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Teen assault stuns community

Meetings prompt questions; experts share numbers that paint bigger picture

Posted: October 10, 2012 - 8:56pm  |  Updated: October 11, 2012 - 8:33am

Following the arrest last week of two brothers for second-degree sexual assault at a Sept. 8 teenage drinking party, Homer confronted the larger issue of underage and adult binge drinking and sexual violence in meetings of parents, teenage children and health professionals.

“Today we’re focused on a horrible incident,” said Ginny Espenshade, director of the Kenai Peninsula Youth Court, Homer, at a parents meeting last Thursday at the Mariner Theatre. “We’re starting to heal. I hope we can pivot and look down the road ... This is an opportunity, as sad as it is, to focus our attention.”

Traumatic as the Sept. 8 incident is, sexual assault by and to teenagers isn’t isolated, including the rape of boys.

“One thing confusing in all of this is that we’re hearing mixed messages. Bullying is a problem; bullying isn’t a problem. Sexual assault of youth does exist; sexual assault of youth doesn’t exist,” Jessica Lawmaster, executive director of South Peninsula Haven House, said at a meeting Monday night. “I’m here to tell you that those things do exist in our community.”

Lawmaster turned to national statistics to prove her point:

• One in four girls will be sexually assaulted by the time they are 18 years old;

• One in six boys will be sexually assaulted by the time they are 18 years old;

“The really disturbing thing about the statistics is that research shows that 10 percent or less of victims report being assaulted,” said Lawmaster. “The numbers (one in four and one in six) sound high, but when you think that 10 percent are reporting, it’s really alarming.”

Other statistics Lawmaster shared:

• One in three teens will experience dating violence;

• One in four teens are bullied;

• One in five teens reports that they themselves are a bully or at least have engaged in bullying behavior.

Since the Sept. 8 incident made statewide news, some already planned meetings and others held to address the issue have been held to look at what these statistics mean locally and what can be done to increase the margin of safety.

Homer High School meeting

Parents, students and concerned citizens overflowed into the aisles at a meeting billed as a parents meeting last Thursday night at the Mariner Theatre.

The Homer High School Swing Choir set the tone with an a cappella rendition of Ben King’s “Stand by Me,” but the tune might as well have been Bob Marley’s and Peter Tosh’s “Get Up Stand Up.” Coordinated by Homer High School Principal Dr. Allan Gee, several times during the night groups were asked to stand up to be acknowledged, like Homer Police, Alaska State Troopers and members of social service agencies; Homer High students; volunteers; and the high school staff and teachers.

Gee and Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Superindent Dr. Steve Atwater explained the district’s limited response to off-campus activities and why troopers handled the case. Sgt. Jeremy Stone, the new head of the Anchor Point Trooper Post, talked about why until charges were filed troopers had to be quiet about the investigation — and still couldn’t say much.

“I know it’s frustrating to the public that we can’t share a whole lot of information at this time,” Stone said. “We’re gathering information in this case.”

Stone also said he would bring the hammer down on any adult furnishing alcohol to teens, including parents who say they want to provide a safe place for them to drink. He said that for a town to make changes as a community, it has to change its perceptions.

Stone quoted the bumper sticker that reads, “Homer, Alaska: a quaint little drinking town with a fishing problem.”

“That’s the kind of message that gets out there as well — the community is bragging about having a drinking problem,” Stone said. “That’s not a mentality we want to pass on to our community.”

Several speakers, including Lawmaster, spoke about programs helping and educating adolescents She and other Haven House advocates wore purple ribbons in recognition of domestic violence awareness month.

“Some of the recent incidents, and some what’s going to be discussed tonight, can get really emotional,” Lawmaster said. “If anyone here would like some support and some information, please feel free to snag us.”

Lawmaster also made a plea for compassion for the 17-year-old victim. Some people want to talk about the details.

“We’ve been encouraging people not to do that,” she said. “Every victim of assault has a story. That’s how we can honor victims, letting them hold the story.”

The heart of the meeting came when parents and community members stood up to speak in a public comment period.

“Some of us may never heal from these events. Some of us may heal at our own speed,” said Julie Davis. She quoted Martin Luther King: “’Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.’ We can focus on the light. We can focus on prevention.”

Elise Boyer, whose family returned to Homer after her husband Jay retired from the U.S. Coast Guard, appealed to youth to stand up for their friends — something hard to do when the aggressor is bigger.

“If your friend is in a way he can’t protect himself, get him out of there,” she said. “If something is going to go south, get out before it does. Look out for your buddies.”

Scott Cardoza, a youth pastor, appealed for parents to support their kids. Volunteer at dances, he said.

“My son is not going to dirty-dance in front of me ... These kids, I’d say they don’t know how to dance,” he said. “We need to be vigilant. I want to be the number one support system of my family. We can team up.”

Lisa Bowman, a freshman, said the town can solve the problem together.

“We can work through this as a family,” she said. “Thank you for showing up tonight. It means a lot to everyone.”

“It makes my heart sing,” Donna Beran, a Haven House advocate, said of hearing students and parents speak. “This is a community problem. ... We have a lot of resources in this community to do things better.”


MAPP meeting

By coincidence, MAPP, Mobilizing Action through Planning and Partnership, had scheduled a community meeting Friday at Kachemak Bay Campus to review its activities. A community health assessment that started several years ago, MAPP has been bringing together groups and individuals working in all aspects of community health. Friday’s meeting included presentations by representatives for Nature Rocks-Kids in Nature, Cook Inletkeeper, Healthy Lifestyles and a big program, the Homer Prevention Project, or HPP.

HPP identified the issues of sexual assault and domestic violence as being of importance. One way to address those issues is to look at the substance abuse angle, particularly underage and adult binge drinking. HPP recently did a needs assessment survey that interviewed adults and teens and found teenagers reporting about 25 percent had consumed five or more drinks in a row in the past 30 days and 10 percent of adults saying they had five or more drinks in a row.

The prevention project looked at how adult alcohol abuse can cause adverse childhood experiences. Such experiences can lead to underage drinking, which causes adult alcohol abuse, and so on, perpetuating a cycle.

“If it’s damaged as a sapling, it’s not going to be a healthy tree,” is how Ginny Espenshade, one of the Homer Prevention Project committee members, explained adverse childhood experiences.

“We’ve got a river. We’re trying to get them out of the river, and upstream they’re jumping into the river,” she explained the cycle.

When the Sept. 8 incident started being talked about, Espenshade said her group started getting phone calls asking what they were doing ... It would honor those people hurt by events (to answer) what are we doing about sustainable change?”

Referring to a chart, Espenshade pointed to four columns showing how HPP would work toward change and address the issues of underage and adult binge drinking. Three of the columns are filled in and identify the issue of alcohol abuse and the cycle it creates; variables affecting the issue, such as community norms and perception of risk; and contributing factors, such as community tolerance of underage and adult binge drinking. The solution part of the chart, strategies, is the next step to be done this fall.


“Voices Over Violence: a dialogue for youth on creating a safety tomorrow”

Monday was the first of several meetings South Peninsula Haven House is offering local youth and adults to address violence and safety.

“There was really too much to fit into one night, so we’ll make this the first meeting or event of a number of meetings or events,” said Lawmaster.

A follow-up meeting is planned for Wednesday at Kachemak Bay Campus, Kenai Peninsula College-University of Alaska Anchorage, beginning at 5:45 p.m. Adults will discuss actions and change adults want to see for youth; youth will discuss bystander intervention, as well as changes they want to see and how adults can provide support.

Discussion among the 50 adults and youth attending Monday’s meeting focused on “some of the bigger issues” and began with a definition of sexual assault. According to the Federal Office of Violence Against Women, “Sexual assault is any type of sexual conduct or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Falling under the definition of sexual assault are sexual activities (such) as forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling and attempted rape.” Summarized on one of several posters displayed at the meeting, sexual assault “is any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient.”

That led to a discussion and activities about the issue of consent: what it is, what it isn’t, why it might be confusing. While consent — giving permission to another person to do something — sounds uncomplicated, as illustrated with the help of Rachel Romberg, victims services program manager for Haven House, and the role-playing of high school students from Kachemak Bay Family Planning Clinic’s “Promoting Health Among Teens” program. A timeline detailing a hypothetical high school student’s evening with alcohol-consuming companions, a dance and a party provided opportunities to identify when and why consent played a part.

The timeline also led to discussion about what makes the issue of consent difficult. Among the factors listed were social status, age differences, awkwardness, peer pressure, dependence, alcohol consumption, and the pressure of partners or wannabe partners.

How to intervene going from “standing by” to “standing up” also was addressed. The first step was recognizing when a problem was occurring, followed by a decision to assume responsibility. Research indicates the deciding to come to someone’s aid is diffused (hard to understand) in incidents involving more than one bystander, but the PHAT students drew from the University of Vermont’s “Bystander Intervention Playbook” to show examples of successful interventions. One example the students role-played was creatively diverting the attention of two individuals involved in a conflict by “accidentally” spilling a beverage on one of the individuals and then whisking her away with offers to help find dry clothing.

A short video addressed bullying, opening with the statistic that in 2012 “13 million will be teased, taunted and assaulted, making bullying the most common form of violence American youth experience.” At the end of the video, Lawmaster offered another statistic: 57 percent of the time, if someone speaks up, it ends within 10 seconds.

“The ones who feel safe, it’s your job in particular to look out for those who don’t feel safe,” said Romberg. “I invite all of you to take that challenge and stand up together to see what we can do to make Homer High School even better for every student, and Homer Middle School and Homer Flex, all the way down to West Homer and Paul Banks. It starts young and is more than just about good kids or bad kids. It’s about a culture we’re all contributing to.”

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spwright 10/11/12 - 11:58 am
Faith in Humanity

Thur 10/11/12 This story helps to restore My Faith in Humanity.
The Residents in Homer actually Stood Up for a Homer High Student. That's the way in should be.

I still question How the Homer Mariners can field a football team this Sat. 10/13/12 when One Member of the team is a Rape Suspect & 14 Student Members have been suspended for Drinking/Minor Consuming. That's 1/3rd to a 1/2 of the football team.

The most important question that remains Un-Answered :

How did a entire crowd of Homer High School Students witness a FELONY RAPE then do absolutely Nothing to Stop the Rape ? How is that possible just to stand by a watch a fellow Student being RAPED ?
That's a Mystery to Me ? How does That Happen ?

SPW in Soldotna "Airborne"

Norseman 10/11/12 - 01:45 pm
"All that is necessary for

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." (Edmund Burke)

I agree spw, those students who stood by and did NOTHING are just as guilty.

Happy_Lady 10/12/12 - 08:40 am
Diffused Responsibility

Unfortunately, these kids are not the first people who have stood by when horrific things happen. Its called the bystander effect or diffused responsibility. People tend to believe that someone else will do something when a group of people are witnessing something.

Take a minute to research the story of Kitty Genovese. She was murdered in 1964. Numerous people heard her being stabbed to death and not one attempted intervene or call 911...couple this with the fact that these are teenagers without complete frontal lobe development, and I'm not surprised a group of intoxicated youth didn't try to stop the assault. I'm not making excuses, but I do see this as an opportunity for learning. This will certainly be a life-changing event for many of those involved.

Don't ever assume that someone else has called the police or is going to stop to help someone.

spwright 10/12/12 - 09:07 am
Apathy once Again

Fri 10/12/12

Now If the situation at this party was a single female witness to the rape & that witness was a small person perhaps 120 lbs & the Rapist is 250 lbs. I could understand why that witness would be hesitate to interupt the Crime.

But there was a entire Crowd, Numerous Homer High School Students that witnessed this Rape of a fellow Homer High Student on a Living room sofa.
I don't know IF any Laws were broken ? Witness a Felony Crime & Do nothing to Stop or even report the crime ?

I sincerely hope that this incident Haunts Them for a Lifetime.
It will be burned into their memory for Life.


gfds98765 10/12/12 - 11:35 am
Spwright: this is not the

Spwright: this is not the world of your grandfather, or father.
The seeds of change were planted in 1960 & the fruits are now full grown and bitter. There’s no going back.

No more ‘father knows best’ - no more moms disciplining the neighbor kids when they are misbehaving. It’s over.

The free sex, drugs, rock & roll, no rules, no laws, no restrictions-on-behavior 'crowd' rule planet earth. You may have been raised at home and in the military to have honor and integrity, buy you are an archaic bit of the past, as am I. {even though we disagree on politics} we agree on the dishonor of these acts.

lkpomn912 10/12/12 - 12:09 pm
one miserable part of having

one miserable part of having nine lives, is seeing so much evil over the years, by so many people

spwright 10/12/12 - 03:46 pm

Fri 10/12/12 Thanks for the Positive Reply.

It really puzzled me as to How there can be so very much difference in a Person's Character & Honor.

This Generation has produced the Very Best Military Warriors in the History of Our Nation. No other Generation has had to endure 10 very very long years of War & Deployment after Deployment & Combat.
Each & Every One of these Warriors will "Take a Bullet for You" & not think twice about doing so.
I am constantly & sincerely Amazed by this Generation of American Warriors.

Then we have what happened in Homer & a entire crowd of
Young Adults stood by & witnessed a fellow Student being RAPED & did absolutely Nothing to Stop the Rape.

It's a sincere Mystery to Me ? I don't understand it ?

SPW "Airborne"

motely 10/13/12 - 10:19 am

Interesting, You know what ! here we have a football star and his brother violating / raping, another young man, mind you in the small community of Homer, do you really think this is the only person this STAR has done this too< I'll just bet NOT ! as a community If there are other victims we need too encourage them to be able to come forward, Myself being picked as a child through out my entire childhood, let alone the violence that had been occurring towards our mother, was a time in my life that had set the path for my later years,
Today 45 years later, I still hurt inside from those bullies, and have 6 children of my own that are treated with the utmost respect and we encourage them to talk to us when there in fear,
living in a small community perhaps children might not speak of there fears do too potential recourse from others, ( FEAR )
Several years ago I had attended a very resourceful tool within the small town of Homer, SOUTH HAVEN HOUSE, I believe ! maybe the community should form a support group,
Maybe there needs to be a safe person or place that all children know of that they can speak of there assault, and know that nothing will happen to them by speaking out, How about a HOT LINE announce that in the community on a regular basis,
The persons that have done this will pay for what they've done, the officer that's heading the Investigation will find other victims, you can bet on that !!!!! All the resources are great in all but something as simple as a HOT LINE and or a safe person, I'll bet would work, resources within a facility are great but not for a kid ! think about it for a minute,

Independent_thinker 10/13/12 - 01:04 pm
Angry, but not surprised

This kind of behavior perpetuated on this poor kid makes me so angry, but it doesn't surprise me that it happened and that others just stood by and watched. My child attends Nikiski Jr/Sr High and is bullied or physically assaulted almost every single day. Every single one of these bullies is a member of at least one Nikiski sports team and is considered popular by both students and faculty members. So I suppose it is their "star" status that makes them feel entitled to bully unpopular kids, and it is also what allows them to get away with it. Not only do other students never step in to defend my child, they often join in or laugh when this is happening and gang up with each other to humiliate my child. (Their way of impressing each other, I'm sure). Often, a teacher or bus driver is present while this is occurring, but they don't seem to notice. So this horrific story out of Homer doesn't surprise me in the least. But I hope that every single one of those punks who were involved in this crime or who just stood by and cheered while it was happening gets the maximum punishment they could possibly receive.

gfds98765 10/13/12 - 01:07 pm
The brutality of people

The brutality of people should also ‘ stun’ the socialists in this country. They should be shocked into facing the very real fact that there is a percentage of people who are just plain evil.

You cannot ‘blank out’ & gloss over the fact that some people will never be a productive, peaceful, contributing part of decent society.

Socialism is a fraud. Society needs laws and a form of justice to protect normal, average, & exceptional people. People must be allowed to keep what they earn, and not have to support these weasels.

These leaches ARE NOT ENTITLED to live off of the decent hard working, respectful, productive Americans. They have been given “their fair shot” and they BLEW away their shot - brutalizing and torturing their neighbors.

gfds98765 10/13/12 - 01:12 pm
No more ‘father knows best’

The seeds of change were planted in 1960 & the fruits are now full grown and bitter. There’s no going back.

No more ‘father knows best’ - no more moms disciplining the neighbor kids when they are misbehaving. It’s over.

The free sex, drugs, rock & roll, no rules, no laws, & the 'no restrictions-on-behavior' crowd rule planet earth.

This is your 'Occupy Everything' gang of thugs in operation. They have taken over your country. What are you going to do to stop them? Nothing, absolutely Nothing.

spwright 10/13/12 - 04:30 pm
Time to Step Up

Sat 10/13/12 Independent Thinker.
IF all of what You have shared is True. You need to contact the High School & make a appointment w the School Principal & also report these problems to the Police.

The Administration will Take Action immediately. They are required to take action, they have no choice.Their Children attend public schools also.

You as a Parent are Required to Protect Your Own Child.
Time to Step Up.
Simply complaining & writing to a newspaper will Not Protect Your Child. You must Step Up & Do the Right Thing.

Just a hint : Cell Phones w/ Cameras are literately everywhere. A physical Video of this Abuse will provide immediate Proof of Evidence. No He Said She Said
A picture is worth a 1000 words.

SPW "Airborne"

motely 10/13/12 - 05:16 pm
RE independent thinker

So true Spwright,
myself as a child, the bullying began in the 1st grade, I was a kind little guy while at home the abuse of our mom was horrible
and truly hurt inside from time to time and its been 45 years,
Spwright is absolutely 100% correct,
Last week my oldest daughter had told me that her younger sister had been picked on since the beginning of the year by another young lady, Immediately I remembered of that pain and fear from my child hood, I marched to the kenai middle school and when I walk in the door they listen, real simple as I said to the principal I will not come here again for this problem, those fellas worked on the issue through out the day and contacted me at 5:00 pm, Because I marched into that school and demanded the behaviors stop, go to the school board,
Bullying is a horrible thing to go through on a daily basis, going to school in fear is a real horrible feeling.

freedomlibertytruth 10/14/12 - 01:32 pm
All you need today

You don’t need to read the alarming book “Lord of the Flies” to learn about the brutal beastly behavior of kids, when left on their own in a group.

All you need today is a cell phone with a video recorder.

The disastrous result of children left undisciplined, uncivilized, & not monitored and guided by a two parent family of caring adults is all around you.

justamom 10/15/12 - 12:23 pm

When I heard about this incident, I decided to read the police report. It's disgusting! Whether it happened on school property or not shouldn't concern the principal of the school. he should be taking action. Another thing that disgusts me is that ASAA allowed the Homer Mariners to play in the state championship game this past weekend. At least the SoHi Stars came out and beat them on the field. It was great to see!

spwright 10/15/12 - 02:37 pm
3rd Arrest Mon. 10/15/12

Check out today's News. A 3rd Homer Student has been Arrested for RAPE.

I gotta assume that the Video that was taken of the Rape is providing enough evidence for more Arrests.

Not only are these Animals Stupid they also were Dumb enough to make a Video of a FELONY CRIME.
The term Dumb & Dumber comes to mind.
The Police are Just Loving these Video tapes & that makes their job so much easier. Documented Video Tape Evidence.
The Jury will have a Verdict in no time at all.


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