This story contained an error. Barbara Waters, LeeShore Center education and training coordinator, said “If you were to stand in a big crowd, one out of every four women (in the state) have been sexually assaulted.” The Clarion regrets the error.One of the women stood with a candle in her hand, her eyes welling with tears.
She and about a dozen other women holding candles, standing in a half circle honored the strength required to climb out of an abusive relationship.
“Before we blow out the candles, I would like to honor the young lady who was killed a few weeks ago,” said Lindsey Anasogak, a Kenaitze Indian Tribe Na’ini social services specialist, standing at the opening in the half circle of women.
The women gathered in the tribe’s Tyotkas Elder Center in Kenai on Thursday were attending the joint-hosted LeeShore Center and tribe’s candlelight vigil to pay tribute to those who have lost their lives to domestic violence, specifically sexual assault, as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
The woman’s death Anasogak honored is one of the many deaths and abuses in a state that led the nation in domestic violence homicides in 2002, 2003 and 2004, according to the 2009 Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault report.
"If you were to stand in a big crowd, one out of every four women (in the state) have ben sexually assaulted," said Barbara Waters, LeeShore’s education and training coordinator
According to the state report, Alaskan women are 2.6 times more likely to be raped than women in other states.
On the Kenai Peninsula, the average age for an individual to be raped is 13 or younger, said Sharon Mosbrucker, a direct services advocate at the LeeShore’s emergency shelter.
She said 12 percent of the children in the Peninsula’s public school systems have been sexually assaulted by a boyfriend or girlfriend.
In Kenai, domestic violence arrests have jumped from 56 to 81 incidents from 2011 to 2012, as of late March. Soldotna police made 58 domestic violence arrests in 2012 and, as of March 31, 17 arrests.
Kenai Police Department Chief Gus Sandahl said there is no clear reason why the number of arrests have climbed in Kenai.
Reporting these crimes or fleeing from their abuse takes an incredible amount of strength, Waters said.
“There’s always a fear of stepping into other people’s business,” Waters said. The older generation, she said, tends to have a “what happens in the home, stays in the home” mentality.
Also, those fleeing an abusive relationship are often afraid of retribution, she said.
“When I study what goes on in a woman’s mind, I think about my mom,” she said.
When she was 12, her mother left her abusive father, but it tore a hole in her family.
“The only one who stood up for my mom was ostracized from the family,” she said.
Those fleeing an abusive relationship have obstacles, she said. If a spouse has children, he or she often fears they could lose custody. If the abusive partner did not allow the spouse to work or controlled their finances, often the spouse has poor financial standings.
In some cases spouses also have to cope with the emotional loss of a partner and a parent to their children, she said.
“It becomes very hard to support a family leaving a joint family, even a violent one,” she said.
On average it takes a non-Native victim seven times to successfully leave an abusive relationship, she said. For Natives, it is 25 times.
She said it can take years before a spouse can leave despite the abuse in a relationship,
“My mother’s story, for instance, she was in that relationship for 16 years,” she said.
LeeShore’s 24-hour crisis hotline is 283-7257.
Dan Schwartz can be reached at email@example.com.