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Compass: So many Alaska women still suffer violence - and their courage is a marvel

Last month was domestic violence awareness month. The Justice Center at the University of Alaska Anchorage, in collaboration with the Alaska Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, released another wave of results from the Alaska Victimization Survey.

This annual survey continues to highlight the truly horrific fact that about half of adult women in Alaska have experienced intimate partner violence, sexual violence, or both at some point in their lives. What is even more troubling is that we know that these estimates are conservative because of the limitations under which the survey had to be conducted.

This year, we surveyed adult women in the Yukon-Kuskokwim (YK) Delta, in Sitka, and in Kodiak. In all three regions, we again found shockingly high rates of violence against women. In the YK Delta, 51 percent of adult women experienced intimate partner violence, sexual violence, or both in their lifetimes. It Kodiak, it was 44 percent of adult women. In Sitka, it was 47 percent of adult women. That's about half of the women we know - our sisters, our mothers, our neighbors, our coworkers, the people we see at the grocery store, and the people we sit next to in church. These statistics are horrendous -- none of them are acceptable.

During the Thanksgiving season, we want to take time to thank every woman in Alaska who has participated in this survey. Because of your courage, we know more about the impact of violence and are better prepared to respond to and prevent it across Alaska. We hope that you can return to safety and find a path to healing. Please know that we are committed to sharing your stories to improve policy and practice to reduce violence against all Alaskan women. It is our mission. We dedicate ourselves to never forget your voices and ask each Alaskan to do the same.

We hope that all women will be safe this holiday season, and for every season after that. We also want to make sure that every girl, boy, woman, and man in Alaska knows we have some of the very best victim advocacy services available - and that these services are available to all of us in times of crisis. Advocates are ready to listen, offer safety planning, go with you to medical exams, law enforcement interviews, court proceedings 24 hours a day seven days a week. Services are confidential and free of charge.

You can dial 211 for the number of the nearest shelter or rape crisis center to you or go to the Council's website at http://dps.alaska.gov/CDVSA/help/victims.aspx . If you would prefer to talk to someone from the national domestic violence hotline you can call 1-800-799-7233.

Immigrant domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking crime victims are entitled to unique immigration protections. If are a victim of one of these crimes, you will not be deported if you contact a local domestic violence shelter or seek medical assistance. You have the right to be safe and free from violence. For more information about the immigration options please call the Alaska Immigration Justice Project at 907-279-2457 or visit their website http://akijp.org/legalassistance.html Thank you to every person who gives of their time and talents to help people escape the violence being perpetrated against them.

We also thank each community which is not only providing needed help to people in immediate danger, but is also forming strong partnerships to prevent domestic violence and sexual assault from happening in the first place. Thank you for working to create an Alaska where the norm is for everyone to be treated with dignity and respect, where violence against women is only remembered with sorrow, not practiced on a daily basis. We are thankful for each person who joins us each day acknowledging that violence is never a solution. Respect is always the right choice.

André B. Rosay is the director of the Justice Center at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Lauree Morton is executive director of the Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.



By ANDRE B. ROSAY and LAUREE MORTON