Our responsibility to end domestic violence

For most of us, the COVID-19 emergency “hunker down” has been a test of ingenuity, patience and endurance. Ingenuity has been needed to find new ways to occupy ourselves, exercise, get a haircut and celebrate important life and family events with loved ones. Patience and endurance have been needed as we wait for life to normalize. But sadly, for some who have been restricted to a home with an abusive spouse or partner, these times have been dangerous and frightening.

Domestic violence does not go away, and in some ways it exacerbates during times like these. But, throughout the COVID-19 emergency shut-downs and still now, help for domestic violence victims is but a phone call or a text away. In emergencies, the police are available by dialing 911; assistance and referrals are available by dialing 211; Alaska’s Careline is available at 877-266-4357; the National Domestic Violence Hotline is available at 800-799-7233 or 900-787-3224 TTY; the National Sexual Assault Hotline is available at 800-656-4673; and Report Abuse Alaska is available at 800-478-4444 or online at reportchildabuse@alaska.gov.

For anyone who might be at risk of more abuse for making a phone call for help, ADT Home Security has developed a mobile safety app for smartphones called SoSecure that they have made available free during the COVID emergency. This app allows a victim to silently SMS chat with ADT’s 24/7 professional monitors, discreetly trigger an emergency alarm that permits ADT to pinpoint the user’s GPS coordinates, designate family or friends to receive alerts when the alarm is triggered, and to preset a time period after which emergency contacts will be notified.

For those who might be challenged in getting a ride to a safe shelter, the ride share company Uber has stepped forward to offer 500 free rides from now until the end of June to domestic violence victims to shelters such as Alaska Women’s Aid In Crisis (AWAIC), Standing Together Against Rape (STAR), Covenant House, Alaska Native Justice Center, Priceless, Victims for Justice and more. For anyone with questions about this program feel free to call my special assistant Charlotte Rand at 907-269-5257.

In August last year, Gov. Mike Dunleavy restored $759,000 to Alaska Legal Services Corporation as part of House Bill 2001 to fund that organization’s assistance to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. As attorney general, I have also jump-started the Department of Law’s pro bono program that features letting state attorneys volunteer time to assist victims, and also our collaborating with the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (ANDVSA) to man the domestic violence and sexual assault hotline.

As a community, we have a responsibility to care for and seek to protect our most vulnerable. Be aware of signs of abuse around you on your family members and friends. Black eyes, busted lips, red or purple marks on the neck, sprained wrists and bruises on the arms are things to notice and take into account. If you see these on friends or family, ask questions. Each of these can happen innocently. But each is also a possible sign of domestic violence. So, especially if you see them in combination or in repetition on someone you care about, you should ask questions.

Alaska’s statistics on sexual assault and domestic violence are horrible. According to the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault, 40 out of every 100 women who reside in Alaska have experienced intimate partner violence, 33 have experienced sexual violence, and many have experienced both. Alaska has ranked No. 1 in per capita occurrence of sexual assault and domestic violence during the past several years. This is pathetic and we need to change this situation.

I am committed to making inroads on this issue. I hope you will join me and our fine attorneys at the Department of Law in working to make Alaska a safer place for all.

Kevin Clarkson is the attorney general of Alaska.

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