More about us
Safe and Fear Free Environment, Inc (SAFE) is in Dillingham, Alaska. SAFE is Bristol Bay's shelter and advocacy agency for domestic violence and sexual assault victims. Dillingham, a community of 2400 people, serves as a hub for as many as twenty-five surrounding villages and has a geographic service area approximately the size of the state of Ohio.
Few roads connect Bristol Bay villages, so transportation is accomplished mosty by plane or boat. The nearest metropolitan city is Anchorage, 315 roadless miles northeast of Dillingham. Three air carriers provide transportation between Anchorage and Dillingham in a variety of plane sizes, while smaller planes provide transportation between villages; also to and from Dillingham.
SAFE's closest sister agencies are in Unalaska (Unalaskans Standing Against Family Violence, USAFV) and Bethel (Tundra Womens' Coalition, TWC). Unalaska is at the beginning of the Aleutian chain and Bethel is northwest of Dillingham at the mouth of the Kuskokwim River. In between SAFE, USAFW and TWC is lots of land and water, where isolation can contribute to the violence. Breaking isolation barriers for victims is paramount in rural Alaska and can be costly and logistically challenging.
Domestic violence and sexual assault are common and overwhelming problems in Bristol Bay. In any given year, nearly 20% of adult female residents of the Bay are clients of SAFE. Another 10% will go through the police and courts without ever contacting SAFE. These are just the ones we know about. Domestic violence is substantially under-reported. We believe it is conservative to estimate that three out of 10 adult women in Bristol Bay will be victims of domestic violence sometime this year.
Adults who abuse their intimate partners are 70% more likely to abuse their children. Children who live in homes where there is violence are 1,500 times more likely to be abused. The average number of children in households of women who seek services from SAFE is three -- most are under the age of 10.
Alaskan Native women are at much higher risk of abuse than non-Native women. Alaskan Native women comprise less than 5% of the population, yet make up nearly 60% of the reported sexual assault victims. Nearly one-third of the women in shelters in urban areas of the state are Alaskan Native women.
Cultural disruption has increased violence against women among Alaskan Native Groups and Bristol Bay is no exception. Prior to western intrusion, some Native groups were egalitarian, some matriarchal, and some patriarchal; however, status depended more on the individual's ability to contribute to the group instead of on gender. Violence against women was not the norm for any Alaskan Native group. Native Alaskans interacted through extended families, provided for their basic needs from the land and sea, educated through oral tradition, and focused on communal needs.
Western culture requires a lifestyle of nuclear families, wage earners, formalized education, and a focus on individual needs. Today, while many rural Alaskans are still dependent on subsistence, the cash system is necessary for most basic needs. Television is available throughout the state, which has further undermined traditional values. Elders have lost their place of honor and respect. Being forced to reconcile western culture with their own has led to high suicide rates, chronic alcoholism, and increased violence against women and children.
Primary areas of need:
Throughout our 20 plus years of service
to Bristol Bay S.A.F.E. has identified major barriers to victims of
violence attaining either short or long term safety.
Expand and enhance immediate safety services.The primary mission of
S.A.F.E. is to provide immediate safety for victims of domestic violence
and/or sexual assault, including safe shelter and emergency
Establish, strengthen and maintain cooperative working relationships
between law enforcement, prosecutors, victim advocates, tribes,
community groups, health care providers and other responders and/or
involved parties to create a coordinated response to victims of crime
and to increase investigation and prosecution of domestic violence and
Establish and maintain an ongoing, comprehensive, culturally
appropriate, sensitive and effective prevention, outreach and education
campaign that will allow systems, communities, families and individuals
to focus their collective skills and energy to challenge the conditions
that sustain the violence.
For progress to occur, our responders, our relatives, our friends and
community leaders must educate themselves to the devastating effects of
domestic violence and the overwhelming obstacles that keep our victims
not only silent but also hidden.
It is our function to actively advocate for victims through information,
support and assistance and to act as enablers for their decisions. It
is our goal that through the alternative of advocacy, safe shelter,
crisis counseling, community education, and village outreach, victims
will be able to establish a physically safe household for themselves and
their children and will be strengthened in the recovery process.