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Unalaska proclaims October Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Berett Wilber
Studies from advocacy groups, educational nonprofits and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that at least one in four women experience domestic violence in the United States.

Unalaska declared October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month — a tradition the city has observed for about 20 years.

M. Lynn Crane is the executive director of Unalaskans Against Sexual Assault and Family Violence. The local non-profit provides an emergency shelter for victims of intimate partner abuse, as well as resources on how to recognize and avoid victimization.

Crane gave a presentation at last week’s city council meeting, when Mayor Vince Tutiakoff Sr. officially proclaimed October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

The United States Congress has recognized this nationally for more than 30 years, and Unalaska has participated for most of that time.

Crane talked about misperceptions of domestic violence, and ways the community can recognize and prevent it from happening.

“We as a culture still make broad generalizations about women who experienced domestic violence,” Crane said. “Women who are most impacted, most damaged, most at risk of serious injury and death at the hands of, nearly always, male perpetrators.”

Alaska has the highest rate of women killed by men in the nation, a bleak distinction it's held for nearly a decade. And Alaska Native women are killed by men at 10 times the rate of white women in Alaska.

Studies from advocacy groups, educational nonprofits and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that at least one in four women experience domestic violence in the United States.

“We can look around this room, and we can look around our workplaces, and we can look around our schools, and we can look around our board meetings and we can look around our churches,” Crane said. “And we know that all around us are women who go home to a place that isn't safe for them. Which means that the men that are hurting them are all around us, too.”

A recent study by the Violence Policy Center, a Washington, D.C. based advocacy group, found in the 2020, more than 2,000 American women were murdered by men.

“That's more than five women every single day,” Crane said, noting that 89% of the women were murdered by men they knew — most often a current or former husband or boyfriend.

The CDC makes many recommendations for curbing domestic violence, and stopping it before it starts. At the top of the list are teaching safe and healthy relationship skills, engaging influential adults and peers, and creating protective environments.

Crane credited the city for taking the step of recognizing the honorary month. She also made recommendations for further steps.

“We have to do a better job of educating children and young people about supportive relationships, setting boundaries and recognizing the red flags of controlling behaviors that often escalate to abuse. We should be providing early consistent and comprehensive sex and relationship education that covers not just the biology and anatomy of sex, but all of the emotional and communication aspects as well,” she said.

USAFV is holding events throughout the month, in partnership with the Aleutian Pribilof Island Association and the Qawalangin Tribe of Unalaska.

The center held an event in Sept. during which participants deliberately participated in difficult conversations. The dinner focused on suicide awareness and prevention, but Crane said the ability to speak about uncomfortable things applies to intimate-partner violence, as well.

It was the nonprofit’s first large event since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Crane said more than 100 people attended.

If you’re concerned about yourself or someone else, you can call USAFV’s confidential, 24-hour crisis line at (907) 581-1500 in Unalaska and (800) 478-7238 throughout Alaska.

USAFV also operates a text message line. You can text (907) 359-1500. Operators respond to the line daily from 8 a.m. to 11p.m.

Theo Greenly reports from the Aleutians as a Report for America corps member. He got his start in public radio at KCRW in Santa Monica, California, and has produced radio stories and podcasts for stations around the country.
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