Calls for More Attention to Substance Abuse and Domestic Violence
October 23, 2003
"We all know that drug and alcohol abuse is the primary cause of domestic violence and sadly, of child abuse. Unfortunately, in rural Alaska, alcohol related deaths are seven times the national average," said Mrs. Murkowski. "Children in alcohol abusing families are ten times more likely to be neglected than children in families with no alcohol problems. Eighty-one percent of the harm against children involves substance abuse.
"We know, too, that Alaska has six times the national rate for child sexual abuse. Children who have witnessed abuse, domestic violence of all kinds, and think that is the way life is, repeat it in their own lives -- a vicious circle that is a cancer on us all. This month is national Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and I urge all of you to get involved find out more about how you can educate our young people, your communities, and yourselves. Find out how to help those in need and together we can change the future and provide hope for the next generation.
"How we move forward together from here and the decisions you make today, will affect all of us tomorrow."
First Lady Nancy Murkowski's presentation to the Alaska Federation of Natives Youth and Elders Conference - October 22, 2003- Anchorage, Alaska
In October of 2001, Frank and I sponsored a youth summit in Talkeetna for 100 young people from all over the state.
We brought in 100 sophomore and junior high school students from 57 villages, from Point Hope to Petersburg, from Wainwright to Wrangell
We involved adult facilitators and counselors, and only two speakers.
Our idea was not to talk to the young people, but to listen. To let them talk to one another in small groups.
To discuss their own problems with their peers and to work out their own solutions to problems such as drugs, alcoholism in their communities, domestic violence and education.
And the bottom line is how they wanted to see their state and themselves in the next five to 10 years.
The one thing that stood out from all others is that they wanted hope. As a young woman from the Arctic put it, "Without hope there are no dreams, and without dreams, there is nothing."
Hope for a good education, hope for a good job, hope for better lives for themselves and their siblings.
The kids let us sit in on their sessions, and we learned a lot from them.
It was after this meeting, as we drove to the airport that Frank said to me, "We can help these kids, but we can do it better from Juneau as governor than we can from Washington D.C., so I think I should run for governor." And I agreed.
As Governor, Frank is working with companies to expand job training.
We are working to develop a better road system throughout the State to connect communities for better access to jobs, services and transportation.
For instance, In areas where 3 villages can be connected by a nine-mile road, you could have one good school with better facilities and more teachers instead of three small schools -- one good airport instead of three small gravel strips -- one better health care clinic, and so on.
We are still trying to help these young people by developing our natural resources so that we can develop new jobs.
We are working on providing hope for these young people.
And we are on the right track.
I have met many of you and spoken at your conferences many times on cancer awareness.
Alaska has more cases of breast cancer per capita than other lower 48 states. I helped found the Breast Cancer Detection Center in Fairbanks in 1976, and Frank and I have been raising money for them for the past 10 years, helping to bring hope to many of the areas of Alaska.
We have raised over $3 million for the Center in Fairbanks. They now have their own building and two mobile units, which travel all over rural Alaska by small plane, road and ferry system.
We have been able to give money for other cancer support groups.
Cancer is a terrible, terrible disease for everyone. It affects the person, the family, the children in the family, neighbors and community itself.
And here is where I need your help.
There is another cancer that is killing us.
It, too, affects the person, the family -- especially the children -- the neighbors and the community.
It not only poisons the body, it poisons the soul.
And that is drug and alcohol abuse -- any substance abuse and including inhalant abuse.
We can no longer turn our backs or look the other way.
We all know that drug and alcohol abuse is the primary cause of domestic violence and sadly, of child abuse.
Unfortunately, in rural Alaska, alcohol related deaths are 7 times the national average. Children in alcohol abusing families are 10 times likely to be neglected than children in families with no alcohol problems.
Eighty-one percent of the harm against children involves substance abuse.
We know that one in six boys and one in four girls will be victims of sexual assault before the age of 18.
And that Alaska bears the dishonorable distinction of being number one in the nation for sexual assault per capita for 22 of the last 25 years, and that only 10 percent of these sexual assaults are reported.
We know too, that Alaska has six times the national rate for child sexual abuse
Children who have witnessed abuse, domestic violence of all kinds, and think that is the way life is, repeat it in their own lives -- a vicious circle that is a cancer on us all.
I have brought with me today a report put together by the Luntz research company that talks about winning this battle.
In order to understand abuse we must understand everything behind the addiction, including how our children are getting their hands on drugs.
This report will provide you with some startling information on drug trafficking, drugs in schools and drugs and parents.
I am asking you to take a copy with you to read.
This month is national "Domestic Violence Awareness month," and I urge all of you to get involved find out more about how you can educate our young people, your communities and yourselves. Find out how to help those in need and together we can change the future and provide hope for the next generation.
How we move forward together from here and the decisions you make today will affect all of us tomorrow.
It is time for all of us to stand together in an effort to create hope for our children, all of our families and for the future.
Together, we need to provide hope for a better tomorrow, for the next generation of young people.
Let's lay a foundation of hope for jobs, health communities and strong families.
Let's create a stronger Alaska
-- and rid our communities of the cancer that is affecting us
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