A panel of men discuss the role they can play in breaking cycles of domestic violence during a domestic violence awareness summit at Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall, Friday, Oct. 25, 2019. (Ben Hohenstatt | Juneau Empire)

A panel of men discuss the role they can play in breaking cycles of domestic violence during a domestic violence awareness summit at Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall, Friday, Oct. 25, 2019. (Ben Hohenstatt | Juneau Empire)

Empire Live: Panel examines the role men play in ending domestic violence

Summit speakers acknowledge issue, discuss solutions.

11:55 a.m.

There will be an hour break for lunch. The Empire is taking a break in its coverage of the summit, but the event runs until 5:30 p.m. Then, there will be a Celebrate Survivors event also at Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall. In the afternoon, there will be an advocacy update, small group discussions and more.

11:50 a.m.

Friday said encouraging young men to acknowledge their emotions and feel things is also important.

He shared a personal example — how he allowed himself to grieve after the loss of a classmate.

“That release is how we heal,” Friday said.

11:45 a.m.

Friday said one of the ways to break the stigma associated with men asking for help is asking people how they’re doing.

“Building a connection with those young men is a positive way is one of the biggest things we can do,” Friday said. “I’ve had a couple mentors in my community who will ask me how I’m doing. In order to get away from that stigma, we have to do that with more young men in our communities.”

11:37 a.m.

Peterson, who is moderating the panel, thanked the men on stage for the work they do with men and young boys for the work they do.

He said it’s important to hold men up.

“I want to turn and say thank you guys who make these things happen,” Peterson said.

11:30 a.m.

McDonald compared trauma to a mold spore. Without “hitting the core” of the issue, the spore will remain, and under certain conditions, it can grow in negative ways.

11:20 a.m.

The panel, which is now jokingly referring to itself as a “manel,” is discussing why it’s important for their to be programs that support young men and teach them ways to process emotion.

Multiple panel members have said it’s especially important since men are often taught by popular culture not to seek support, especially from other men.

“Men have always been looked at as the problem,” McDonald said. “In a way, the man is a big part of the family system. So, men are the solution if we can heal.”

11:03 a.m.

During the break, I was able to talk to some attendees.

“I came because I think this is something that’s way overdue,” said Lisa Sarabia, a Tlingit woman who said she’s nearing 70. “Hopefully this will be a spring board to legislation. We’ve been overlooked particularly in this arena. We need to become more visible.”

She said addressing domestic violence is beyond important.

“It’s survival,” Sarabia said.

Marrisa Peterson, a preserving Native families caseworker for Tlingit & Haida, said she came to the event because it seemed like something that could inform both her professional and personal life.

Peterson said she liked what she heard about sharing stories and how she could help bring on change.

10:53 a.m.

That talk is slated to begin in 10 minutes. An impromptu break is taking place, and the summit will reconvene at 11:05 a.m.

10:50 a.m.

The next item on the schedule for the summit is a men’s panel featuring Simon Friday of Coaching Boys to Men, Will Kronick with Tlingit & Haida Tribal Family & Youth Services, Justin McDonald of Tlingit & Haida Tribal Family & Youth Services and Ben Horton with Aiding Women in Abuse and Rape Emergencies (AWARE).

[Program in Kake spotlighted on statewide stage]

10:46 a.m.

Demmert said Tlingit & Haida residents can create change by tweeting, posting their stories online and making calls.

“In 2020, my resolution will be to learn how to tweet,” Demmert said.

She led the crowd in chanting, “I am Tlingit & Haida, and I count.”

“How do you count? By contacting them,” Demmert said.

10:40 a.m.

Another pending bill Demmert said is a positive development is the Violence Prevention and Services Improvement Act. It would authorize permanent funding for an Alaska Native Tribal Resource Center and permanently fund a Native Helpline to serve as the National Indian Domestic Violence Helpline.

10:35 a.m.

Demmert is speaking about the history of the Violence Against Women Act, which was first enacted in 1994, then reauthorized in 200, 2005 and in 2013.

She said each reauthorization included further protections for indigenous people, and the 2013 version allowed tribes to prosecute non-Native defendants for certain crimes committed in “Indian Country.”

“It’s called special criminal jurisdiction,” Demmert said. “It couldn’t just be a stranger that came into our lands. They had to have a connection.”

However, since the act was tied to “Indian Country” Demmert said it largely did not apply to Alaska Native tribes.

Demmert is voicing support for House Bill 1585, which would create a pilot project for five Alaska Tribes and expand the definition of “Indian Country” to include Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act lands. The act has passed the House in April.

“The House has down their job,” Demmert said. “The Senate has not done that. In fact, the Senate version that’s being floated around right now, takes us back decades. It imposes a lot of paternalistic views on our court systems. Please watch for when that is eventually dropped, so you can say you do not want it.”

However, Demmert said Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who introduced the Alaska Tribal Public Safety Empowerment Act, is a champion for recognizing the importance of protecting Native women and empowering tribal courts.

10:20 a.m.

Next up us Michelle Demmert, Tlingit & Haida Chief Justice, according to the day’s agenda, she will be providing a legislative and funding update.

Demmert began her speech by acknowledging she was sexually mistreated as a young child while unsupervised.

“I had years and years of despair,” Demmert said. “I’m a high school drop out. I was a drug addict. I’m a recovering alcoholic. But for the grace of God, I could’ve been homeless.”

She said it was important to share her story since as an attorney and Chief Justice for Tlingit & Haida, people can often see an unapproachable figure, which is dramatically different from what people saw a few decades ago during her struggles with alcohol misuse.

“When you see someone who’s incredibly intoxicated, I bet they have a story of survival they haven’t shared yet,” Demmert said. “We can all change, and we can all lead others to change as well.”

10:15 a.m.

Parker thanked those in attendance for being willing to share their stories.

“Thank you for sharing you’re light, so others can be strong,” Parker said.

10:08 a.m.

Parker said after she shared her story, many people shared their own stories of surviving domestic and sexual violence.

She said making connections and empowering others is her medicine.

“If my story can help anyone, then this work is done,” Parker said. “This work is meaningful.”

“If you feel alone, you aren’t,” she added. “You’re never alone.”

Parker encouraged others to tell their stories and speak out about the issues that matter to them.

“No matter what you’ve been through, what you’ve seen, this is your life,” Parker said. “This is the time for us to no longer remain silent.”

10 a.m.

While introducing Parker, Tlingit & Haida business and economic development director Emily Edenshaw said Parker’s words played a major role in enabling her to leave her abuser.

Parker said it’s important for indigenous communities to communicate they are thriving people.

“We are alive,” Parker said.

She said when she endured abuse, she had hoped somehow she would grow up and be able to protect “the other little girls.”

“Somehow the universe opened up and created that space,” Parker said.

She said she felt compelled to share her story in 2012 in order to help ensure the Violence Against Women Act would pass with provisions protecting Native women.

With emotion, Parker recalled telling U.S. Senator Patty Murray, D-Washington, that she would be a “face” for the issue of violence against Native women and share her story at a press conference.

“I said, ‘I’ll be the face,’” Parker said with emotion. “It’s not what I wanted to do.”

9:35 a.m.

Alexander encouraged people in attendance to get involved in raising awareness at whatever level they are able, and support survivors.

Next up is the event’s keynote speaker Deborah Parker, a Native Women’s Resource Center board member, activist and survivor of sexual and physical violence.

9:25 a.m.

Alexander said it’s important for Alaska Natives and domestic violence survivors to record and share their experiences, and her task force is interested in finding people willing to share their stories with lawmakers.

“I think it would be useful for the U.S. Congress to know exactly what it feels like,” Alexander said.

She said a disproportionate number of missing people are from Alaska.

“Alaska has the highest number of any state in the union, and those aren’t per capita numbers,” Alexander said.

The stats are particularly alarming for Alaska Native women. Alexander said of the 347 Alaska Native or Native American women listed in the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, 74 are from Alaska.

“Those are shameful statistics,” Alexander said. “I’m sad to say, it seems to go on regardless of who is sitting in the governor’s seat or the Legislature.”

9:20 a.m.

With welcoming remarks wrapped up, Patricia Alexander, co-chair for the Tlingit & Haida Violence Against Women Task Force, is the day’s first featured speaker.

Pat Alexander, co-chair for the Tlingit & Haida Violence Against Women Task Force, speaks at a domestic violence summit at Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall Friday, Oct. 25, 2019. (Ben Hohenstatt | Juneau Empire)

Pat Alexander, co-chair for the Tlingit & Haida Violence Against Women Task Force, speaks at a domestic violence summit at Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall Friday, Oct. 25, 2019. (Ben Hohenstatt | Juneau Empire)

Alexander said she’s continuously dismayed by domestic violence statistics pertaining to the state of Alaska.

“We can do better,” Alexander said.

9:10 a.m.

Today, there is an all-day domestic violence awareness summit hosted by Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska. The event coincides with Domestic Violence Awareness Month and is focused in particular on increasing safety for Alaska Native women in Southeast Alaska.

[Read about the event here]

Tlingit & Haida President Richard Chaylee Éesh Peterson is the event’s first speaker. He acknowledged the prevalence of domestic violence in Alaska and the necessity of difficult discussions.

He said while he grew up in a household free of domestic violence it had a presence with deadly consequences within his extended family.

“While some of us have been able to break that cycle, many of us have not,” Peterson said.

He reiterated the importance of having uncomfortable conversations and sharing difficult stories.

“We need to drag these hard topics — kicking and screaming if need be — out of the darkness and into the light,” Peterson said.

Anthony Mallott, Sealaska Corporation President and CEO, is the next speaker.

Mallott said there is a place for everyone at the table to have difficult conversations, which can lead to healing.

City and Borough of Juneau Mayor Beth Weldon is also delivering remarks.

She said in light of state budget concerns, the summit’s networking opportunities and myriad speakers are particularly important.

“Now, is the time for us to make new connections with each other,” Weldon said.

Deborah Parker, a Native Women’s Resource Center board member, activist and survivor of sexual and physical violence, speaks at a domestic violence summit Friday, Oct. 25, 2019. (Ben Hohenstatt | Juneau Empire)

Deborah Parker, a Native Women’s Resource Center board member, activist and survivor of sexual and physical violence, speaks at a domestic violence summit Friday, Oct. 25, 2019. (Ben Hohenstatt | Juneau Empire)

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