Letter to the editor: It’s time to push for a domestic violence leave law

Did you know that 52 out of 100 adult women living on the Kenai Peninsula have experienced some form of domestic violence? According to an Alaska Victimization Survey taken by Kenai Peninsula residents, this was our local statistic in 2013. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence defines domestic violence as “a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another” that “includes physical violence, sexual violence, threats, and emotional abuse.” Recently, New Zealand passed a law that grants 10 days paid work leave to domestic violence survivors who are in the process of leaving their batterers to give them time for safe resettlement. New Zealand, like Alaska, has exceedingly high domestic violence rates and has started a movement that recognizes the issue of intimate partner violence and stops the silence surrounding it. It is my hope that Alaska follows this trend.

Currently, many people believe that substance abuse causes domestic violence, but the fact is that while things like drugs and alcohol can make the problem worse, there is only one cause for it. Domestic violence can only exist when one person believes that he or she is better than someone else and that hurting this “lesser” person is okay. This belief is passed down from generation to generation and explains why a majority of intimate partner violence perpetrators target people from groups that have historically been oppressed.

According to the National Coalition of Domestic Violence, one in three non-native women, three out of four Alaska Native/Native American women, and one in four men in Alaska have experienced physical violence by a partner. They also found that Alaska has the highest male to female homicide rate in the United States. Given the statistics here in Alaska, domestic violence should be openly and frequently discussed, so why isn’t it?

There is a pervasive silence that surrounds the topic of domestic violence. It is viewed as a problem between couples not to be interfered with by those outside of a relationship. When we look the other way and ignore signs of abuse, cracks in our community begin to form that, when left untended, become harder and harder to repair. One of the ways that we can start to acknowledge the problem is by passing laws that make it easier for a victim to get away from a batterer. Adopting a domestic violence leave law in Alaska, would open up the conversation surrounding domestic violence and acknowledge that Alaska is stepping in the direction of change.

Next month (October) is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Start letting candidates in the upcoming election know that you would like a domestic violence leave law passed in Alaska to help victims and bring awareness to this issue. Ask them for more male/female domestic violence shelter and prevention funding. Most importantly, speak up about the issue of domestic violence because as long as we continue to allow this problem to exist in our community, its destructive presence will always be here.

— Shera Burg, Kenai

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