Each victim of domestic violence is a unique human being, but more often than not, they experience domestic violence in tragically similar ways.
"People often try to explain it by saying things like, 'It's either only women who are very uneducated or very educated who are at risk,'" said Angie Hollier of Leeshore, the women's shelter in Kenai. "The truth is domestic violence cuts across all levels of social and economic status."
Last Tuesday, Hollier took the weekly domestic violence seminar at Kenai Peninsula College through the 12 key issues that manifest themselves in victims of domestic violence, regardless of whether they live in a one-room cabin in Kasilof or a mansion in Anchorage.
She began by showing a film, "Survivors," where victims of domestic violence told their tales. The film was animated, but the voices were real and so were the stories.
"People want to blame women by saying, 'Why did she stay?'" one of the women on the film says.
The narrators went on to explain that often victims of domestic violence have been stripped of their confidence and deprived of even hope. They have been bullied into thinking there is no future for them anywhere outside the relationship -- which is what the abuser wanted in the first place.
"The physical abuse goes away, but the mental abuse stays with you forever," a victim in the film says.
Hollier handed out a sheet entitled, "Effect on Women: 12 Key Issues," that explains 12 common traits of the psychological prison women are thrust into.
Primary among them are trauma and terror. Abusers often condition their victims to the point where a single evil look is enough to exert absolute control. They also often threaten children or smash inanimate objects that are dear to the victim. The implied message is, "I can do this to you, too."
In time, the victim sinks into a kind of shell shock -- a state of numbness that makes it difficult to accomplish even routine tasks.
Other elements of the victims prison include shame, rage, loneliness, confusion, isolation, post-traumatic stress symptoms and finally grief and loss when she leaves.
"They're not grieving the loss of a relationship as much as the loss of a dream," Hollier said. "Abusers are often very loving between episodes of abuse."
Abusers, unlike some people, have no fear of intimacy, because they know they will control the terms of the relationship, Hollier said. In the beginning of a relationship, abusers flatter their victims with almost monomaniacal attention, she said. This often leads women, especially younger, less-experienced women, to believe their abuser really loves them. When the abuse starts, the victims may actually believe they "have it coming."
"Abusers are often very dependent on the relationship and that flatters some women, but it should be taken as a warning sign," Hollier said. "No one goes out with anyone who punches them on the first date."
Society had traditionally reinforced these victim-blaming approaches, but attitudes are slowly changing. Women often are driven to strike back. Police are now trained to determine which wounds in multiple-victim assaults are offensive in nature and which are defensive.
HEAD:Seminar takes women through 12 key issues
BYLINE1:By SARA J. SMITH
Racing 1,150 miles of rough and lonely terrain isn't easy for an experienced musher. So for first-time participants in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, it is even more intimidating.
Though the stretch is tough, four area men have committed themselves and their dogs for the first time to the Last Great Race, which gets under way at 11 a.m. Saturday with the annual ceremonial start in Anchorage.
To get to the starting line, Bob Hempstead, Caleb Banse, John Bramante and James Wheeler have undergone years of preparation and training. They also must have run at least 500 miles of Iditarod-sanctioned qualifying races.
Born in Nebraska, Hempstead has been mushing for 2 1/2 years. He was introduced to the sport by 1984 Iditarod champion Dean Osmar of Kasilof, "and that was it," he said.
Hempstead, 42, who now calls Kasilof home, raced in the Copper Basin 300 this year and the Nushagak Classic last year to qualify for the upcoming race.
"I am getting pretty nervous," said Hempstead, who works for Arco in Prudhoe Bay when he's not mushing his 16 husky-mix dogs leased from Osmar. "There is more to (the race) than just taking care of yourself."
But he should be well-prepared to do that. Among his list of accomplishments, he has climbed Mount Everest, although he claims completing the Iditarod will be even more difficult than that.
In competing in this Iditarod, he is getting himself and his team ready to sled to the North Pole, or deciding after the race if it is still a goal, he said.
Other rookies have different goals in mind.
Caleb Banse, 18, said he plans on enjoying the scenery along the trail, which winds through the Susitna Valley, over the Alaska Range, then northwest across a vast expanse of Interior Alaska to the Bering Sea coast for the stretch run to Nome.
Already a seasoned musher, Banse has competed in the Junior Iditarod, Copper Basin 300, Canada's Percy DeWolfe and the Grand Portage Passage in Minnesota. The Moose Pass resident, who grew up mushing with friend Danny Seavey, will be running behind a team of yearlings from the kennel of Iditarod veteran and top contender Mitch Seavey.
The idea of mushing started for Banse when he received a puppy as a young child. He then began attending every dog mushing camp and clinic he could to learn more about training and dog care.
Another area rookie knew he wanted to mush his first winter in Alaska in 1993.
John Bramante, a New Jersey native, has been mushing for five years.
"I am pretty excited," he said, "I think we are ready."
He shares his kennel with Iditarod veteran Gus Guenther; together they have 35 dogs total.
Bramante, 36, said he is ready for the surprises the race has in store. His goal for the race has nothing to do with the time it takes to finish or his speed, he said,. He simply is racing to have fun.
As well as being a dog musher, Bramante, who lives in Kasilof, is a doctor with Peninsula Internal Medicine in Soldotna.
His dogs have logged more than 2,000 miles for the training of the Iditarod. He has run in the Knik 200, the Copper Basin 300 and the Tustumena 200 to qualify for this year's Iditarod.
"Everything I do is a learning experience," he said.
The goal of being in the top 30, at least, is in James Wheeler's mind.
"I am looking forward to it," he said. "I think we are fairly ready for it."
Though he has never run the race, he has done a lot of winter camping and run other races to ready himself for the Iditarod. To qualify, he has run the Copper Basin 300 and the Tustumena 200 quite a few times, he said.
Wheeler, a self-described Army brat, moved to Alaska in 1993. He went on a few training runs with a friend and, like many others, was hooked. He lives in Kasilof and runs an oyster farm and fishes commercially during the summer.
His dogs, all huskies, are between the ages of 2 and 4.
"I will do my best with the team I have," he said.
BYLINE1:By JAY BARRETT
Mushing for health. That's what two area mushers are doing during this year's Iditarod sled dog race by joining the "I Did It By Two!" child immunization campaign.
This year is the 75th anniversary of the original race on the Iditarod trail, where Leonhard Seppala and 20 other mushers fought time and the elements to bring diphtheria serum to an afflicted Nome. While all the mushers in the race this year will wear a special bib commemorating the serum run, four will carry that spirit to another level. They are three-time champion Martin Buser, 1975 champion Emmitt Peters, and two Kasilof mushers, Jon Little and Paul Gebhardt.
"Well, I'm in pretty good company," said Little, a second-year Iditarod competitor.
Kelly Keeter, education coordinator for the state immunization program said the I Did It By Two! program was started around 1990 by the Alaska Nurses Association and taken over by the state in 1997.
"It's a year-round campaign that uses the Iditarod to raise public awareness about childhood immunization," she said. "Martin has been our ever faithful spokesman. He's attended our meetings, talked to kids in schools during the nonmushing season, and he's on the campaign board. He's kind of been the face of the campaign."
Buser had been the campaign spokesperson for years, but Keeter said the group wanted to recruit more mushers this year.
"We asked our local public health nurses in areas with mushers to look for candidates," Keeter said.
Enter Kenai public health nurse Mary Jane Hanley, who recruited Little and Gebhardt.
"The Kenai public health nurse contacted us, and we were very enthusiastic," Evy Gebhardt, Paul's wife, said. "In fact, I just made a presentation to a preschool about immunization."
As for Little, he said he wanted to participate to help pay back the community for its support of him.
"I figured that since I've been asking people to help me out, it would balance if I help others out," Little said. "It makes me feel less guilty."
Little said he is working with the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank, as well.
Keeter said the campaign's catch-phrase, "I did it by two," refers to having all childhood immunizations done by age 2.
"Up to that age is the time children are most vulnerable to vaccine-preventable childhood diseases," she said. "That's when they need the vaccinations the most."
Keeter said some of the 11 childhood diseases preventable by immunization include diphtheria, chicken pox, whooping cough and tetanus.
"Shots are required at birth or 1 month, 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, between 12 and 18 months, and again at 2 years," she said. "We really want parents to bring their kids in on time."
Evy Gebhardt said she and her husband often make visits to area schools and host tours of their dog yard, always stressing immunization.
"Whenever people visit our kennel, immunization is something we talk about," she said. "We tell them that our dogs are probably better immunized than many children in the U.S. And we keep good records, which unfortunately, some parents don't."
"If my dogs have to have vaccinations at least once a year, kids should, too. They're more important," he said.
As part of the program, the mushers agree to mention the I Did It By Two! campaign during interviews and will wear special buttons during the ceremonial start between Anchorage and Eagle River, as well as distribute campaign stickers.
"Paul will have a few stickers on the trail, but he will have more before and after the race," Gebhardt said.
"We try not to ask them to do anything on the trail because their minds are pretty focused on the race," Keeter said.
Gebhardt said her husband gets a lot of mail and e-mail from Iditarod fans, many of them children from around the country, and that he always takes the opportunity to remind them to get immunized when he writes back.
"The kids tell us their life's story, about all their brothers and sisters, and so Paul tells them they all need immunization," Gebhardt said.
Keeter said all the mushers are participating in the program for free.
"It's out of the goodness of their hearts," she said. "We don't have a budget to pay them anything or for advertising."
Keeter said the Vaccinate Alaska Program, which oversees I Did It By Two!, is in the process of seeking nonprofit status, and Keeter said that would give them a chance to raise money.
"We're planning incentive events for mushers next year and hope to raise funds to give them a little monetary incentive."
Until then, look for Gebhardt, Little, Peters and Buser to be spreading the message about stopping the spread of childhood diseases.
BYLINE1:By SARA J. SMITH
A young snowmachiner was found safe south of Trophy Lake shortly after 12:30 p.m. Sunday.
Capt. Randy Willis of Central Emergency Services said Eric Leman and Cameron Perry, both 15 of Kasilof, left Tustumena Lake Road at approximately 7 a.m. Saturday on their snowmachines. The teens dropped off a sled carrying gas at the "four corners" cabin, where four trails intersect, and left to ride in an area called the high country.
They returned to four corners around 3 p.m. to refuel and headed off for two more hours, returning again around 5 p.m.
Twenty minutes later, they took off back to Tustumena Lake Road.
During the ride back, Perry lost sight of Leman but did not stop. When he reached the road, he still did not see Leman. He waited on the trail about a half hour but did not have enough gas to go back and look for him.
He went home and started calling around to see if Leman had gone to another friends house. Both Perry and Bill Fletcher, another Kasilof resident, reported Leman missing to the Alaska State Troopers at 11:49 p.m.
Troopers began searching for the teen around 1:30 a.m., searching all the trails from Tustumena Lake Road to Mile 126 of Sterling Highway to the four corners intersection.
Searchers began looking in drainages and off trails in the woods mid morning Sunday.
Shortly after 12:30 p.m. Sunday, CES received notification from Fish and Wildlife officers that a sled with gas cans had been found and its description matched the sled the teens had dropped off earlier.
Shortly before 1 p.m., Leman was found by a group of snowmachiners south of Trophy Lake and checked by a medic.
He was warm, had food and in good condition, said trooper Sgt. Charles Tressler.
The search for Leman consisted of four Fish and Wildlife officers, a trooper helicopter, two Civil Air Patrol planes and about 20 CES ground searchers, Tressler said.
BYLINE1:By SHANA LOSHBAUGH,
MACY NICHOLAS and TOSHA SWAN
Soldotna High School Principal Sylvia Reynolds has been named the 2000 Alaska Secondary Principal of the Year.
This is the third year in a row that the Alaska chapter of the National Association of Secondary School Principals has selected a central Kenai Peninsula educator.
"I was surprised," she said. "I was in shock."
Reynolds learned of the award Feb. 18 from Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Superintendent Donna Peterson.
Peterson sent word that she was coming to SoHi to meet with Reynolds, who had been debating pending school cutbacks with the administration. Peterson brought assistant superintendents Patrick Hickey and Todd Syverson along.
"I thought I was really in trouble because I was pushing too much," Reynolds said.
"She told me I had won the state award, and I did not hear her. I said, 'I beg your pardon?'"
Reynolds was quick to pass credit for the award on to SoHi's staff, students and the wider community. She pointed out that others at the school have won prestigious professional awards.
"If a person is successful, it is because they have successful people around them," she said.
"It is nice to be recognized, but it is not a Sylvia Reynolds award. It is a school award."
Assistant Principal Mark Norgren praised Reynolds for her leadership skills and ability to juggle a wide spectrum of educational functions such as the student body's attitude, changing curriculum and scheduling challenges.
"She is on top of a lot of those things," he said. "She is very well-rounded in her approach."
SoHi has had good success with what Reynolds calls "the five C's" -- communication, commitment, creativity, connections and celebration.
Reynolds said the school sets straightforward goals, commits to individualized and creative approaches to assure that each student progresses and fosters networking with the community. Examples include a $10 activity card that allows students and senior citizens to attend home sporting events for no additional cost; the Renaissance Program that rewards students who achieve academically and helps others with motivational guest speakers; and a work-study agreement that has students managing the concession stand at the Soldotna Sports Center.
"People always talk about things that are wrong with schools," she said. "We talk about things that are right. Success breeds success."
Success leading an Alaska high school is far from Reynolds' beginnings in rural upstate New York. She finished high school in a class of 50 in a place she described as "an itty bitty town of 800 -- counting the pigs and chickens."
She headed off to Arkansas State University on an academic scholarship and became the first woman in her family to earn a college diploma.
She became a physical education teacher and took a post in Nome, where she taught 15 years.
"I absolutely love teaching. I got paid for doing something I love," she said.
Her hard work earned her the award of Alaska Teacher of the Year, and a citation as one of six national physical education teachers of the year.
Dissatisfaction with schoolwide issues such as lack of continuity and turnover led her into administration. She wanted to avoid negativity and offer positive change, she said.
"If you don't like something, be part of the solution," she said. "I have never worked so hard in my life."
Reynolds was working as an assistant principal in Juneau when she received a call from the Kenai Peninsula offering her the Soldotna job. She was involved in the sports and activities and unsure whether she should accept. But after thinking about it, she decided to take a one-year leave of absence from her school in Juneau in case SoHi did not work out.
That was in 1995.
"This is my fifth year," she said. "It's the only school I've ever been a principal at. I love my school, and I feel passionately about it."
Reynolds has plenty to do at SoHi, but she also is involved in other educational projects. She teaches a distance course on physical education for the University of Alaska Fairbanks elementary education program and, in April 1999, she was invited to speak about high-stakes testing at the Council of Chief State School Officers when the national association of state school commissioners met at Girdwood.
Her latest award includes an invitation to a national conference in Washington, D.C., and a shot at winning the National Principal of the Year Award.
Reynolds follows Kenai Middle School Principal Paul Sorenson, who won the state award last year, and retired Skyview Principal Marlene Byerly, who won it two years ago.
"It really says something nice about our district," Reynolds said.
Reynolds said what has pleased her most about the award is two letters of recommendation students wrote to go with her nomination, in which they praised their principal's effect on their lives.
"Knowing I had touched students in that way means everything," she said.
Tosha Swan and Macy Nicholas are juniors at Kenai Central High School who visited the Peninsula Clarion Thursday as part of a job-shadowing program.
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