Domestic violence may be pervasive in Alaska, but it’s also preventable. That’s the message victims’ advocates brought to a luncheon presentation at the State Capitol on Wednesday sponsored by Sen. Kevin Meyer.


Lawmakers and their staff got an overview of programs offered by Pathways to Prevention, run by the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault and a number of partners across the state.


They were told it may take several years to see the impact of prevention programs on domestic violence and sexual assault rates in Alaska, and that communities, instead of being sprinkled with messages against violence, need to be saturated.


Working with young people is also key to breaking the cycle of violence, the advocates said. ANDVSA says it’s seen evidence that if students are offered education about violence and victimization, they become less tolerant of it.


Pathways to Prevention has gone into the schools to teach teens about the importance of healthy relationships and recognizing abusive behaviors.


Surveys of students taking part in the program show high rates of verbal abuse. About 14 percent of the females surveyed — and 20 percent of the males — said they had experienced peer violence at least one or two times in the past 30 days.


Kami Moore, director of prevention of ANDVSA, says it’s important that students “know what a healthy relationship looks like, what it sounds like, what it feels like to be in a healthy relationship — so they’re able to take those skills out of the classroom and into their daily lives.”


Moore says young people are also good at taking prevention messages out in to the community.


“They’re capable of really, really powerful work, if you just give them that opportunity,” Moore said. “So we provide them with that opportunity.”


One of those opportunities came through the “When I am an Elder” campaign, in which young people in several Native communities developed public service announcements.


It was inspired by a girl from Bethel who said, “When I am an elder, I want to know the cycle of salmon, not the cycle of violence.”


Moore says programs are most effective when they target a specific community or culture, and better yet, if the community is a partner.