Local entities shift focus to domestic violence

Photo by Megan Pacer/Peninsula Clarion Workshop participants listen to a presentation on disability services and their relation to domestic violence during a course session on Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015 at the LeeShore Center in Kenai, Alaska.

Local government officials and community organizations are getting on board to help spread the word about Domestic Violence Awareness Month this October.

 

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month on a national level, but local government leaders have been reaffirming the necessity of that awareness on the Kenai Peninsula by proclaiming the month locally for several years, said Kenai Mayor Pat Porter. She announced this year’s proclamation for her own city and on behalf of Soldotna Mayor Nels Anderson during a Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Sept. 30.

Porter said the LeeShore Center brings the proclamation to the attention of local government each year, and that she views the proclamations as tools to help bring the issue to the forefront of people’s minds.

“It’s very unfortunate that we even do this, that there is a need to do this,” Porter said. “In a perfect world down the line, I definitely would hope that we don’t have to do this anymore.”

A state-wide victimization survey conducted in 2013 by the University of Alaska Anchorage Justice Center showed that 52 percent of adult women in the Kenai Peninsula Borough experienced “intimate partner violence, sexual violence or both,” at some point in their lives. Statewide, 59 percent of women experience partner violence, sexual violence or both, according to the survey.

Borough Mayor Mike Navarre will proclaim October Domestic Violence Awareness Month borough-wide at the end of the month, said LeeShore Center Education and Training Assistant Ashley Blatchford in an email.

To help in the awareness effort, the LeeShore Center provides two domestic violence workshops, one in the spring and the other in October. The 40-hour courses provide those who sign up with knowledge on all things domestic violence-related, including stalking, how violence affects children, cultural sensitivity and how domestic violence relates to substance abuse and disabilities.

Other than periodic posts to the LeeShore Facebook page during October, Blatchford said the center spaces out its awareness activities throughout the year. The proclamations, especially in front of chamber businesses that aren’t usually exposed to domestic violence information, help to reach as much of the community as possible.

“We’re so appreciative,” Blatchford said. “We have leaders in the community that support our cause and make it known, (and) that gives you a sense of where our community is going.”

While raising awareness about domestic violence may not seem like the most direct way to crack down on the issue, Blatchford said more proactive programs won’t be successful unless residents first acknowledge domestic violence is happening. For a few years, LeeShore personnel have been trying to introduce Green Dot etc., a nonprofit organization that provides violence prevention education and training, to the community. Without local individuals, organizations and businesses willing to adopt and support the program, it will not take hold in the community, she said.

“It’s not something that we can bring to the community unless they’re aware that there’s a problem,” she said.

The Kenaitze Indian Tribe also partakes in domestic violence awareness efforts, said Lindsey Anasogak, a social services specialist for the tribe. While the tribe doesn’t host events specifically for October, it partners with LeeShore to educate workshop participants about cultural sensitivity and how it relates to the clients served by the Na’ini Social Services Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Program, she said.

While the program is conducted through the tribe, Anasogak said it is open to any victim of domestic violence.

“We see Native and non-Native (clients) in our program,” she said.

A common misconception Anasogak confronts in terms of domestic violence is that it is only physical, neglecting to include emotional and verbal abuse. Proclaiming October an awareness month each year helps dispel misinformation, she said.

“I think it helps remind people,” Anasogak said. “There’s a lot of control and isolation that play into (domestic violence).”

 

Reach Megan Pacer at megan.pacer@peninsulaclarion.com.

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