Participants voice hopes and realities at domestic violence Prevention Summit

Alaska Native Brotherhood grand president Bill Martin speaks during opening remarks of the Prevention Summit sponsored by the Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

The Second Annual Prevention Summit kicked off Tuesday in Juneau. Sponsored by the state Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, the three-day summit at Centennial Hall brings together teams from 19 communities with the goal of exchanging ideas about prevention.

At the start of the summit, participants told KTOO about what is working in their community and what they hope to gain over the next couple of days.

Tasha Bird (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

Tasha Bird is a rural outreach coordinator for the women’s shelter in Emmonak, a Yupik village of about 800 people. “My job is to educate youth and young women to stop domestic violence from happening to them and their children, their neighbors,” she says.

Bird also reaches out to 13 surrounding villages. She says the nine-bed shelter has been busy all year. The six extra cots have also gotten a lot of use. Bird says domestic violence and sexual assault in Emmonak is often caused by drinking or jealousy.

“We try to ask them to go get marriage counseling or to go talk to the elders, and they could also come to the shelter and talk to us,” Bird says, “but it’s the men who don’t want to participate or they don’t want to come forward and deal with everything.”

Being able to reach the men in her community is part of what Bird hopes to get out of the Prevention Summit. She’s heard about the statewide program Alaska Men Choose Respect and wants to learn more.

Winifred Kelly-Green (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

“Lots of the guys at home like to play basketball and maybe I’ll work with the city league and see if they could help me with something because I know lots of the young boys, they look up to those guys,” says Bird.

Bethel resident Winifred Kelly-Green is the healthy families coordinator for the Association of Village Council Presidents. She says she has started working on healing historical trauma, “The attempt to assimilate Yupik people – with that there was a lot of traumatizing things that happened, including the great death, but there were other things – boarding schools, taking children away.”

Historical trauma, Kelly-Green says, is linked to domestic violence and sexual assault in Bethel, “We have parents now who don’t know how to be parents because they weren’t home. They weren’t being parented because of the boarding schools.”

Through forced assimilation, Kelly-Green says Yupik men lost their capacity to pass knowledge to younger generations.

“In the Yupik culture, our men had a place that they called the qasgiq. It’s the men’s house where they gathered and worked together, taught the young boys. And that was their way of maintaining whole health,” Kelly-Green explains. “And with the Christianity that came, they saw that as something bad, so they went up and down the river in every village and burned the qasgiqs down, and leaving our men lost.”

Greg Marxmiller (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

In Dillingham, Greg Marxmiller works at SAFE, a domestic violence prevention agency, and runs the youth program called Myspace. “The youth program there is huge,” he says. “Getting kids a place to go that’s consistent, that they’re able to have somebody that cares about them and have advocacy and being trained to become leaders and lead in their town and making it a better place.”

In Marxmiller’s opinion, everybody in Dillingham comes from a place where there’s domestic violence and sexual assault.

“It’s something that everybody in the community has to deal with because we’re a community and we all have to deal with our ills, so in essence, everybody from Dillingham comes from an issue of domestic violence and sexual assault,” Marxmiller explains. “So knowing that, there are a lot of people who are working to do something about it and try to stop this domestic violence and sexual assault epidemic.”

Marxmiller’s goals for the Prevention Summit is to network, take new ideas back to Dillingham, and get resources to continue the prevention efforts that are already taking place.

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