The officer addressed a small room of the LeeShore Center’s new hires and other agencies’ employees, educating them about the facets of domestic violence.
Jeff Whannell, Kenai Police Department investigator, said he is the third or fourth officer to perform call outs, but “unfortunately” his duties include domestic violence responses. According to a KPD report, two of three arrests Friday were related to domestic violence.
“Plenty of (domestic violence) calls come in to the station,” he said.
Whannell was speaking to the small group of Central Peninsula residents on the final day of LeeShore Center’s “Community Awareness Workshop on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault” week, which began April 2. Part employee training and part outreach, the center hosted a handful of guest speakers throughout the event.
LeeShore offers 24-hour shelter services, transitional living and educational support groups, among other programs. It has served the Central Peninsula for over three decades.
The week started with a general overview of domestic violence but shifted toward related topics, like how sexual assault cases are processed through the legal system and safety planning for victims.
New LeeShore employees are mandated to participate in training and the workshops serve that purpose. The curriculum is an accumulation of several years of the event, said Barbara Waters, LeeShore Center workshop facilitator.
A core group of six people, plus a handful of residents picking and choosing specific programs, attended the workshops throughout the week.
Stalking through use of technology, a fairly new topic for the center, was added to this year’s programs. The Internet allows stalkers to access personal information about their victims. Perpetrators anonymously can commit stalking by posting their victims’ contact information on websites, and computer programs allow stalkers to retrace victims’ keystrokes.
Perpetuating the problem, stalking technology has outpaced many state laws, according to the National Center for Victims of Crime. Waters this year attended training Outside on the subject.
But effects on children are an unforeseen consequence of domestic violence and could be the most overlooked and pervading problem affecting the community, Waters said.
“Children absorb and take in what’s going on around them, and the reason a child may be acting out is because of what’s going on at home,” she said.
April is child abuse awareness as well as sexual assault awareness month.
Honoring family and friends
Attendants of Thursday’s workshops were dismissed early to partake in a candle light vigil.
This event, which was a collaboration between LeeShore and the Kenaitze Indian Tribe, was held at the tribe’s elder services building, also known as Tyotkas.
The “heartbeat of the mother drum” set the somber vigil in motion. A group of 11 women and one man played three songs on a large, traditional drum. A room of mostly women sat in silence as the bass shook the building.
Tribal advocate Lindsey Anasogak introduced two speakers during the vigil and informed the attendants of the tribe’s own services, such as mental health professionals and an empowering women support group. The young woman said their advocacy program is fairly new — it started in 2007 — and focuses on native women and children.
She participated in the workshops when she began her position two years ago. This education is used while working with victims.
“When I first started, I didn’t have in-depth knowledge of the problem,” she said. “But I’ve taken everything I’ve learned, in-state and out-of-state, to help my clients.”
Once the beating of the drum finished, residents formed two lines and collected skinny, white candles from a table in the center of the room. They formed a circle, and Anasogak said whomever wanted to honor friends and family could do so.
There was a brief silence before several people mustered the courage to share their emotions.
Brothers, sisters and mothers were among the honored.
Tina Hamlin, LeeShore Center shelter advocate, held her candle to her chest and softly spoke to the crowd.
“I want to honor the women who step forward and fight against all odds to combat abuse,” she said.
“I want to honor the tribe for helping victims over the past 20 years or so, as well as provide counseling to help our tribe eradicate this problem,” said Liisia Blizzard referring to the tribe’s Nakenu Family Center.
Standing in a brown, suede jacket wearing wire-rimmed glasses Curt Shuey — one of three males in attendance — looked forward and spoke his piece.
“I would like to honor the perpetrators who take responsibility for what they’ve done and make an effort to end the cycle,” he said.
‘A legal system’
Investigator Whannell Friday was the final guest speaker to visit LeeShore Center. His discussion meandered off topic, finding its way back toward domestic violence with new hires curious about specific situations.
The officer was frank, offering information and quashing engrained beliefs. The students asked about degrees of assault, limitations of charges and issues of provability.
He said a major problem with increasing the number of domestic violence arrests is the unwillingness of some victims to report abuse. Using hypothetical scenarios, he explained the pervading situation of two tales: a back-and-forth between victim and perpetrator.
“Having an in-house database helps our investigations,” he said. “So, if an offense occurs in the future that history can be used for prosecution.”
The attendants raised concerns about the factors needed to charge offenders.
“It’s a legal system, not a justice system,” he emphasized.
The local Sexual Assault Response Team also was a major topic. Many of LeeShore’s volunteers are members of SART. They work collaboratively with law enforcement and other agencies to provide specialized sexual assault intervention services.
Teams are specialized to fit the needs of each community and generally have goals of increasing reporting and conviction of sexual assaults and countering the experience of sexual trauma with a sensitive and competent response, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.
SART members cannot speed to the scene of a domestic violence crime, Whannell informed a LeeShore employee.
Waters said she hopes workshop participants take what they have learned and relay the information to neighbors, family and friends.
“Each one teach one,” she said.
With their newly attained knowledge they can lead victims to their next step of recovery, she added.