Mayors of the cities of Kenai and Soldotna last week presented executive director of The LeeShore Center Cheri Smith with official proclamations making October Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The proclamations came on the heels of the release of the 2013 Alaska Victimization Survey for adult women in the Kenai Peninsula Borough conducted by the UAA Justice Center and state Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. The report reveals that more than half or 52% of adult women on the Kenai Peninsula have experienced intimate partner violence, sexual violence or both in their lifetime. “It wasn’t really surprising to me or people who work with victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, but this is the first time that we have actually had a victimization survey specific to our area and I think that has been surprising for other people in general who may have heard that Alaska leads the nation with domestic violence being six and a half times the national average, but this baseline breaks it down to here on the Peninsula one in every two women have either been physically or sexually assaulted and those are high numbers especially when you consider the data didn’t include women who were at shelters like ours, in the hospital, incarcerated or don’t have telephones, so we can assume that rates were higher among those women who were excluded in the survey,” said Smith in addressing local Chambers of Commerce.
Smith says she hopes the survey will be repeated in a few years to see if efforts that are being made to reduce domestic violence are having an effect. Smith hopes that the numbers will have the effect of bringing the community together to reduce those numbers through programs such as the new Green Dot Prevention initiative, “This will help give people tools on how to intervene safely in a situation and hopefully to stop something that may potentially lead to a violent act,” she said. Smith says they will be going out into the community in the near future with training on the Green Dot initiative. “A green dot is checking in by calling or knocking on the door when you hear that fight next door. A green dot is calling 911 if you believe someone might be getting hurt. A green dot is talking to your brother or a friend or volunteering an hour at our center or talking about the issue with a neighbor while having coffee. Green dots are individual choices that meet in a shared vision creating the momentum of a social movement,” Smith told the Soldotna Rotary Club at their noon meeting Thursday. “We have a very supportive community; our volunteer program at the LeeShore Center in the last fiscal year had over 200 volunteers. But if we look at these numbers that don’t include men and children for somebody to say that they don’t know anybody in that group or it doesn’t effect my family is just hard for me to understand because what these numbers are saying is yeah you probably do know somebody and we need to be supportive of one another and really need to get a handle on the issue by encouraging more people to get involved and start a movement. There are some wonderful things that our agency is doing and that our community partners are doing and it’s time to call and become a part of it,” said Smith. The LeeShore Center promotes healthy families and a violence free community while providing a safe haven for women and children who are victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Their 24 hour crisis line is 907-283-7257. For additional information on the Alaska Victimization Survey visit http://justice.uaa.alaska.edu/avs.