Friday, February 19, 2016

Mongolia looks to Alaska for help handling domestic violence

Efforts to end domestic violence brought a delegation from Mongolia to Nome Monday. The group — made up of social workers, shelter managers, police officers, and more — was there to learn how Alaska is addressing high rates of sexual assault and domestic violence. Mongolian delegates and local leaders discussed the hard issues affecting both communities over lunch.

It’s noon at Nome’s United Methodist Church, and the Iñupiaq choir welcomes over a dozen Mongolian delegates with a performance of “Praise Ye the Lord.”

The music kicks off a meeting hosted by members of the Bering Sea Women’s Group, the Nome Social Justice Task Force, and other community leaders. Beyond forming new friendships and sharing homemade salmon patties, the goal is to give their Mongolian counterparts an idea of how Alaska responds to domestic violence.

When it comes to this issue, the two places have a lot in common. That’s according to Tuvshinjargal Gantumur, a psychologist and manager at the National Center Against Violence in Mongolia. Through a translator, she said the similarities between Alaska and Mongolia are what made the delegation eager to take this “study trip.”

“There are some similar statistics and rates. Like the rates of domestic violence and sexual assault cases — they’re relatively high right now. And in terms of geography, we also have rural areas — where people are scattered — in Mongolia. So all the experiences that Alaskan people have already achieved will be interesting for us.”

The delegates heard all about those experiences from their first stops in Juneau and Anchorage to their final visit in Nome, where they toured the Anvil Mountain Correctional Center, Norton Sound Regional Hospital, and the district attorney’s office before learning about specific Nome initiatives against domestic violence.

Ultimately, though, the Monday lunch meeting wasn’t really about statistics or hands-on training. Instead, the main message from Nome leaders was that no community can address domestic violence with getting at the cause. And for many places, including Alaska and Mongolia, that means understanding how colonization and racism have inflicted lasting trauma on Native people — and how that trauma manifests in domestic violence and other social issues that aren’t easily solved.

With that attitude in mind, Gantumur said the delegation is excited to get back home and continue their work, with new insight from — and an ongoing relationship with — their new connections in Alaska.

“We have a lot planned when we go back. We will do advocacy towards changing the legislation implementation process and also prevention activities. We are also planning to have consultants from Alaska come over to Mongolia, so they will also teach us in the field.”

Returning the favor, the Mongolian delegates wrapped up the meeting with some music of their own. Performed in the Mongolian language, they said their song was about a mother’s unconditional love.

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