Southcentral Foundation Continues to Break the Silence on Child Abuse and Sexual Assault

Child Abuse and Sexual Assault Awareness Month commencement participants walk around the Alaska Native Health Campus to raise awareness.

Each spring, Southcentral Foundation highlights the work of the Family Wellness Warriors Initiative, a program established by President/CEO Katherine Gottlieb in 1999. One of FWWI’s aims is to end to child abuse and child sexual assault in this generation. April is National Child Abuse and Sexual Assault Awareness month. Throughout the month, FWWI works to increase awareness by hosting events including an annual commencement, an awareness march, and speeches from community influencers.

The event leads into a month filled with educational opportunities, learning circles, and workshops that help break the silence and work toward ending childhood traumas. At the event Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz and Anchorage’s First Lady Dr. Mara Kimmel both spoke about the tremendous work being done by SCF and community partners across the state, First Lady Rose Dunleavy was also in attendance showing her support for this important cause.

“I care about those next generations, those children’s children, and I don’t want them to have to live in fear,” said SCF President/CEO Katherine Gottlieb.

After the commencement an awareness walk was held around the Anchorage Native Health Campus where nearly 200 community members gathered and walked in teal or blue colored attire to help spread the awareness of these traumatic events and work together to help break the silence.

The event highlighted the partnerships established by SCF and those working toward this shared goal. Statistics related to adolescent Alaska Native students experiencing childhood trauma are much higher than those of non-Native students. According to the Alaska Native Epidemiology Center statewide data on adolescent suicide attempts, in 2015 Alaska Native students were twice as likely to attempt suicide than the national average of non-Native students.

These trends are not unknown to the communities they are affecting, which is a truth reflected in SCF’s 2018 Needs Assessment through identified health priorities such as increased services for behavioral and mental health, and alcohol, drug, and tobacco cessation. SCF has already taken some of the necessary steps toward addressing these needs; for example, the recent inclusion on the Indigenous Project LAUNCH, a nationwide program to ensure indigenous children, ages birth to eight, are prepared for success in schools, the recent expansion of behavioral health programs, as well as continued advocacy through FWWI. By raising awareness of these adverse childhood traumas and working toward a solution through education and community involvement, programs like FWWI hope to end this cycle of trauma and spread the message that these issues are not representative of Alaska Native cultures and traditions.

“We are the great land, the things that are wrong are not the Alaskan way, it is not the way or the traditions of the people of this land,” said Mayor Berkowitz.

Throughout the month of April, FWWI will be sponsoring a learning lunch opportunity each Friday at the Nuka Learning and Wellness Center, 4085 Tudor Centre Drive, where community partners will present topics surrounding child abuse and child sexual assault prevention.

To learn more or to find more ways to get involved and help raise awareness contact FWWI at (907) 729-5440 or visit www.southcentralfoundation.com/services/family-wellness-warriors-initiative-2/.

by Jake Johnson

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