Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Statewide Domestic Violence Shelter Improvements Initiative

According to the 2010 Alaska Victimization Survey, 59 percent of adult women in Alaska have experienced intimate partner violence, sexual violence, or both. Reported rape is more common in Alaska than any other state, according to 2012 FBI crime estimates; the per capita rate is about three times the national average. When faced with these statistics, domestic violence and sexual assault in our state can seem insurmountable. However, there are rays of hope. According to the Alaska Council on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault (CDVSA), in FY2013, 9,330 Alaskans were served by victim service programs, and 99,524 shelter nights were provided by victim service providers. There are many men and women in our state doing excellent work in this area, and our domestic violence shelters are at the front lines.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. I thought it would be an appropriate time to highlight what we at The Alaska Community Foundation (ACF) are doing to prevent and ameliorate domestic violence and sexual assault, since it comprises a large part of my job here. ACF shares the vision of the CDVSA of an Alaska free from domestic and sexual violence.

Last year, ACF had the unique opportunity to become involved in a project that directly helps domestic violence shelters across our state. As the trusted platform for philanthropy in Alaska, ACF is serving as the fiscal sponsor for an over $4 million project to address deferred maintenance needs for 17 domestic violence and sexual assault shelters in the state. Funding has been generously provided by the State of Alaska and a matching grant from Rasmuson Foundation, as well as other partners, including Wells Fargo and the Mat-Su Health Foundation.

While these funders could issue a grant directly to each domestic violence shelter, shelter operators may lack the capacity to carry out planning, design and construction of capital improvements. This is where ACF comes in. In the role of the fiscal sponsor, ACF is accepting and distributing these funds, overseeing expenditures on contractors and processing checks. This relieves busy shelter staff from the administrative burden of managing the repairs and grant paperwork, allowing them to focus on important programmatic activities.

These are the 17 shelters that are a part of this project:

Management of the planning, design and construction of the shelter improvements is being spearheaded by The Foraker Group’s Pre-Development Program, which has contributed a portion of its services in-kind to the project. The “Pre-D” Program has a rich history of providing professional services to nonprofit, tribal and municipal organizations in developing or improving capital infrastructure. A Steering Committee made up of funders and stakeholders is guiding our steps forward in this project. We are preparing to begin the design phase of this project and should begin construction over the next year.

These shelters are being heavily used and have diverse maintenance needs, some of them critically important, especially since they often house young children. This project will help address a variety of health and safety issues such as repair of electrical wiring, purchase of devices to remove bed bugs from fabric and mattresses, roof repair, window replacement, security camera installation and floor repair.

I would like to thank our partners in this project: the State of Alaska, Rasmuson Foundation, The Foraker Group, Wells Fargo, Mat-Su Health Foundation and the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault. I would also like to thank the nine members of our Steering Committee, who are guiding this project:

  • Co-Chair: Sammye Pokryfki, Rasmuson Foundation
  • Co-Chair: Peggy Brown, Alaska Network on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault (ANDVSA)
  • Michelle DeWitt, Bethel Community Services Foundation
  • Natasha Pineda, Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority
  • Candace Winkler, Alaska Community Foundation
  • Chris Kowalczewski, Pre-Development Program, Foraker Group
  • Dana Rogers, Wells Fargo
  • Richard Irwin, Alaska Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault

As I reflect on April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month, I’m proud that ACF is a part of this important work. As this project moves forward over the next few years, I know it will have a meaningful statewide impact.