For the last 28 years, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has ranked Alaska among the top five states in the United States with the highest numbers of forcible rape, according to the Alaska Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault's 2007 annual report.
A 2006 survey conducted by the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault shows 75 percent of Alaskans as having experienced or know someone who has experienced domestic violence or sexual assault.
"One of the problems with (domestic violence and sexual assault) is it's so ingrained (and is) in some ways a part of our culture," said Peggy Brown, executive director for the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. "We tolerate it. We're tolerating it less as communities, as a state and as a nation, but there's a lot more awareness now, whereas 10 years ago, it wasn't something you really talked about."
Domestic violence can impact not just one family, but many families, including extended family, Brown said. It's a cycle that can keep going from family to family, from parents to children and continue when those children become parents.
But there are things people can do to stop it, she said.
The LeeShore Center in Kenai hopes to curtail the cycle of violence by showing community members how domestic violence starts, can escalate and affect children during a community awareness workshop from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 7 through 11. The workshop will focus on sexual assault and domestic violence and includes the batterer's intervention program.
The cost for workshop materials is $35, and college credit also is available for Kenai Peninsula College students who complete the workshop, perform 30 hours of volunteer work with the center and go on a two-hour police ride-along with local law enforcement. Students must register by March 28.
"It's to make people aware of the problems (and can) help people know their resources and get help," said Debra Martin, volunteer coordinator at the center.
The workshop coincides with April being Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Child Abuse Awareness Month.
Martin said the center also is looking for volunteers, and part of the workshop will be to let community members know what they can do to help. Volunteers help with the center's annual women's run, do activities with clients, such as story time for children, teach aerobics, provide transportation for clients and offer support for clients going through court procedures.
The Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault provides training for legislative advocacy and policy work, but Brown said the center is unique in a variety of ways, not the least of which is its batterer's program. The program provides a place for perpetrators and abusers to modify their own behavior without the intervention of law enforcement. Agencies that provide this resource talk to the perpetrator and try to get to the bottom of why a person uses power and control over another person to get their way, she said.
The LeeShore Center also has the community behind it, Brown said. Up until the Domestic Violence Protection Act of 1996, very few people talked about it. Many communities knew what was going on, but few discussed it.
"These communities are small enough that people know about it and a lot of times people are related to each other," Brown said. "People don't want to say anything. They want to be anonymous."
She said in addition to Alaskans who stated in the survey that they experienced domestic violence or sexual assault or knew someone who did, 93 percent said they would intervene if they knew someone was experiencing domestic violence or sexual assault. Another 62 percent said they believed others in the community also would intervene.
Brown said the survey was like a dipstick, and her agency would conduct another survey in the future to see how their data compares.
Martin attended a workshop similar to LeeShore's planned workshop twice. She said she gained a lot of information and knowledge she wasn't aware of before she attended, and she would recommend it for anyone.
"It would help anybody who is either experiencing (domestic violence or sexual assault) or knows someone (who is)," she said. "Anyone in the community attending would say, 'Wow! I didn't know that!'"
The fee for workshop materials is due on or before the morning of the first session. Students are encouraged to call the KPC bookstore at 262-0300 before the first session for more information.
Jessica Cejnar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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