We are near the end of October, and as each day passes, I see the snow progressing down the mountains. As I watch the leaves change from green to vibrant yellow, I also know that October represents something other than the changing of the seasons. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Alaska has many secrets and scars and many wounded women, men, and children. Alaskans are being deprived of beauty in their lives and are being harmed. Our children are growing up in homes where violence is a daily occurrence.
Alaska’s rates of domestic violence and sexual assault are unacceptable. As a 30-year veteran of the Alaska State Troopers, I bore witness to countless acts of domestic violence and sexual assault and have seen the long-lasting impacts of the physical and psychological trauma inflicted on victims.
Recently, the Alaska Department of Public Safety updated policies relating to domestic violence regarding our response and investigation. Significant advancements in training have occurred over the past five years to improve how domestic violence cases are investigated and how children exposed to violence are interviewed. DPS will partner with a school district in a pilot project called Handle with Care – an effort to support the continued academic success of children who have experienced or witnessed violence.
As a law enforcement officer, it is easy for me to focus on solutions that are solely within the criminal justice system. Law enforcement’s role in domestic violence cases is to respond, investigate, and arrest to stop the immediate and ongoing acts of violence. However, as a husband, father, and grandfather, I know that many of the solutions to this crisis lie outside of the criminal justice system. I know that I must be a role model in and out of uniform—especially to children and young men.
Domestic violence is not a private personal or family issue; it is a societal problem that must be pulled from the shadows and snuffed out of existence. We must address the crisis of domestic violence at every level – in our relationships, in our homes, in our schools, in our communities, and in our state. We must band together and use every partnership to work collaboratively and effectively to support survivors, to provide treatment to offenders, and to cure that which ails our families and communities.
The climate surrounding domestic violence must change. It will take significant and widespread changes to societal attitudes, norms, and beliefs to end the violence within our families and communities and, most importantly, to stop the violence before it even starts. It is the only way to win this war. It will take all of us. Please, look in a mirror and ask yourself: What will I do?
As the Colonel of the Alaska State Troopers, I know what I will do. I will do my best to ensure that troopers are effective and compassionate when dealing with victims and families of survivors. I know the limitations of the troopers in responding – the two most significant challenges are staffing and geography. I am committed to doing my best to increase staffing and improve response to incidents. I am also committed to partnerships between the state and the federal governments that will enhance our capabilities in rural Alaska. I am committed to working with communities, non-profits, and individuals to provide safety for victims and their children. As a man, I am committed to standing up to domestic violence in our communities.
If you are experiencing domestic violence, please visit https://dps.alaska.gov/CDVSA/Home where you can find available resources. For a list of local places you can go to seek out help, visit https://dps.alaska.gov/CDVSA/Services/VictimServices.
Colonel Barry Wilson