By Heidi Zemach for SCN
Seward residents and agency providers will be able to participate in an event this Saturday, October 12 that will enable them to enter the shoes of victims of domestic violence in very vivid way as they experience some of the frustrations and obstacles that they might experience in obtaining the help they need in this community.
“In Her Shoes” is a model training program frequently used for volunteers and staff members of agencies such as women’s shelters, and domestic violence hotlines, said Dawn McDevitt, SeaView Community Services’ Domestic Violence Program Coordinator. But it can also be enlightening when broadened to include members of the general public. McDevitt has witnessed the program elsewhere, and is pleased to bring it to Seward for the first time, saying it is a perfect way to learn the types of experiences victims typically go through. The experience will be educational for all, but especially hard for some, she predicts. Some may be surprised to learn there is no rape-testing available locally, for example, and no battered women’s shelter, except for a few short-term safe accommodations.
Participants will have to pack a small bag, one that an abused spouse or girlfriend might pack in a hurry when leaving an abusive situation, and bring it to the event, which begins at the Branson Pavilion at Waterfront Park. It should include a doll or stuffed animal for any children they might have, and should weigh no more than 20-25 pounds.
There are seven different types of victims to select. Individuals alone, or in groups will move between 18 different locations, several of which are in the close vicinity for purposes of the exercise. Stops will be at SeaView Community Services, at Seward City Hall (courthouse and police department), at the Orca Building, and at Marathon Ministries. Stops will include tables to seek housing, child protective services, job services, behavioral health services, DV support group, and some will be dubbed “abuse happens,” “forgive and forget,” “home again,” and “wild card.”
The exercise ends in a funeral for two of the victims, a debriefing about what each person brought along, what they learned, and how they felt. The day will end with a candlelight vigil for the victims of domestic violence. There will also be a raffle, food, and a bake sale, with earnings going to the domestic violence program.
Check out the Seward Police Journal (Captain’s Mast), and you will see the number of calls there are for domestic violence in town, many of which are alcohol-related, according to the Seward Police Department. Almost 75 percent of Alaskans have experienced or know someone who has experienced domestic violence or sexual assault. The Alaska rape rate is 2.5 times the national average. Child Sexual assault in Alaska is almost 6 times the national average. Alaska has the highest rate per capita of men murdering women.