault that she believed in him. They had been married for 22 years. What else was she supposed to do?


In the aftermath of the divorce, my father began writing me letters. They never really gave any sort of explanation. All they did was bash my mom and make me feel uncomfortable. It didn't take long before I'd had enough of his cryptic scribbles. My lawyer told me that to get a no contact order, I needed to reach out to him and request that he stop sending me things.


"You decided not to have a family," I wrote. "You made your bed and now it's time that you lie in it.”

Bust

Classwork

The following work was completed at RIT for classes. These writing samples show my ability to write event coverage, profile, and breaking news or hard news style stories. 

A Nuisance: A closer look the Rochester Nuisance Abatement Point System

(Investigative)

Imagine looking out the window of your apartment and seeing a drug deal go down in your front yard. The same yard that your little girl plays in after school. You call the cops to report the incident, but it doesn’t stop. Day after day, you watch the same dealers sell drugs where you pay rent to live.


Each time you call the cops, points are tacked onto the property and eventually, a 911 operator even tells you to stop calling. Before you know it, you and your daughter are homeless because the City of Rochester has shut down your apartment building, declaring it a nuisance property.


For Carlos Alverio Jr., this nightmare was a reality.


The System Explained


In 1985, former Rochester mayor Bill Johnson created the Nuisance Abatement Point System to crack down on drug houses and problem properties. The system was intended to act as a neighborhood preservation tool, keeping the city safe and shutting down properties, whether they be commercial or residential, that attract or cause problems.


So, for example, if a fight begins inside of a club or bar and makes its way out into the street and someone gets injured, the city can assign a certain amount of points onto the building. If a building is assigned 12 points in six months or 18 points in one year, it will be shut down for a 12-month period.


According to NSC Administrator for the Southeast Quadrant, Nancy Johns-Price, shutting properties down for a year acts as a way of keeping future tenants safe.


“Especially if it’s been a drug house or if there were weapons involved,” said Price. “It helps to have that cooling down period before you re-rent.”


Violations are split into three levels, six-point violations, four-point violations and three-point violations. A six-point violation would be something like a sexual performance by a child. A four-point violation could be a zoning violation and a three-point violation may be a barking dog.




The Review


In April of 2015, after pressure from local media, the City of Rochester announced they would conduct an official review of the system.


Mayor Lovely Warren hired Johnson, former mayor and creator of the system, to perform the review through his company Strategic Community Intervention.


Johnson assembled a team that included former city council members who were familiar with the system, some of whom had worked with it daily. They interviewed law enforcement, business owners, community leaders and held open forum discussions in addition to reviewing seven years’ worth of nuisance point reports.


The team took more than a year to perform their assessment and submitted their findings on July 25, 2016.


Findings


One of the initial findings, according to Johnson, was a lack of consistency across the city. Places like the Southeast Quadrant, where Price works, use the system diligently and in a way they believe the it is intended to be used.


However, in other parts of the city the Municipal Code Violations Bureau (MCVB) is being used in instances where nuisance points have been assigned.


“We had 5604 nuisance point cases over a period of seven years,” said Johnson. “In a period of two years, they (the MCVB) had 18,000 tickets and notices that were being issued. In many instances for the very same thing. So, nobody could explain to us, who makes the decision that you get a ticket as opposed to getting a point.”


Because certain areas of the city are using tickets that can easily be paid off, and don’t have the same consequence as the point system, it has seemed to some as though the City of Rochester isn’t doing anything to curb these nuisance properties.


Kyle Crandall, president of the Beechwood Neighborhood Coalition, has lived in the neighborhood for more than 19-years and hasn’t seen a single business shut down due to the nuisance point system.


“We have seen in the past that there’s been many times where we felt as though points should have been assessed for a variety of different issues and they simply weren’t,” said Crandall. “Or we’ve also seen times when there were enough points assigned to a property for the city to be able to shut it down but the law departments chose not to for whatever reason.”


For Crandall, the bigger issue is not with the system itself. It’s with the enforcement of the system, or what he views as a lack thereof.


“It doesn’t matter what we have, if it’s not going to be enforced and it doesn’t really have teeth, then people realize that really quickly and they will just work the system. And that’s what’s happened in the past,” said Crandall. “In the end, if you don’t have a system where owners are going to be held responsible, for what happens in and around their property then whatever you have in writing really is not going to matter.”


Alverio agrees with Crandall and even believes the point system should be eliminated. He feels as though it is up to law enforcement to ensure the city is safe. He believes the point system makes victims more vulnerable, which was another finding in Johnson’s review.


According to Johnson, one problem that was discovered not just in Rochester, but with nuisance point systems in other cities, is that it can unintentionally be used against a victim.


For example, if a victim of domestic violence calls police to report an incident, under the nuisance abatement law, points can be assessed to their home. If the abuse continues and they submit multiple reports, the victim can be evicted from their home and end up in a worse situation than before or it can discourage a victim from reporting the incident to begin with.


This is what can be seen in Alverio’s case. He was the victim who was reporting a crime to police and him and his daughter are the ones who suffered when his apartment building was shut down.


Recommendations


In addition to making the nuisance abatement point system more cut and dry to protect victims, Johnson had a few other recommendations that came out of his review.

Johnson believes that organization and transparency are key to making the system successful. 


He found, throughout the course of the review, that nuisance records were not being kept as clearly or as organized as they should have been and suggested a better method of record keeping.


Johnson also recommended that the city create a way of publicly displaying nuisance point violations. This would allow community members to check on a property and hold the city accountable when a property has received enough points to be shut down.


The assessment team is also working to reweight the point system so that nuisance properties can be shut down quicker.


Of the recommendations that have already been made, Price hopes to see the return of a point waiver that was eliminated by the current administration.


The waiver would allow first time offenders to have the points removed if they show that they have taken the necessary steps to make the property safe.


Will there be change?


It’s been almost a year since the City of Rochester has had the review and Johnson’s initial recommendations and Rochester residents aren’t seeing much change.


Out of desperation, Alverio reached out to a local news station who did a story on the issues he was facing. Shortly after, he received death threats from the drug dealers and had to move himself and his daughter out of the building in the middle of the night. The apartment building was shut down and the case has been presented in front of the Supreme Court.


Johnson and his team are still in the process of making additional recommendations and is hopeful the city will be receptive to change.


“They are recognizing that there are discrepancies in the system and that if there are ways to get it out, they should get it out. I think that hopefully that’s what’s going to happen,” Johnson said.


In the meantime, people like Alverio and Crandall continue to be frustrated by a system and a city that is failing them.


 



View Nuisance Abatement Point Review

Getting it Right: Lessons from TV Reporter Tina Shively

(Profile)

It’s 11:00 a.m. in Austin, Texas and Tina Shively has put her little girl down for a nap. Soup is on the menu for her husband and daughter tonight. A few minutes into our phone interview, beeping of a timer can be heard in the background.


“Hold on for one second, I’m draining noodles,” said Shively. “When you’re a mom and a reporter you have to multitask.”


During the day, Shively is a normal wife and mom, preparing meals and chasing after a toddler. At night though, Shively shifts gears and heads to work at KVUE, one of Austin’s leading news stations where she is a night-side reporter and anchor.


Shively began her career in news in May of 2001 at CBS News in New York as a broadcast associate. She and her coworker, Melissa Serrano, were responsible for gathering tape and feeding it via satellite to news bureaus around the world.


On September 11, 2001, Shively experienced her first trial by fire. News producers from around the world were calling for video of the plane that hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Shively and Serrano got to work feeding video out as soon as the calls came in.


Word came that a second plane had struck the South Tower. Serrano’s father worked there and was lost that day.


“It was a big day for all of us,” Shively said of the event that would shape her both as a person and as a reporter. She remained at CBS News for the next five years where she worked and learned under heavyweights Dan Rather and Bob Schieffer.


“They always taught me we are nothing if we are not accurate,” Shively said.


A SUNY Oswego graduate, Shively credits Rather and Schieffer for instilling the importance of ethical reporting in her.


“I really feel blessed that I was able to work in that market, in national news at first, because it really set me up for having great mentors to look up to as I moved on to smaller places,” said Shively.


Though she spent the beginning of her career behind the camera, Shively’s goal had always been to be on air. She accepted her first reporting job at KFDA in Amarillo, Texas. It was there that she faced her first challenge as a reporter — time management.


“There’s a lot of challenges to day turn,” said Shively. “You have to do the best with the time that you have.”


When Shively began her career, she struggled with getting her stories done, so her news director pulled her off the air for two-weeks, telling her she had poor time management when it came to turning stories in a day. It was then that she learned the importance of getting out the the door and making the most of her time while reporting.


From Amarillo, Texas, Shively came to Rochester, New York to work at WROC for three years and now works at KVUE in Austin. Throughout her time as a reporter, Shively has continued to deliver her stories in a compelling way that remains true to the beliefs taught to her by Rather and Schieffer at CBS News.


“Facts come first,” Shively said. “If that takes you an extra minute, if that takes you an extra phone call, if you have to double check something that you’re not quite sure about, do it. Don’t ever be embarrassed to pick up the phone and call someone back because you don’t want to be wrong.”


Shively also believes that it’s more important than ever for news organizations to have their journalists’ feet on the ground.


“People look to us,” said Shively. “Even in this era of fake news, people are still looking to us for answers and we owe it to them to be ethical and to keep that trust. If we are not accurate, we are nothing.”

Local women unite for annual YWCA Luncheon

(Event coverage)

ROCHESTER, N.Y. - A diverse crowd of local women came together at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center on October 7, to inspire one another at the YWCA Empowering Women Luncheon.


The YWCA, which has been in the area for 130 years, provides housing and other services to women in need and works to eliminate racism, empower women and promote peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all. For the past nine years, the YWCA has held the luncheon to recognize the work of local women and to share some of the YWCA's success stories. Attendees are also encouraged to become involved in empowering others.


"Every year the YWCA challenges all of us, not to just listen and stand on the sidelines, but to jump in the game and actually get involved and help women and empower women in this community," said Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks.


Ginny Ryan, evening news anchor at 13 WHAM, has been emceeing the luncheon since its first year. She said one of the reasons she keeps coming back is because of the YWCA's impact on women in Rochester.


"When you see these women, you know how their lives have been changed," said Ryan. "Just to be able to change one person’s life in the course of a lifetime is remarkable, but the Y does it with many, many women every day."


One of the guest speakers was Anna Clayton, who says the YWCA changed her life. For 11 years Clayton battled alcoholism and depression. Two years ago, she came to Rochester where she had the support of family and was able land her dream job as a flight attendant. But, because of the nature of her work, Clayton had to give up her home in Rochester. She found herself living in a state of limbo and after a few short months Clayton knew she was headed toward a relapse.


She located an emergency shelter, but was also seeking emotional - not just physical - safety. Clayton arrived at the YWCA in September of 2014 with two goals. The first was to secure a job and the second was to have a place of her own. For the past 10 months, Clayton has been living on her own and is working as the secretary of the dean's office at University of Rochester's Simon Business School.


"If it wasn't for the YWCA's overall support with workshops, support groups and the confidence that participating in those gave me, I don't know where I would be today," said Clayton. "The empowerment and the support I received at the YWCA is why I'm here today."


This year's attendees were treated to keynote speaker Lucille O'Neal, mother of NBA star Shaquille O'Neal and author of "Walk Like You Have Somewhere To Go." She spoke with humor about her own struggles with alcoholism and how she became a successful woman in her own right.


"I stand here not as a role model, but a real model, to tell you that if you hang on in there in spite of what you're going through, if you hold on and look ahead, you will come out victorious," said O'Neal. "This I know."

Engineering Dean has more to do before retirement 

(Profile)

HENRIETTA, N.Y. - With less than a year until his retirement from Rochester Institute of Technology, Harvey Palmer is directing his focus toward ALANA students, proving that his commitment to diversity remains strong.


Palmer, dean of the Kate Gleason College of Engineering, said he regrets not being able to see the program to its fruition, but that he plans to begin the initial phases before his exit in June. The new program will be for African American, Latino/a American, and Native American students, and will likely take three to five years to become fully established.


Marian Nicoletti, the senior associate director and director of transfer admissions, says she is confident that this program will help ALANA students feel like they belong at RIT.


“It’s about providing a community where they feel that they identify,” said Nicoletti, referring to this yet-to-be named program. “That they’re not the only Hispanic student in the classroom. That there are faculty that they can aspire to be like.”


Palmer said during his 15 years as Dean, one of his goals was to make minority groups feel represented and important within the engineering college. The culmination of his dedication to diversity can be seen in the Women in Engineering program, which Palmer spent the majority of his tenure nurturing. He attributes this to the influences of the women in his life, which include his wife, Donna Palmer, and a daughter whom he encouraged to work with Doctors Without Borders.


According to his wife, Palmer's support for women can be seen in both his career and his personal life.


"He has in no way discouraged the women in his life and that has really carried over into his work at RIT," said Donna Palmer, a retired high school English teacher from, Lima, New York.


WE@RIT works to support, educate and inspire women engineers. Palmer’s dedication to the program's success was instrumental in quadrupling the number of female faculty members and tripling the number of female students within the college in the last 15 years. According to the newly hired WE@RIT Director, Kathy Ehrlich-Scheffer, Palmer’s commitment to these programs goes above and beyond what is expected.


"I was only going to accept the position if I felt there was true senior level support and not just name-only support," said Scheffer. "What I found was that indeed there was a true level of meaningful support for this program and that it was not just support but that it was an important piece of this college of engineering in Harvey's mind."


Palmer is quick to pawn his success off onto those around him, insisting that it’s his faculty team that has made the college successful. Yet it was Palmer who built a team of faculty and staff members who share his belief that the more diverse a group is, the stronger it will be. Because of this, Matthew Marshall, associate dean for undergraduate programs in the engineering college is confident that they will be able to continue their commitment to diversity once Palmer is gone.


"He's created a leadership team in the associate deans and the department heads that I think are all completely on the same page and that I think are all going in the right direction together,” Marshall said.


Palmer's commitment to diversity and to the college will not walk out the door when he does. The license plate on his 50th anniversary edition Corvette reads “KGCOE.” To those who say he will now have more time to spend on hobbies in retirement, Palmer's response is that his hobby is driving back and forth to work.


"I'm going to miss it every day," said Palmer. "It's my occupation and my preoccupation. I think about it all the time."

Trump’s New Hampshire success leaves RIT students unsettled

HENRIETTA, N.Y. - RIT students expressed confusion and concern after Donald Trump claimed his first victory at the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday night.


“I actually thought it was really funny when I found out that he was running,” said Allison Crim, an electrical engineering major. “The fact that he’s gotten this far worries me.”


Crim is far from alone. When Trump announced that he was entering the race in June, many viewed the move as nothing more than a publicity stunt. Twitter exploded with jokes and even the Democratic National Committee took a jab at the billionaire business man.


“He adds some much-needed seriousness that has previously been lacking from the GOP field, and we look forward to hearing more about his ideas for the nation,” said Holly Shulman, national press secretary for the DNC.


Yet eight months later, the controversial candidate led the field at the New Hampshire primary with 35 percent of the votes. John Kasich came in second with 16 percent. Hearing that Trump won by such a large margin is a real worry for Chelsea Eggleston, a film and animation major.


“I'm just concerned that so many people are voting for him,” said Eggleston. “But I still don't think he'll win.”


According to both The New York Times and US News, the majority of Trumps votes are coming largely from a group of voters who are less educated, unengaged and uninformed.


But Trump’s win and an increase in support isn’t the only concern for students at RIT. By Wednesday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and businesswoman Carly Fiorina announced that they would be dropping out of the race, narrowing the Republican field down to seven.


“I just still don't understand how he's ahead,” said Veronyka Martinez, a marketing and advertising and public relations double major. “I heard that Chris Christie dropped out just after and we're losing people to beat him.”


Martinez, a Sanders supporter, hasn’t lost all hope though.


“Bernie won though too and that’s what matters,” said Martinez.  

Clinton "Feels the Bern," leaving RIT students feeling positive

Henrietta, N.Y. - Young Democrats at RIT appear hopeful after Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders nearly tie in the Iowa caucuses on Monday night.


With only four votes separating the Democratic candidates 12 hours after the votes were in, The Associated Press declared Clinton the winner. People reported that more than six precincts chose to let a coin toss make the final decision, with Clinton winning in every situation.

Stephanie Barbato, a psychology and advertising and public relations double major, wasn't too surprised about the results.


"I kind of saw that coming," said Barbato. "Bernie gained a lot of popularity in the last few months and I think that has a lot to do with people our age. So, as long as people get out and actually vote, I think he stands a very good chance of being elected."


Since he entered the race, young people have been drawn to Sanders socialist views. The Washington Post reported that the most surprising stat to come out of the Iowa caucus was 74-year-old Sanders winning 84 percent of votes from people between the ages of 17 and 29.


Jean Pietrowski was disappointed with Sanders loss, but is more optimistic than ever with the news of O'Malley suspending his campaign.


"I'm really upset Bernie didn't win," said Pietrowski, a museum studies major. "O'Malley took the six percent of votes that he would have had. I think Bernie can do it though."


Media outlets have predicted that the results will be a major blow to Clinton's campaign, who has been considered the Democratic front-runner since she announced her entrance into the race last April. Supporters like Taryn Brennan, a international and global studies major, are curious to see if the close call will encourage Clinton to take a closer look at her strategy as she moves on to New Hampshire.


"Personally I like Hillary, but she is a little centrist on the issues that are important to me, so I'm glad that they tied because I'm hoping that it will push her a bit more left," said Brennan. "I'm interested to see how she responds to the results."