WIN MInutes 05-22-12

Nenana Wellness Coalition


May 22, 2012

The Nenana Wellness Coalition is an alliance of representatives from various organizations, government agencies, community groups and individuals that meets weekly to discuss, evaluate, coordinate, consolidate, celebrate, and help implement plans for improving the wellness and quality of life in Nenana Alaska.

There were 14 in attendance today, including: Kat McElroy, David Poppe, Bonnie Reed, Tara, Harriet Borst, Elecia Frank, Merrily Verhagen, Virginia Young, Miles Martin, Audrey Roth, Tim Horn and Rebecca, Bill & Emily Troxel.

We enjoyed ham and pinto bean soup, corn bread with honey butter, mixed green salad and Ritz crackers with sliced cheese and raisins & pecans for lunch.

WELCOME followed by the READING OF MISSION STATEMENT, by this week’s chair-person: Rebecca Troxel.

PRAYER was led by Bonnie Reed, followed by the PLEDGE OF ALLEGIENCE

PRESENTATION OF AGENDA AND CALL FOR MODIFICATIONS: There were no additions to the agenda.

APPROVAL OF MINUTES: Minutes were posted at the WIN link at and submitted electronically to the WIN e-list.

INTRODUCTION OF GUESTS:  No new guests today


Ways to Stop Violence in Our Community: Kat McElroy opened her presentation by explaining that she believes that violence is deeply embedded in our culture and that criminalization and incarceration are not effective strategies for ending violence in our families, homes, schools and communities. She said she thinks that until as a people we have a truth and reconciliation process to address the genocide inflicted on the original inhabitants of the Americas and the enslavement of Africans upon which our nation was founded, that we will always have the specter of violence. Having expressed that opinion, she stated that her primary goals today would be: 1) to broaden peoples’ understanding of what constitutes violence, 2) to encourage people to explore their own personal thoughts and feelings about violence and 3) to explore ways that we as community members can respond more proactively to violence. She said that she feels that arrest and incarceration itself ends up being a form of institutionalized violence. She said she is NOT saying that people are not responsible for and need not be held accountable for violence they inflict, but rather that our current societal response is counter-productive, ineffective and ends up perpetuating violence.

Kat had handouts which will be attached to the minutes. She read from the last hand-out to expand our view of violence.

Violence: name-calling, character assassination, gossip, bullying, threats, put-downs, verbal assault, physical assault, emotional battering, sexual assault, fist-fights, weapons, murder.

Kat provided a handout from the Center For Non-Violent Living, the shelter for battered women in Fairbanks, that does a good job describing the cycle of domestic abuse and has information regarding resources available for victims of family violence in our area. She said that as a society we only recognize gang violence, assault and domestic abuse as problematic; she feels that is only the tip of the problem. Violence can range from gossip and bullying to social injustice. She views violence as being fear-based and encouraged people when they see “violence,” to think “fear.”

She talked about some of the dynamics that often can keep people stuck in the cycle of personal violence, both as victim and as perpetrator. She disclosed that in her personal life she has played both those roles in family relationships. Secrecy and shame are obstacles that need to be overcome. Encouraging people to break their silence as victims and as perpetrators of violence is violence. If you, yourself, are unable to provide a safe witness to those who need to unload about their own experiences with violence, you can still help others to find people who can provide that role: counselors, ministers, elders, neighbors, teachers are all possible sources.

That least helpful thing you can do is to increase shame by asking “Why don’t you just leave?” Kat identified this as a subtle form of victim-blaming. She reminded us that often victims are closely related to an abuser: spouse, child, parent, lover. No one wants their loved one to be arrested. No one wants to get their loved one into trouble. And people will endure much to maintain their family integrity.

One thing you can do is to help people develop a vocabulary so they can talk about what they are experiencing. It is also helpful to affirm a person’s right to safety. Anyone living with the fear of personal violence should be encouraged to develop a safety plan. It is best if safety plans are actually written down as they need to be organic, living documents. People can develop a Get-Gone bag that includes articles they may need if they have to evacuate their homes at short notice: ID, cash and bank books, social security cards, birth certificates, medicines or prescriptions. If you have a Protective Order from the court, that needs to be included. A safety plan should also include phone numbers as loss or destruction of cell phones leaves one without phone numbers of important people.

Kat warned that a Protective Order is no guarantee of safety. They are effective for dealing with some kinds of violence, but cannot keep anyone safe from a person determined to do another person harm. Statistically the danger of a fatal attack actually increases directly after obtaining a protective order as it escalates the fear of certain DV offenders that they are “losing” their “loved one.” Shelters for battered women have alarmed gates and bullet proof glass for this reason.

Everyone asks, “But, what can I do to help?” Educate yourself and everyone else about violence. Intercede if you see people becoming violent. This is hard but you can learn how to do it. Being assertive but non-confrontational is a skill that can be learned. Learn non-confrontational ways to intervene and practice them frequently. It helps to have other people to bounce ideas off of and to practice these skills with. If possible, make your home available to people if they need a safe haven, even if it is short-term, only an interim measure. If the dynamics of your family make hosting impractical, develop a network of people you know who are willing to make space in their homes for a temporary guest. Talk to your friends and neighbors about ways they can help recognize and counteract violence in our community.

Lengthy discussion ensued regarding ways our community might respond and questions and answers regarding violence in Nenana.


WELLNESS THOUGHT: Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago. – Les Brown


Ice Classic Annual Meeting tonight, at the Civic Center, 5:30 PM.

Emily’s first birthday party, Friday, pot luck, at Jeannie’s house.



Safety Plans

If you experience violence in your home, think about…

  1. Having important phone numbers nearby for you and your children: friends, relatives, police, hotlines, and the local shelter. It is important to have these numbers written on paper as cell phones get lost, damaged and destroyed.
  2. Friends or neighbors you could tell about the abuse. You might ask them to call the police if they hear angry or violent noises. If you have children, teach them how to dial 911. Make up a code word that you can use when you need help.
  3. How to get out of your home safely. Practice ways to get out.
  4. Safer places in your home where there are exits and no weapons. If you feel abuse is going to happen try to get your abuser to one of these safer places.
  5. Any weapons in the house. Think about ways that you could get them out of the house.
  6. Even if you do not plan to leave, think of where you could go. Think of how you might leave. Try doing things that get you out of the house – taking out the trash, walking the pet or going to the store. Put together a bag of things you use every day (see the checklist below). Hide it where it is easy for you to get.
  7. Going over your safety plan often. Sharing your safety plan with others.


If you consider leaving your abuser, think about…

  1. Multiple places you could go if you leave your home.
  2. People who might help you if you left. Think about people who will keep a bag for you. Think about people who might lend you money. Make plans for your pets. Talk to teachers and school staff, neighbors, friends, relatives, anyone who may need to be involved in a hasty exit.
  3. Keeping change for phone calls or getting a cell phone.
  4. Opening a bank account or getting a credit card in your name.
  5. How you could take your children with you safely. There are times when taking your children with you may put all of your lives in danger. You need to protect yourself to be able to protect your children.
  6. Putting together a bag of things you use every day. Hide it where it is easy for you to get.



What Might You Want To Take With You

Children and pets  (if it is safe)
Keys to car, house, work
Extra clothes

Important papers for you and your children
 Birth certificates
 Social security cards
 School and medical records
 Bankbooks, credit cards
 Driver’s license
 Car registration
 Welfare identification
 Passports, green cards, work permits
 Lease/rental agreement
 Mortgage payment book, unpaid bills
 Insurance papers
 PPO, divorce papers, custody orders
Address book
Pictures, jewelry, things that mean a lot to you
Items for your children (toys, blankets, etc.)


About Protective Orders

A protective order may be obtained from the district court. It can prohibit an abuser from having contact with a victim of violence; it can also grant temporary custody of children, grant the victim sole use of a domicile and restrict the abuser’s contact with children and even other family members. A protective order is a court order; if an abuser violates the protective order he/she will be subject to penalties including arrest and incarceration. A protective order cannot guarantee safety. Knowing about the laws and local law enforcement may be vitally important. A piece of paper cannot stop a determined assailant.





Helping a Victim of Domestic Violence

  • Breaking the silence takes tremendous courage – tell them this!  Help them to identify their strengths.  Being in an abusive relationship is not an indication of weakness, to the contrary it takes strength in order to survive. Help them develop a vocabulary for describing what they have experienced; this is the greatest tool we have to defuse shame.


  • Understand that they still love their partner in spite of the abuse.  It is normal to have mixed emotions about a partner who is abusive.  In many cases the abuse does not happen all of the time.  A victim may have many positive experiences as well as fearful times.  Leaving any relationship is a loss that will be grieved, not only for what was, but for the hopes and dreams that were built into the relationship as well.


  • Understand that they may feel emotionally and physically exhausted.  Many victims of domestic abuse experience symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD. Symptoms include insomnia, flashbacks and panic attacks, memory and concentration problems, and nightmares.  Explain to them that they are having a normal reaction to being in an abnormal situation.  They are not going crazy – this is a real physiological reaction to stress and trauma.  Understand that PTSD can be debilitating.  Life becomes about daily survival.  Separating from their abuser can seem overwhelming.


  • Let them know that they are not alone.  Explain that you are concerned for their safety and wellbeing.  Let them know that there are people who care. Help them make a list of people to whom they may turn for assistance and support.


  • Encourage them to take care of themselves.  Initially victims may feel that they are not deserving of self-care.  Self-care is imperative to healing from abuse.  Taking time for themselves also helps them to feel that they are worthwhile and deserving.


  • Talk to victims about the violence, and listen to their story.  Some victims may feel guilty that they have also become physically or verbally aggressive during conflicts.  This can be either a conscious or unconscious tactic victims use to have some form of control over the abuse.  They may recognize that if they start the fight, they can get it over with faster. Becoming more aware of cycles and patterns in their relationship can help them keep themselves safer. Being heard is an empowering experience.


  • Couples counseling can be dangerous:  Many victims will want to try couples counseling.  Behaviors which are learned over a lifetime will not change in a week or month.  Encourage the victim to seek counseling for themselves first.


  • Talk to victims about personal rights in relationships.  Many victims who grew up in violent homes or have experienced multiple abusive relationships may not have any concept of what their needs and rights are in relationships.  Stress to them that they have a right to be treated with respect, to make their own choices, and that love should not hurt!


  • Safety, safety safety! This cannot be stressed enough.





I believe you.

I believe in you.

I am afraid for you.

You are not alone.

It is not your fault.

You do not deserve to be abused.

Help is available.

My home is your home.


What can I do to help?

Educate everyone about violence.

Intercede if you see people becoming violent.

Learn non-confrontational ways to intervene and practice them frequently.

Make your home available to people if they need a safe haven, even if it is short-term, only an interim measure.

Talk to your friends and neighbors about ways they can help recognize and counteract violence in our community.

Violence: name-calling, character assassination, gossip, bullying, threats, put-downs, verbal assault, physical assault, emotional battering, sexual assault, fist-fights, weapons, murder.

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