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Domestic violence issues persist on Kenai Peninsula

Large numbers the norm

Posted: January 10, 2012 - 10:01am

Despite years of work and the effort of local organizations, domestic violence remains prevalent in the central Kenai Peninsula region, officals say.

The occurrence of domestic violence in the Kenai Peninsula matches trends throughout the state identified by University of Alaska Anchorage researchers. Troopers and local police departments deal with the issue on a weekly basis.

A report published in May 2010 by UAA's Justice Center and the Council on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault (CDVSA) summarized key findings of closed cases of assaults involving domestic violence reported to Troopers in 2004 throughout the state.

The first listed finding in the report indicated Fairbanks, Palmer and Soldotna Trooper detachments handled 50 percent of the cases across the state.

Kenai Police Department averaged five domestic violence assault arrests per month in 2011. This is small compared to the average 615 calls for service, but there are many domestic violence-related calls that do not result in arrests, said Kenai Police Chief Gus Sandahl.

"When you're taking five people to jail for domestic violence in one month that's not really a rare occurrence," he said. "It's certainly something our officers are used to."

Domestic violence is both physical and emotional, as charges are placed on individuals simply for causing fear of harm, according to officials.

Typically, calls for service resulting in arrests include charges of fourth-degree assault or criminal mischief, Alaska State Troopers Sgt. Robert Hunter said.

A charge of fourth-degree assault consists of a person recklessly causing physical injury to another person, such as a punch, slap or shove to the ground, or placing another person in fear of imminent injury, which often includes verbal threat. Criminal mischief charges are added due to destroyed property.

Hunter said common cases are dealt with in as little as two hours. Interviews and photos of the injuries are done swiftly, he said.

Cases involving serious injuries take longer, because Troopers handle everything from the initial call for service to the subsequent court case, Hunter said.

"On the grand scheme of things it can be anywhere from 30 to 40 percent of our workload," he said. "There are officers that are better at legwork than others, so they tend to get stuck with the more complex cases."

Soldotna Police Department handles about five domestic issues a week. Most of the department's daily grind are traffic violations, said Sgt. Stace Escott.

However, he said an obvious contributor to domestic violence is alcohol.

"It almost always comes down to alcohol ... and selfishness," he said. "One or both spouses is being selfish, and the kids get caught in the mix."

Alaska's high rate of substance abuse contributes to its top rankings for child sexual abuse and domestic violence, said Cheri Smith, LeeShore Center executive director. Almost 75 percent of Alaskans have experienced or know someone who has experienced domestic violence or sexual assault, according to CDVSA.

"The numbers we deal with in the Kenai Peninsula are quite large, which is pretty standard throughout Alaska," she said.

LeeShore is a 32-person capacity emergency shelter and a 25-bed transitional housing facility. In 2011, the women's center had a 15 to 17 percent increase in the number of people seeking assistance, Smith said.

Another finding highlighted in UAA's report was the predominance of male suspects. While males constituted 76 percent of the suspects, Peninsula law officials said females are arrested as well.

In turn, males are also victims of domestic violence. Up to 18 percent of LeeShore's clients are male.

Male victims have difficultly admitting physical abuse, especially persons in same sex relationships, Smith said.

"It can be horrific for them to actually seek help for that type of situation," she said. "It's really difficult to admit."

She said men also come to the center seeking guidance because family members are being victimized.

Family fights are reported by neighbors, who hear screaming matches from across property lines. Resulting arrests are based on the on-scene investigation, officials said.

"If there is reason to believe an assault or criminal mischief occurred the officer will make an arrest," Sandahl said. "If probable cause exists then we have to take the primary physical aggressor into custody for the safety of the victim."

Smith said she thinks the Peninsula's community is extremely supportive, and the law enforcement is superb.

A more immediate concern is housing. Providing adequate living space for a family of six or a safe haven for a teenager is challenging, she said.

"LeeShore has a minimum age limit of 18, or the person has to be emancipated" she said. "There's been a couple times where a person was close to 18 and we secured an emergency shelter. But we certainly have had youth come to the door and there's really no place for them to go."

Troopers have difficulty staying in touch with victims, many of whom move away or become reluctant when a trial date approaches. It can often wear investigators time and resources thin, Hunter said.

"We are just at or just below our staffing levels," he said. "The (Troopers) are handling a large workload. And cases we would like to follow up on hit a deadline, and we don't finish investigating before the trial."

Jerzy Shedlock can be reached at jerzy.shedlock@peninsulaclarion.com.

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Allen
636
Points
Allen 01/10/12 - 05:30 pm
0
0
The Current System Is Not Working

This article shows that the current victim-perpetrator criminal justice system of dealing with domestic violence is not working. Domestic violence is a whole family problem, and should be dealt with that way, but it is not. Also, most families with domestic violence have multiple problems, such as mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse, unemployment, and those problems are not being addressed. Arresting one person or temporarily sheltering the other person does nothing to change the family dynamic.

Until our society changes the way we deal with these families, we will continue to have high levels of domestic violence.

akmscott
131
Points
akmscott 01/10/12 - 05:49 pm
0
0
Throw all the money you want

Throw all the money you want at it!It will still be there unless you park a cop on everyones sofa-and that better not happen!

spwright
1376
Points
spwright 01/10/12 - 06:29 pm
0
0
We are Number One ! 1/10/12

With only 710,000 Alaskan Residents in a State that's twice the size of Texas. We can Proudly Proclaim that We are
Number One in the entire Nation with :

Child & Spousal Abuse
Domestic Violence against Our Very Own Family Members
Drug & Alcohol Abuse
Rape & Sexual Abuse
D U I Driving Arrests

BUT We have over 16 Billion w/ a B in the State Financial Reserves & over 43 Billion Dollars in the Permanent Fund
but Our State Legistlators never seem to find a way to Hire more State Troopers & more Domestic Family Professionals to Assist these Families In Crisis.

Yep WE ARE NUMBER ONE !
SPW in Slooooowdotna

jlmh
352
Points
jlmh 01/11/12 - 04:36 am
0
0
Option to dismiss charges?

Perhaps we should start offering conflict resolution classes, or couples/family mediation, in lieu of criminal charges for the minor incidents (like 4th degree assault and criminal mischief). You know, like you can take a defensive driving course to get a minor traffic ticket dismissed. That would save a lot of time and resources for investigators and the court, and maybe even give perpetrators some help on avoiding such circumstances. (Of course, if alcohol is involved, those conflict resolution skills are probably going to be worthless. But maybe they could help them determine limits for their drinking - such as amount and location - to help them avoid bad situations.) Most of them are probably going to get referred to anger management or other treatment by the court anyway; this proactive approach might eliminate some of the legwork and help perpetrators feel more involved and in control of the process.

Raoulduke
3055
Points
Raoulduke 01/11/12 - 06:05 am
0
0
Stop it!

ASSAULT no matter the degree is still ASSAULT,and anyone who thinks this can be treated in degrees is WRONG.The men are usually control freaks,an insecure.They probably saw it happen in their homes growing up.This is a multi-generational thing.Then they think women need to keep inline.This is SICK.The person you claim to care about.You do not ASSAULT.PERIOD!

akal
252
Points
akal 01/11/12 - 10:33 am
0
0
assault by law enforcement

when is it wrong to throw someone in jail just because their partner said some violence happened? a majority of the people in Wildwood are there be cause the court system , judges, lawyers, make a good buck on harassing these people, and thanks to laws that find people guilty before trial they all keep up the charade. the system is not bringing justice if all an angry person has to do is lie to get someone jailed. look at the other side of this problem it is just as wrong as domestic violence.

cbeard
132
Points
cbeard 01/11/12 - 01:31 pm
0
0
Culture

Culture is always the problem when it comes to domestic violence. Jail, fines, court-mandated therapy, etc. are all reactions to domestic violence, not cures.

The cultural source of domestic violence is easy to figure out. Many homes on the peninsula have economic conflict, even in families who have high incomes and savings. Even just due to the circumstance of living a semi-rural lifestyle alone demands a fair bit of isolation and more one-on-one time, which can easily aggravate and snowball minor relationship issues into rather big ones. This is true even for the most sane and logical of people. People who face income challenges fare even worse, and money is the #1 cause for divorce nearly worldwide, and because our modern lifestyle is not as communal as it once was for people living in this climate, that kind of isolation is magnified.

On the issue of climate, peoples who live in areas of extreme cold and in smaller population numbers have a higher reactionary predisposition to want to exert power over their surroundings, and the exertion of power is a big contributor to domestic violence. This can be magnified by the much-talked about lack of exposure to sunlight and processing vitamin D in the winter months.

Another big cause overall is the lack of access to moderate mental health care in Alaska. Most people will require at least some mental health screening in their lifetime, but unfortunately in our state there are only drastic measures provided after the fact for tragic poor mental health-fueled events.

jlmh
352
Points
jlmh 01/11/12 - 01:53 pm
0
0
Fourth-degree assault doesn't

Fourth-degree assault doesn't necessarily involve any physical harm. But property damage and threats are immature at best, and don't solve any problems. For isolated incidents, I think it's worthwhile to give perpetrators a chance to drop the charges and keep the petty stuff off their record. If it's an ongoing problem, they need to get out of the relationship or hold themselves to adult standards of behavior.

I have a hard time believing that the majority of Wildwood inmates are there because of an unsupported allegation of violence.

Norseman
3593
Points
Norseman 01/11/12 - 01:56 pm
0
0
wcc

quote...."a majority of the people in Wildwood are there be cause the court system , judges, lawyers, make a good buck on harassing these people...."

What ignorance. The prisoners housed at Wildwood are there because they broke the law. We have laws to protect society. Sex offenders, rapists, murderers, drug dealers, assaults, all of these and many more crimes are why they are in prison. NOT because judges and courst are harrassing them.

The fact that they are in there and not out on the street means that innocent people are not being victimized.

akal
252
Points
akal 01/11/12 - 08:03 pm
0
0
ignorance ?

it used to be you had to prove harm to arrest a person, now just the possibility they might do something is enough to jail them.many of the people who are under state control may not have done any harm to anyone but themselves. every year people in the state capitol write more laws, this causes a situation where it becomes very difficult to not break some law as we live our lives. soon just getting angry may cause you to lose your freedom. many women know that all they have to do to hurt someone is accuse him of domestic violence. many people in Wildwood have plead out on a case because they could not afford to fight it all the way. these are the one's I am speaking about. I detest the idea of violence between a man and wife but the idea of innocent people being incarcerated for a type of crime such as this is worse. ignorance? no just seeing things from all sides.

Norseman
3593
Points
Norseman 01/12/12 - 07:51 am
0
0
By your comments it is

By your comments it is obvious that you have no clue about what you are stating.

To claim that the majority of prisoners in prison are innocent is absurd. To claim that because of laws we are having a difficult time to not break them is also absurd.

Most people I know have never violated the laws of the land. I find no diffulculty whatsoever in obeying the law. Neither do most people.

Go sit on the next jury trial of a domestic abuse victim. Look and listen. If the jury finds them guilty, then they go to jail. If they are innocent, they are free to go.

akal
252
Points
akal 01/12/12 - 10:30 am
0
0
oh

the norseman's (progressive nature) always seems to get bent out of shape when a libertarian view comes up. it is people like you who have put us in the sad predicament America finds it self in. no idea of true liberty or true freedom. the obama's of the world rise up when people close their minds to what the founding fathers set out for us. my feelings on domestic violence have been aroused by a 70 yr old man that has recently been put thru the grinder that you call justice, plead out because of a lack of funds he now has a record for something he didn't do and a self serving woman has caused another to get beat up by a unfeeling system that marches forward regardless. you called me ignorant ,I see you as smug and self satisfied liberal.

Norseman
3593
Points
Norseman 01/12/12 - 10:48 am
0
0
Backtracking fast now.

Backtracking fast now. Exposed the truth about your statement on inmates and their innoncence so now you must resort to trying to label me.

Before, you quoted this,....

"a majority of the people in Wildwood are there be cause the court system , judges, lawyers, make a good buck on harassing these people"

Now you divulge it is one 70 year old man. Please provide a case number so we may see how an innocent 70 year old man went to jail for domestic abuse.

You are the one with liberal tones. Believing and thinking that the majority of inmates at WCC are innocent. Boy are you wrong on that one. They were found guilty and are now serving their time.

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