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'Don't look away'

Community must cure domestic violence

Posted: March 28, 2013 - 8:24pm  |  Updated: April 1, 2013 - 6:52pm
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Jane Ruggiero carries a sign during the LeeShore Cventer's "Alaskan's Choose Respect" awareness march Thursday March 28, 2013 in Kenai, Alaska. Participants walked from the Kenai gzebo at Leif Hansen Park to the Kenai Visitor's and Cultural Center.   Rashah McChesney
Rashah McChesney
Jane Ruggiero carries a sign during the LeeShore Cventer's "Alaskan's Choose Respect" awareness march Thursday March 28, 2013 in Kenai, Alaska. Participants walked from the Kenai gzebo at Leif Hansen Park to the Kenai Visitor's and Cultural Center.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the name of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church.

Domestic violence is the community’s problem.

“If it’s happening in your town, it is your business,” Department of Administration Commissioner Becky Hultberg said.

Hultberg, representing Gov. Sean Parnell, addressed about 75 people in the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center as part of the LeeShore Center’s 4th Annual Alaska Choose Respect Awareness Event and to kick off the up-coming Sexual Assault Awareness Month. About 45 people had walked from Leif Hansen Park along Frontage Road to the visitor’s center to raise awareness about domestic violence and to show respect for its survivors.

Jane Ruggiedo, marching with a sign that read “families choose respect,” said she and about 10 other members of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church came to the event to support “the dignity of every human life.”

Debbie Martin, a provider eligibility specialist for the Child Care Assistance Program through the LeeShore Center, said there is too much domestic violence in the state, and it is not necessary.

In Kenai, domestic violence arrests jumped from 56 in 2011 to 81 in 2012, Kenai Police Chief Gus Sandahl said.

There is a connection between drug abuse and thefts, but no clear or singularly-defined cause for domestic violence exists, he said.

“It’s tough with domestic violence because we’re not in the homes until after the assault is committed,” he said. “This might just be an anomaly — this spike this year — and hopefully it’ll go down.”

Whatever the causes for domestic violence, Hultberg, a former Kenai resident herself, said the community can do better.

“We don’t see all the victims in the paper. We don’t see the high toll that it takes on our community, our society,” she said. “These are our kids.”

“We can make a change,” she added.

Kenai Mayor Pat Porter said that change starts at home with youth.

She said parents need to be good role models. She gave the example of a TV commercial in which a child throws his empty container at his mother.

“That opens up a line of communication,” she said.

In those instances, parents need to ask their children if they think that behavior is alright.

“Be watchful,” she said.

During the three years Hultberg has been to the event, this year was the most people she has seen attended, and that makes her hopeful for the future of domestic violence, she said.

But to reduce domestic violence, she said the community needs to stand up and take action.

“Don’t look away,” she said.


Dan Schwartz can be reached at

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LaFern 03/29/13 - 10:15 am
Making progress

I applaud the efforts made by everybody to realize that domestic violence is a major problem in Alaska, but what needs to be done about it is simple but difficult all at the same time. Everything comes down to money and politics. When there's rapid boom and bust economies like Alaska's (heavily privatized resource extraction with imported employment) and very little effort put into supporting community projects and services, people's personal lives tend to suffer because having an unstable financial situation. Even people who take home a 6 figure salary and are able to have any job they want are prone to this phenomenon because of how unstable Alaska's employment scene is. One change of a contract and a slopeworker has to stop and change their entire lifestyle and their family's lifestyle as well, one business closes and those employees have to disrupt their entire lives because the nearest place they can work in that industry is hundreds or thousands of miles away, and so on and so on. Until Alaskans can foster its towns and neighborhoods to be more self sufficient with services, support, and better transportation (emphasize walking distances), the boom and busts leave people in the dust at home.

Raoulduke 03/29/13 - 11:37 am

There is absolutely NO EXCUSE for domestic violence period.

Suss 03/30/13 - 08:22 am
New Church?

"Our Lady of Perpetual Health Catholic Church", makes one wonder if our local hospital bought the local church or maybe they have a new pastor, Padre Juan Ponce de León. Happy Easter.

jlmh 03/31/13 - 12:05 pm
Good catch. I think their

Good catch. I think their sign says "Our Lady of Perpetual Help."

jlmh 03/31/13 - 12:20 pm
What works?

The article doesn't talk much about how domestic violence issues are currently approached. I'm aware that if an officer is called, an arrest is made, but then what? Do they actually follow through with prosecution? Is any meaningful rehabilitation pursued? It seems like it would require a lot of judicial resources, and I bet most of these cases get dropped after the immediate threat has passed. Perhaps it's time to refer offenders to anger management, couples mediation or counseling in lieu of charges and/or fines (especially for first-time incidents). Maybe they already do. Does the LeeShore Center provide these services to families? I just can't imagine an awareness walk influencing private family dynamics. It's not clear what "real" efforts the community has pursued, or what (if anything) has been demonstrated to be effective - especially at the population level.

spwright 03/31/13 - 02:11 pm
Why ?

3/31/13 I have yet to get a straight answer to this Question :

WHY does a Woman return to a husband that beats & injures Her & her Children ? Makes no sense to me ? Beyond Logic ?

Where are the rest of the Men in the family ? Why do they tolerate this & allow it to continue ?


Raoulduke 04/01/13 - 06:02 am
Why you ask

Because it has probably been going on for generations,and the women have a very low self esteem.

Media Critic
Media Critic 04/01/13 - 09:42 am
Get your priorities in order

It sure didn't take staff long to take down the negative comment about Mayor Porter. I guess accuracy is less an issue. Our Lady of Perpetual Health? We could only hope.

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