Too many families live in fear

Posted: Sunday, October 14, 2007

The statistics are sobering: Alaska leads the nation, on a per-capita basis, in the number of women killed by their intimate partner.

We also have the unfortunate distinction of leading the nation in cases of sexual abuse of children.

Indeed, the Kenai Public Defenders Office has, in the past, handled as many as five domestic violence cases a day. Here on the peninsula, state troopers and Kenai and Soldotna police make an average of 343 domestic violence arrests per year.

Last year, the LeeShore Center, a women's shelter in Kenai run by the Women's Resource and Crisis Center, received 1,187 calls on its 24-hour crisis hotline.

Even in our small, tight-knit community, domestic violence is an enormous problem. There are far too many families that live their lives in fear.

The first step in fixing a problem is acknowledging that one exists especially one that happens behind closed doors and it will take a community effort to bring about change. Statistics like these justify the upcoming Community Awareness Workshop on domestic violence and sexual assault being conducted later this month at the LeeShore Center.

In a presentation earlier this year, LeeShore Executive Director Cheri Smith called domestic violence a learned behavior - children grow up in a violent household and become adults who perpetuate the violence.

Awareness and education are the keys to breaking the cycle.

People in the community can help by "teaching children that domestic violence is never acceptable," Smith said.

"Children should not be taught that their daddy is a bad person, but rather that Daddy's violent behavior is wrong," she said.

Participants in the upcoming workshop will learn about the cycle of violence and its effects on children, as well as resources available in the community.

In addition to providing emergency shelter and transitional living for women and children in need of a safe place, the center also conducts a batterers intervention program for men.

Other things people can do to help stop domestic violence are helping raise awareness, contributing financially or volunteering, "or just help victims by listening," Smith said. "Sometimes that's all they need."

There are many excuses for domestic violence alcohol, isolation, depression, poverty and culture none of them good.

Awareness and education are crucial steps toward bringing this problem out from behind closed doors and into the light of day.

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