Homer Alaska - Opinion

Story last updated at 4:19 PM on Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Overcoming violence: A time to unite



By Jessica Lawmaster

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month and I can't think of a better time to address our community. Haven House has been providing crisis intervention, shelter, advocacy and outreach for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence for over thirty years. For the last four years, we have also been serving victims of child sexual abuse through our Children's Advocacy Center. Our greatest wish is to be put out of business but, unfortunately, our numbers continue to rise.

Domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse are rampant in Alaska, including in our little hamlet by the sea. It often takes a unique or particularly jarring case to mobilize our community — a "wake up call," if you will. Those of us who work with victims and survivors of violence can attest to the fact that these cases are most definitely not isolated occurrences. On a weekly basis, we serve women who have been so brutally beaten they can barely make it to our door, helpless children whose innocence has been stolen from them by those they trust the most, teens who have been violated and humiliated and feel they have nowhere to turn.

Other than the occasional public information from a police report that winds up in the media, you may not hear these stories. At Haven House, we believe in protecting, empowering and honoring the voices of survivors. Every adult, teen, adolescent and child who has been victimized has his or her own story. And it is their story to tell, not ours. We work with a number of agencies in town who also work with victims of violence. We all strive to abide by the highest standard of confidentiality for those who have been harmed. It is not only the law; it is paramount to the safety and healing of those we serve. Without honoring the sanctity of privacy, our work is meaningless.

When a devastating event shakes our community, we must ask ourselves not just what we can do, but what we should do. Amidst crisis, the answer is difficult to sort out. We must first act with compassion and dignity for those who have been violated. We must honor them by letting them hold their story closely for as long as they choose. We must allow them the space, time and approach they need for healing. Then we must turn to each other and search for hope, restoration and change. We must ask difficult questions that are often painful to answer. Questions like, How could this have been prevented? How can I support loved ones who were impacted? How can I protect my own children? How can I create change for a safer tomorrow?

Luckily for us, Homer has a history and tradition of uniting to create positive change. If you find yourself needing some support, please call the Haven House 24/7 crisis line (907-235-8943), or contact the Center. If you would like to get involved in community efforts around prevention, there are more collaborative projects going on in Homer than ever before. Volunteer at Haven House, or get involved with local initiatives like MAPP, the Homer Prevention Project or the PHAT program. Please join Haven House Monday, Oct. 8 at 5:45 p.m. in Room 201 at the college for "Voices Over Violence: A dialogue for youth on creating a safer tomorrow."

In hope and friendship,

Jessica Lawmaster, Haven House executive director

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