What can community do to prevent repeat of September 2012 incident?

With the settling of the Resetarits case, our community and our court system have sent a message that what happened that night in Septemberr 2012 was unacceptable. Whether or not we all agree that the message was strong enough or came soon enough, whether we think, as the mother of the victim said, “the system is broken,” or believe that justice has been served, I think we can all agree that we don’t want something like this ever to happen in our community again.

Many students, parents and other community members continue to ask how this could have happened in our town, and how we can prevent it. As an RN and a survivor of family violence in my own childhood, I  am grateful for the opportunity to focus on prevention work, while also participating in a community-wide MAPP workgroup, to become a community that is trauma-informed. While this one situation may have been unique, being trauma-informed means accepting that many of our community members are survivors of trauma, and adapting ourselves and our agencies to better respond to the effects. Research shows that specific efforts to build resiliency can support meaningful healing; people do heal from trauma.

It was important that the two young men acknowledged their part in this incident, and that the courts named it. Assistant District Attorney Moivas reiterated that while   the final charges were for sexual harassment, this was a sexual assault.

For the family of the survivor, there is yet a journey of recovery; it saddens me   that we have lost one Alaska student, but I am grateful that he and his family are healing. Moving forward will look different for each of us. Each of us can reflect now on what part we can play in keeping Homer safer for youth and  adults alike. Small actions can go a long way in creating a community culture that doesn’t tolerate violence. Our community health assessments have told us that local residents want to prevent violence from happening in families and in our community. We are learning from other communities that have already seen results from a trauma-informed approach. Even right now, each of us can begin to make a difference, in as little as a few moments in our day.

Green Dot is one community-wide initiative, teaching skills for residents to safely intervene when they see warning signs, and to build a culture that doesn’t tolerate violence. (Go to greenndotomer.org or contact me). Girls on the Run, Coaching Boys into Men, the 4th R, and HECC — these are other important intitiatives underway locally.  

I contacted Haven House and they will accept funds for the family who is recovering; we do that when people suffer the trauma of a fire or a medical problem — why not for this tragedy?

What is your part? How do the people in your school, church, and other social groups know that you say no to your loved ones being hurt? Tell them now — have the conversation; that’s a “green dot.” Let’s not wait for another tragedy, another victim. Let’s do something now that keeps us all safe in the future.

Sharon Whytal worked as a longtime Homer Public Health Nurse, and now continues participating in the MAPP coalition and as a Green Dot trainer. She loves skiing and paddling and all things Kachemak Bay.