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New plan aims to stop domestic violence before it starts

DELTA program unveils five-year community plan for Juneau

Posted: September 29, 2011 - 12:08am

In an effort to thwart domestic violence before it occurs, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-funded program based in Juneau recently released a comprehensive five-year plan to combat the rising number of intimate partner violence and sexual violence incidents in the community.

A draft of the plan, called “Pathways to Prevent Violence,” was unveiled Friday afternoon during a luncheon hosted by Domestic Violence Prevention Enhancement and Leadership Through Alliances, established in Juneau in 2005 as one of the four DELTA pilot programs in the state. The plan was analyzed Tuesday during the monthly DELTA meeting at its headquarters, a local safeway house called AWARE.

“Most programs work to address domestic violence after it already occurred,” said Ati Nasiah, one of the authors of the plan and the prevention manager for AWARE, “where this plan is based on a public health model … to prevent intimate partner violence (IPV) and sexual assault, and to create social change within our community.”

The plan calls for forging a stronger coalition among professional community partners, as well as city officials and departments, to promote healthy relationships and reduce the risk factors of IPV and sexual assault. It also specifically targeted youth, especially boys, in this role to help foster an environment of mutual respect between men and women in the community.

“We are never going to prevent violence without many, many partners at the table,” Nasiah said in an interview Tuesday, noting Alaska routinely ranks among the top five states for rates of domestic violence and is number one for sexual violence.

That sentiment has long been echoed often from inside the Juneau Police Department, which recommended a “community response” in ending domestic violence in its 2011 annual report.

“Domestic violence in Juneau is a community problem,” the report read. “It occurs far too frequently, affects too many people and its impacts on multiple generations make it more than just a family problem. ... To resolve many issues associated with domestic violence, it will take a community response,”

Last year, 528 cases of domestic violence were reported to the JPD, according to the department’s annual report. The report also states 17 percent of all arrests were related to domestic violence; and in 2009, JPD arrested 142 for domestic violence assault and served 352 domestic violence orders/stalking protective orders, which is up 13 percent over 2008.

To help victims of domestic violence, JPD was awarded a grant in 2009 to fund the Police Crisis Intervention Program. With the grant, JPD hired a professional social worker to assist in the prosecution of the perpetrators of family violence, and to act as a liaison between police, the victim and the justice system.

Nasiah says she hopes DELTA, which has expanded nationally to 32 states across the U.S., will help quell first-time perpetration and first-time victimization by increasing knowledge about preventing IPV. One way to do this is by implementing IPV strategies and programs for kids to help increase their understanding of the impacts of gender stereotypes and the ways they undermine the formation of a healthy relationship. Another pathway listed in the plan aims for girls to have the skills to recognize and have healthy relationships.

The plan also addressed policy goals, like adopting and expanding the healthy relationship comprehension curricula offered in the Juneau School District by 2013.

The draft is still in progress, Nasiah emphasized, and DELTA is still seeking public comment on it. But she hopes it will help strengthen partnerships with already-existing agencies in the community dedicated to stopping violence — Alaska Men Choose Respect, Coaching Boys into Men, White Ribbon Campaign, Let Me Run, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska, Lead On!, Be the Change Clubs, Girls on the Run, Fourth R, Partnerships in Parenting and the Green Dot Campaign.

“This is a community-wide issue that takes community-wide collaboration, and so that’s what we’re looking to do is to strength partnerships,” she said.

• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at emily.miller@juneauempire.com.

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