The Tundra Drums - CAUYAT - The Beat of the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta


By Zachariah Bryan
Drums Editor 

Program aims to reduce domestic violence


It’s no secret that the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta has a domestic violence problem. Fifty-one out of 100 of the Y-K’s women have experienced intimate partner or sexual violence, according to a victimization survey taken in May and June 2012.

Enter Green Dot, a national program that is coming to Bethel to help curb domestic violence. Funded by the Governor’s Council of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, Green Dot is also operating in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Homer, Kenai and the Prince of Wales.

“Basically the Green Dot approach is based on the belief that every single member of the community can come together and play a positive role for community safety. It is about working with people to find realistic ways to integrate moments of prevention into their daily lives,” said Jennifer Messina, director of training and development, who visited Bethel Public Health in February to help create a game plan for the region.

What is a green dot? Simply put, using the theory’s language, a green dot is a solution to a red dot.

A red dot is a moment in time when somebody contributes to violence in any way: A push, a shove or a choice to have sex with someone without consent. A green dot, then, is a preventative measure: Getting someone home safely, calling 911, a father having a conversation and expressing his concern. Eventually, Messina said, there should be enough green dots to outnumber the red dots.

“Green Dot doesn’t tell people what to do, it simply encourages them to do something,” Messina said.

The Green Dot program revolves around the three Ds: Direct, Delegate and Distract.

Direct involves a person addressing a situation directly. Some people may be comfortable doing that, Messina said, but sometimes it’s not wholly realistic. Especially in smaller communities, there could be social consequences that a person would rather avoid.

Delegate could be calling a police officer or asking a family member to intervene. Someone who may be able to more appropriately handle the situation.

The last D, distract, is exactly what it sounds like. Messina gave tame examples, like knocking on a neighbor’s door asking for sugar or going on a fishing trip. The idea is to distract a person from a possibly volatile situation.

“Often knowing you can help intervene without calling someone out or making a scene really helps people a lot. It seems to give people a sense of hope to realize there are lots of options,” Messina said.

Messina said she realized that a domestic violence program is never one-size-fits-all. There are nuances to each community. Currently Green Dot is working with Bethel Public Health to fine tune the program to the needs of the Y-K Delta.

“We know there’s no way that somebody from the outside coming in can know a community well enough to be driving it. All of our work is designed to be put in the hands of the very community members who will be using it and they will be changing it and making it work for them,” Messina said.

She added, “We learned an awful lot about how you can’t just take a program from the Lower 48 and drop it into the Alaska communities.”

Bethel Public Health Nurse Manager Zienna Blackwell said that they plan to expand the program to the villages, but it could be a process that takes time.

“We would like to get to all of the villages. We think that’s very important, but it all goes back to the capacity in the villages to be at a place where they can hear the material and actually learn it,” she said.

Blackwell added that they were not approaching it as a problem strictly relevant to Alaska Natives.

“We’re looking at it as not a Native problem; it’s a human problem. And we want to make sure we’re reaching all of the people in on our region,” she said, adding that they plan to translate materials into Yup’ik and Korean. “Sometimes the Albanians and the Koreans get overlooked because we’re always so focused on the Native populations, so we want to make sure that gets out to everyone.”


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